Marist baseball has been clicking on all cylinders since their season resumed last Saturday. Over the team’s previous four games, they outscored their opponents 54-8, dominating Saint Peter’s and Siena in four commanding wins. However, Friday would not play out as smoothly for the Red Foxes, but a late game comeback helped Marist defeat Niagara 6-3 in Game one of the double-header.
On a beautiful day for baseball, sophomore Ryan Cardona was chosen to start Game 1 for the Red Foxes. Following a shaky start, Cardona kicked things into gear, pitching a strong 5⅔ innings of three-run ball (two earned) to keep Marist within striking distance.
“It was the type of performance that we needed in that first game,” head coach Chris Tracz said. “It wasn’t super crisp early, but he [Cardona] was able to work out of that jam and then he found a little bit of a rhythm. Once he started getting his breaking ball over for strikes, and really being able to control some sequences, he pitched really, really well.”
Marists’ offense did not come alive in this game like it had in previous series, however one aspect that has stayed consistent throughout their season has been their resilience. Despite trailing for most of the game, the Red Foxes never caved to the pressure and managed to chip away at the early three-run deficit as the innings progressed.
This past Tuesday, Marist put together an unbelievable 14-run innings against Siena. While they were not able to replicate the same number of runs against Niagara, they did find a way to rally for six unanswered runs in the final three innings, including a three-run bottom of the sixth to take the lead. The Armitage brothers played a vital role in the late offensive surge, as they each came through in the clutch, with Robbie tying the game in the fifth inning and Reece driving in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.
“Sometimes the game just takes a little while to just settle into a rhythm, “Tracz said. “I think once we’re able to string together some at bats, we get some momentum going and then we’re able to get into their bullpen. That’s been a key, when we can force their starter to work really hard, and then get into the pen, we’ve seen some of those crooked numbers go up on the scoreboard.”
Game one did not consist of any offensive explosions or lights out pitching performances, but it was a solid, collective team win. The Red Foxes made the key outs and strung together the timely hits to secure the victory.
After an emphatic Game one win, Marist was riding high, but Game two was a completely different ballgame. Niagara came out determined to win and their bats showed up early in an 8-5 victory to snap the Red Foxes’ five-game winning streak.
Senior Alex Pansini took the mound for the Red Foxes, though his day did not go nearly as well as Cardona’s in the first game. In six innings of work, Pansini allowed seven earned runs, highlighted by a disastrous second inning that saw four Niagara hitters cross the plate.
“I didn’t think he [Pansini] pitched bad. You know, the four run inning, they hit one ball hard,” Tracz said. “His line didn’t look good at all, but again, he gave us a decent outing in terms of length to save the bullpen for tomorrow. It was just one too many hits.”
Even with the game looking bleak, Marist refused to quit. The Red Foxes were trailing 7-1 after four innings, but a Niko Amory solo shot in the fifth and Robbie Armitage two-run home run in the sixth provided the team with a glimmer of hope.
Marist missed a huge opportunity in the bottom of the seventh inning. After bringing the game back to within three runs after Niagara scored in the top of the inning, graduate student Tyler Kapuscinski came to the plate as the tying run. Kapuscinski has eight career collegiate home runs, therefore Niagara countered this matchup by inserting sophomore Steven Hospital, who was able to induce a fly out to right field and end the threat. Not only did Hospital get the critical out, but he also earned himself the save by pitching 2⅓ scoreless innings to finish the game.
“I think we’re going to keep continuing to get better each day. And you know what, ten days ago, we weren’t playing baseball. And tomorrow we get a chance to play too. So I think the guys will be ready to go,” Tracz said.
The Red Foxes made a valiant effort, but their second comeback attempt of the day ultimately fell short. Friday was truly a mixed bag for the Marist baseball team, as they experienced some great moments, as well as some they would rather forget. The Red Foxes run it back tomorrow in another double header against the Purple Eagles, in hopes they can take the series.
Edited by Nicholas Stanziale
Photo Credit: Marist College Athletics