Fresh off a statement sweep over Monmouth last weekend, the Marist Red Foxes were feeling pumped heading into their matchup against the Iona Gaels on a cloudless Friday afternoon. Offensive explosions have been a luxury the Red Foxes are becoming accustomed to as today was one of those days, winning 18-4 in a dominating performance.
In each of Marist’s previous four home games, the Red Foxes drew first blood and the opener of this series extended that streak to five with a three-run bottom of the first inning to give sophomore starting pitcher Brian Yetter the early lead.
After graduate students Reece Armitage and Robbie Armitage both reached, redshirt freshman Gavin Noriega hit a pop-fly single to left field. However, obstruction by Iona third baseman Nick Carnevale allowed all the runners to advance an extra base. And with two runners in scoring position, senior Brian Hart hit one up the middle to drive both of them in.
The Gaels attempted to return the favor in the top of the second inning, but despite loading the bases with one out, Yetter held them to only one run after balking. He was escaping trouble all day but never folded under pressure, stranding nine runners on base in five innings of one-run ball.
“It was a battle for him,” head coach Chris Tracz said. “Luckily we were able to distance the game and give him some breathing room but to get through five just to give up the one run was big on a Friday.”
Marist’s two best hitters this season have been graduate student Gene Napolitano and Noriega. Both hitters are top five in the MAAC in batting average and showed up in a major way in game one of this series.
Noriega, hitting .522 over his last five games, continued his torrid production with a two-run double in the bottom of the second inning. Then Napolitano, hitting .375 over his last five games, launched his third home run of the season, a three-run blast in the bottom of the third inning to extend the Red Foxes’ lead to 8-1. The offense has been thriving this season, with these two fronting the success.
“I’m just trying to think about going the other way, to shoot the ball back up the box, you know just really trying to keep it simple,” Noriega said.
Iona attempted to narrow their deficit in the sixth with a three-run inning, though Marist immediately responded in the latter half with a three-spot of their own. Following a run-scoring triple by Noriega to give him three-fourths of the cycle, Hart hit a moonshot to right field that landed on the outdoor basketball courts behind McCann Arena. The booming two-run home run extended Marist’s lead back to nine.
“That home run kind of sealed it at that point, “Tracz said. “It took the wind out of any kind of comeback they would have.”
The Red Foxes’ offense was very consistent today, scoring at least two runs, but never more than three runs in every inning they bat aside from the fourth. Lackluster pitching by the Gaels, along with 15 Marist hits helped them to plate 18 runs.
“I don’t really care who we’re playing, but if we get a chance to extend the lead and put our foot down, we’ve got to do it,” Tracz said.
Marist improves to 22-14– 11-5 in MAAC play– and is currently third in the conference. They will play game two of this series Saturday, Apr. 30th at 1 p.m.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Luke Sassa