Following a stellar start against Saint Peter’s last Sunday, junior Erubial Candelario was anxious to return to the mound for another strong performance. However, Niagara refused to let the highly scouted pitcher shut down their bats in Game 1, as they took firm control of the game right out of the gate and never looked back in a 7-6 Niagara victory.
Everything that could have gone wrong for Candelario, did. The hard throwing right hander only managed to retire one batter before Niagara knocked him out of the game. Pitch erraticness, a lack of control, and timely hits by Niagara all contributed to Candelario’s early exit.
“He [Candelario] was never able to get into a rhythm and a couple things just spiraled on him,” head coach Chris Tracz said.
Redshirt senior Skyler Pichardo helped stop the bleeding in the first inning, by stranding the bases loaded with back-to-back strikeouts after coming in to relieve Candelario. Unfortunately for Pichardo, his success was short-lived. Niagara proceeded to put up their second three-spot of the game in the second inning. Niagara never trailed in this one, but Marist did put up a valiant fight to make the game competitive.
The main catalyst leading the comeback attempt was junior Brian Hart. The left fielder did everything in his power to bring the Red Foxes back. After hitting a home run on Friday, Hart gave it his all on the field and at the plate on Saturday. He prevented more runs from crossing the plate in the first inning with a sensational sliding catch and continued to tear the cover off the baseball with his bat. Hart finished Game 1 with four hits, one run batted in and one run scored, raising his season’s batting average to an impressive .414.
“He [Hart] did a great job of setting the table and putting good swings on it. ” Tracz said.
However, in the end, Marist failed to complete the comeback. Their pitching stabilized after the second inning, but they just could not muster together enough offense to finish the job.
While Game 1 was a nail-biter until the very end, Game 2 completely flipped the script with Niagara’s pitching staff imploding in the first inning. Marist defeated Niagara in a 14-3 annihilation to split the series.
Scoring nine runs in an inning is rare, but accomplishing that feat on only three hits is almost unheard of. Control was Niagara’s biggest enemy in this game. Their first inning pitching statistics speak for themselves: five free passes, two hit batters, three hits, two balks and four wild pitches. Just distaterous at every level for Niagara.
“It was nice to get off to a good start and take advantage of some miscues on their end,” Tracz said. Niagara used most of their frontline relievers in the first game, which is why their staff was running on fumes. Marist stayed disciplined at the plate and took advantage of Niagara’s short handed bullpen.
One player lost in the shuffle with all the offensive heroics was sophomore Jack Keenan. The southpaw started the game and gave the Red Foxes five strong innings. Pitching in a blowout is totally different than pitching in a close game. Sticking to the game plan and maintaining composure can be a difficult task when the team is up by double digits. Pitchers often become lackadaisical when they have such a wide margin for error, but Keenan was able to keep his mind in the game. He ignored the crooked score and provided Marist with some much needed length after their bullpen was depleted in the previous game.
“Those games are really hard to pitch in,” Tracz said in reference to pitching in a lopsided game. “He did a good job of coming out and giving us a solid outing.”
Marist is currently playing in a stretch where they play ten games in seven days. The Red Foxes have lots of baseball ahead of them as they play Rider on Wednesday in another crucial series.
Every game on the schedule this season is a conference game, therefore they are going to need to play with the same intensity each time they take the diamond. This last win against Niagara should be a major motivator heading into their double header with Rider scheduled on Tuesday, April 27.
Edited by Nicholas Stanziale
Photo Credits: Marist College Athletics