Erubiel Candelario took the mound to put the hurt on the Iona Gaels Baseball team, after the Red Foxes proved to be dominant in Game 1 winning 18-4. What followed today was a hitting clinic for the Red Foxes, including a double digit 7th inning and four home runs in a
24-1 takeover with alumni present in the stands to cheer them on.
A top hitting performer on the Marist side was infielder Robbie Armitage, who went 2-4 with two home runs, five RBIs and a walk. Middle infielder Dylan Hoy hit his first home run of the season, going 3-6 with five RBIs and a double as well. Slugger Gavin Noriega hit a home run on his second at bat of the game as well.
What was most impressive about Candelario’s outing was his control. Although he worked himself into multiple full counts, he allowed no walks while posting ten strikeouts in his 6.2 innings of work, perhaps the most impressive gem for the pitching staff’s workhorse this season. Candelario was given the hook with two outs in the sixth inning after slinging 109 pitches for the matinee.
“I was working on [control] throughout the beginning of the season. I was struggling with starting off guys with a ball” said Candelario. “This game I was trying to just like fill it up, just give guys something to hit.”
Candelario was lights out in his last start in the Monmouth series, only allowing five hits in five innings of work, with nine strikeouts and just one earned run. Pitching against Iona, who are last in the MAAC conference, he kept his hot streak alive and has only allowed one run between the last two starts.
While Iona’s pitching staff has been rocky this year with no pitchers with an ERA under five, Drew Helmsetter has been better than the rest of the staff in his 30 innings of work on the year, striking out 17 along the way. Unfortunately for him, the Red Fox offense has been red hot since the start of the Monmouth series and it certainly didn’t stop today.
To get the offense immediately in full prowess, Robbie Armitage hit a high winding fly ball to dead center that cleared the fence within a few feet, driving his brother in who had a single in his first at-bat. Nine runs later, Robbie hit yet another home run, this one a liner getting out of the park in no hurry at all.
“I tried to do the same thing I’ve been doing all year long: Attack early and get pitches I want to hit so I was fortunate enough to get some of those,” said Armitage.
The second inning was slightly sloppy by the red foxes, as Armitage made a throwing error on a ground ball that took his target first basemen off the bag. A hit by pitch immediately followed. Candelario, proving time and time again to be unfazed on the mound, shoved three consecutive strikeouts with fastball command that had two Iona batters down looking, causing the Marist bench to cheer in uproar. Candelario continued to make Iona batters dazed as hitters could not make solid contact, hurling fastballs that gave hitters extreme frustration.
“He had the fastball today,” said Head Coach Chris Tracz. “He was good and he located enough. He didn’t have a great feel for the breaking ball but was able to do a good job and obviously to get through six and a third the way he did was huge.”
The pace of the game was quick and tidy and felt as though one mistake by either pitcher would blow the game wide open, even with Marist’s two run lead. That mistake came when first baseman Brian Hart hit a solid grounder through the second base gap, followed by a textbook bunt by Johnny Decker and a double steal two pitches later with Dylan Hoy at bat. Hoy tok full advantage on the risky small ball offense and hit a double in the left center gap, still with no outs in the inning.
“I thought we needed to do something to change the momentum and the energy,” said Tracz. “We had the bunt and then the steal and then gotta hit and just extended. We got a little bit more breathing room, which was exactly what we needed. After that, we could see the game right.”
The Red Foxes once again showed that their offense has been no fluke in the inning to follow, as Gavin Noriega pulled a fastball that gave him a light jog around the bases, sending a no-doubt home run past the scoreboard at McCann. A 6-0 lead in the top of the 6th was more than enough insurance for the Red Foxes to keep a confident momentum going.
After Helmsetter’s outing came to an end, no good things were to follow. Iona relieved their starter in the 7th, and immediately Conyers put himself in a jam with two consecutive walks, followed by a balk and a bases clearing double for Brian Hart and another double by Dylan Hoy. Niko Armory drove in another run and soon enough the Red Foxes were in a bases loaded no out situation, and drove in another two runs on a Marco Ali RBI single.
Hot-hitting catcher Gene Napolitano broke his 0-4 day with another two-RBI single for the Red Foxes, which was followed by the 2nd Armitage home run of the day. Taking out plenty of starters, the Red Foxes continued to rake as Dylan Boone hit a triple down the right field line to drive in the sixteenth run of the inning. A total of 16 runs in the 7th were astonishing, but the game was by no means in Iona’s control before the 7th inning started.
“I think that we all just feed off each other and build momentum and when things start going our way, we pass it on to the next guy,” said Armitage.
Relieving Candelario today was Zane Kmitek, getting the last out of the seventh and leaving Iona with no offense to work with. Marist’s offense gave the pitching staff plenty of room to work with, but that didn’t dishearten their focus to limit runs.
Marist’s shutout ended in the top of the 8th inning when Kmitek gave up a long triple to outfielder Nick Forney, driven in by Iona’s best hitter Jake field on a double. That run didn’t have any lasting impact as shortstop Dylan Hoy joined the home run party and drove in two more runs for the Red Foxes. Kmitek closed the game out in the ninth, pairing Candelario’s outing with a solid one of his own.
The Red Foxes made their staple offensive statement once again, and though Iona holds the last position in the MAAC, another high run differential series with the addition of Candelario’s peak pitching performance makes them no joke in conversation as a top three team in this conference. The Red Foxes will look to show their prowess in two consecutive series sweeps with game three tomorrow afternoon.
Edited by Connor Kurpat
Photo from Marist Athletics