Marist entered Saturday’s doubleheader fresh off a sweep of Rider. Strong pitching has contributed to lots of their success, though it has been their sensational hitting that has carried them throughout the season.
In game one against the Monmouth Hawks, the Marist bats went cold in an agonizing 4-1 loss.
For most of game one, it was a pitcher’s duel between Marist junior Ryan Cordona and Monmouth senior Dan Klepchick. Both lineups saw nothing but air for the first five innings. Their combined ledger was 11⅔ innings pitched with 16 strikeouts – neither team could figure out the opposing pitcher.
“There just was not a ton of opportunities for either team to score very much,” head coach Chris Tracz said. “That’s what you’re going to get in the first game of a series when you get each guy’s best pitcher.”
Kelpchick was lights out for most of the game, but Marist was able to scrape together a run in the top of the fifth inning. After two runners reached, sophomore outfielder Colin Mackle drove in the tie-breaking run from second with a base hit. Unfortunately for Marist, they could not add any more insurance runs, which would prove costly later.
While Marist has started their season on a roll, their achilles heel has consistently been their defensive miscues. In their last series against Rider, they allowed five unearned runs and committed seven errors in just two games. However, the defensive struggles did not play a major role on Wednesday because Marist had such substantial leads. On the contrary, in the bottom of the sixth inning, one throwing error led to the team completely unraveling – four unearned runs crossed the plate.
“If you give good teams five outs in an inning, usually bad things happen. And you know that was kind of the story of the day,” Tracz said.
Marists’ lack of offense and insufficient defense led to Cordona’s impressive performance being in vain. Game 1 was in the palm of their hands, but it was ultimately defined by the Red Foxes inability to make up for their mistakes.
Marist attempted to recover from a tough game one, but ended up being heartbroken with another crushing loss in game two. Another big late inning rally by Monmouth resulted in them defeating Marist 5-2.
The Red Foxes were looking to stimulate the offense in any way they could after scoring just one run in the previous game. They looked good early, with Marist striking first with a two-run top of the third inning, though that would end up being all the offensive firepower the Red Foxes would produce.
Following a rough start against Niagara last Friday, senior pitcher Alex Pansini looked like a Cy Young candidate through the first six frames. The starter allowed no runs on just one hit through six innings.
“Alex deserved better, he threw the ball great, he controlled the game outstandingly,” Tracz said.
Pansini was phenomenal, but the seventh inning turned the entire game upside down for Marist. Monmouth started the inning by stringing together four hits in five at bats against Pansini, and then senior outfielder Jake Catalano blasted a go-ahead grand slam against senior reliever Nick Cantone.
“We haven’t been able to stop those big innings from happening,” Tracz said.
The Red Fox offense had been erupting for the most part during their first dozen games, but Monmouth’s elite pitching staff found a way to shut them down. The Hawks are one of the better teams in the MAAC and their skill on the diamond was on full display Saturday afternoon.
“It’s baseball, when you play good teams, these are the types of games you are going to get,” Tracz said.
Saturday was a learning experience for the Red Foxes, with the Hawks being the first team to truly outplay them so far this season. Marist was close to the finish line in both games, but just fell short each time. They played competitively and will attempt to rebound Sunday.
Marist does not have much time to dwell on their losses as they return to Monmouth tomorrow for the final two games of the series
Edited by Nick Stanziale
Photo from Marist College Athletics