On a day where baseball conditions were at their peak, the Marist Red Foxes played the Quinnipiac Bobcats in Friday’s series opener. If Marist wants to win the MAAC, they need to take advantage of the weaker competition in the conference. And that’s exactly what they did with a hectic 17-10 victory.
In the blink of an eye, the Red Foxes were leading 9-0 in a merciless first inning for the Bobcats’ pitching staff. The first eight Marist batters reached base in an impressive offensive display, with junior Brandyn Garcia failing to record a single out before getting pulled in a nightmarish outing.
Despite scoring nine runs in the inning, there was only one extra-base hit, with graduate student Robbie Armitage breaking the ice with a two-run double. This was followed by a barrage of run-scoring singles by senior Johnny Decker, redshirt freshman Gavin Noriega, graduate student Donnie Stone, graduate student Gene Napolitano, and a second run-scoring hit by Robbie Armitage to help carry the Red Foxes early.
“We’ve been trying to just string good at-bats together, to have an approach where we’re staying in the middle of the plate,” head coach Chris Tracz said. “We didn’t give an at-bat away today.”
Striking early provided Marist with the early momentum, however the only drawback of scoring an excessive number of runs is that quickly it changes the entire mindset of the game. Instead of just playing baseball, the team is attempting to preserve a dwindling lead.
Freshman Jack Bowery struggled in his only home start this season, allowing eight runs against Fairfield. Unfortunately for the Red Foxes, the southpaws’ home woes would continue against the Bobcats. In 3⅓ innings pitched, Bowery allowed six earned runs, including back-to-back home runs in the top of the second innings to give Quinnipiac a sliver of life.
Even though it was only three runs, the immediate retaliation gave the Bobcats a shot. Marist would respond with a few insurance runs in the second and third innings, but the game began to get real dicey in the fourth and fifth innings after Quinnipiac put up two more three spots to bring the game to within two.
“One of the hardest things to do is to pitch in games like these,” Tracz said. “It’s a really stressful situation in a non-stressful perception of it, but Jack’s gonna be fine.”
The game had completely flipped and the only way Marist was going to hold on was if they could tack on insurance runs. It may have been a blessing in disguise, but a dropped fly ball by junior left fielder Anthony Donofrio and a botched grounder from senior Sam LaChance, which looked very reminiscent of Bill Buckner’s error in the 1986 World Series, led to two additional runs being scored in the bottom of the fifth.
With a sizable enough lead, all the Red Foxes needed was their pitching to come through. Senior Zane Kmietek had trouble finding his rhythm initially, and after Quinnipiac loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh inning, all the worst potential outcomes seemed plausible. Despite the dire situation, Kmietek refused to crack under pressure and retired the next two hitters without allowing a runner to cross the plate.
“I was almost one foot out of the dugout and I said, let’s see what Zane does and then he punched out the next batter,” Tracz said.
His complete trust in Kmietek paid off in the most crucial moment of the game.
Marist would break this game open for good in the seventh with a four-run seventh inning after junior Dylan Hoy hit a two-run single and Napolitano drove in two with a double. The two hitters combined for six hits and seven runs driven on the day.
“I’m usually just trying to hunt fastballs and drive them up the middle; they left some over the plate that I was able to do something with,” Hoy said.
It was a game dominated by offense, but when Marist needed it most, they got the necessary outs. Marist improved to 14-10 (4-3 in MAAC play) and will play game two of this series Saturday, Apr. 9 at 1 p.m.
Edited by Connor Kurpat
Photo by Luke Sassa