In game three of this conference matchup, the Marist Red Foxes prepared to complete the sweep of the Iona Gaels in a Sunday afternoon affair. Following 42 combined runs scored for Marist through the first two games of this series, another football score was expected. However, pitching and defense highlighted this one, with Marist shutting out Iona 7-0 to keep the Red Foxes as the three seed in the MAAC.
The top of the Marist lineup has done a stellar job at setting the table this season, especially at home. The Red Foxes took no time getting to freshman pitcher Joey Kasper. They scored first after graduate student Robbie Armitage drove in graduate student Gene Napolitano with a run-scoring single to left field in the bottom of the first inning. Over their last seven home games, Marist has scored 19 first-inning runs.
Graduate student Alex Pansini was given the ball for the finale of this series with efficiency and effectiveness defining his start. In eight scoreless innings, Pansini struck out 10, walked none and allowed just five hits on 97 pitches.
“I think what worked best for me was I was able to locate all my pitches in and out and kind of wherever I wanted and in any count,” Pansini said. “I just let them hit it so I could let my fielders do the work.”
Marist extended their lead in the fourth inning after senior Brian Hart tripled down the left-field line to bring home Robbie Armitage. Hart proceeded to score a few pitches later on a passed ball to give the Red Foxes an additional insurance run.
Both Friday and Saturday’s games ended in blowouts, with this game’s score being much tamer compared to the previous two. This time, the level of play improved drastically for the Gaels. Senior Iona shortstop Luca Lotito was showing off the leather all game, converting two impressive 6-3 double plays on jump throws.
On the flip side, Marist was also putting on a defensive showcase. Napolitano threw out his 10th runner of the year in the third inning. Redshirt freshman Marco Ali made a diving stop to start the 5-4-3 double play in the fifth inning and senior Johnny Decker made a nice sliding catch in the seventh inning.
“When you can turn double plays, limit scoring opportunities and get off the field, it just kind of slows the tempo down for them offensively and limits momentum,” head coach Chris Tracz said.
This game was close through seven, though the differences in competition displayed themselves in the eighth inning. A string of errors led to a four-spot that was capped off by graduate student Peter Dudunakis hitting a two-run home run to put the game out of reach for good.
Marist improves to 24-14 – 13-5 in MAAC play – and is now riding a six-game winning streak, the longest current streak in the conference.
“We have a great opportunity to control our own destiny in terms of what happens late in the season and in the postseason,” Tracz said. “We just have to keep attacking the same way and we’ve been doing that lately which has been great.”
The Red Foxes will have an off day before returning to action Tuesday, May 3rd at 6 p.m. against St. Johns. Their next conference matchup will be next weekend’s series at Rider, starting at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 6th.
Edited by Connor Kurpat
Photo by Kira Crutcher