On a hot Friday afternoon, Marist began a critical three-game set against the number one seed in the MAAC, the Fairfield Stags. The Red Foxes have to win as many conference games as they can to compete in the MAAC Championships, and while they kept it close early, Marist ultimately fell to Fairfield in a depleting 9-4 loss.
Senior Drake Quinn was looking to bounce back after allowing 11 earned runs last Saturday at Niagara. In five innings of work, he was dealing, allowing just two earned runs while striking out seven.
“He was just the guy who had some bad luck last week, his stuff was still good. This is who he is, a premium arm and he gave our team a chance today,” head coach Lance Ratchford said.
Going up against graduate student Jake Noviello, one of Fairfield’s top arms, Marist needed to limit their mistakes and take advantage of every scoring opportunity.
In the top of the second inning, following two runners reaching, the Stags got to Quinn after freshman right fielder Matt Bucciero singled to left to drive in the game’s first run. However, despite the jam, Quinn refused to let the outing spiral out of control, striking out the next two batters to keep the Red Foxes within one.
In the bottom half of the inning, fortune favored Marist after redshirt sophomore Marco Ali legged out an infield single on a play that should have been made. Following a double down the left field line by freshman Ethan Conrad, graduate student Nicholas Butler hit a shallow fly ball to right that Bucciero made a strong throw home on. It was a bang-bang play that could have gone either way, but the home plate umpire called Ali safe.
With the game tied, Quinn continued to roll through the Fairfield order, however freshman Bayram Hot threw one errant in the fourth inning, pushing the go-ahead run into scoring position. These are the mistakes Marist needed to avoid and as expected, the Stags took advantage. Senior Ethan Hibbard laced one to left field to retake the lead for Fairfield.
“We’re gonna have to eliminate the free ones, we had the one error that did score, the bunt that we didn’t make a play on. Like those little tiny things are going to matter,” Ratchford said. It was not the big hits that cost Marist this game, but the failed execution on the routine plays.
However, just like the second inning, Marist responded immediately in the bottom of the fourth. Back-to-back hits from graduate student Niko Amory and senior Justin Kapuscinski put two in scoring position before an out was even recorded. Ali tied the game at two with a sacrifice fly, though unfortunately for the Red Foxes, one run is all they could get this inning.
“Offensively for us, I do think that we have to have better at-bats tomorrow,” Ratchford said. “Taking an early in the count swing on something that’s out of the zone, like all we’re doing is bailing them out.”
Controversy enveloped the fifth inning and not for the betterment of Marist. With one out and a runner at second, junior Matt Bergevin hit a ground ball to senior shortstop Dylan Hoy. Even though Hoy’s throw took Kapuscinski off the base, it appeared that he still tagged Bergevin out before reaching first, however the first base umpire called him safe, putting Ratchford and the Marist crowd into a frenzy.
With an extra out, the Stags did what elite teams do and with two outs and runners on first and second, senior Mike Becchetti gave Fairfield the lead again with a single to left field.
“That’s the nature of baseball,” Ratchford said. “They ended up getting the one where we could of got off the field. But ultimately we have to overcome it and it’s on us because we know that things like that happen.”
Drake Quinn did all he could to keep Marist in the game, however, senior Jack Wren could not keep the Fairfield bats dormant forever. After the first three reached in the sixth inning, Fairfield added one on a sacrifice fly, and with two on, Fairfield’s star player, senior Charlie Pagliarini hit a missile off the scoreboard in right field to extend the Stags lead to five. It was Pagliarini’s MAAC-leading 19th home run of the season and it was a sight to behold.
Noviello shut the Marist bats down completely, pitching eight strong innings of two-run ball. For a game that saw a lead balloon to seven at one point, this was a tight game that Marist let get away.
“We need our bullpen to step up. We need guys to come in, throw strikes and get outs. That’s our only chance,” Ratchford said.
Marist will have another shot at Fairfield tomorrow, May 13 at 1 p.m. The Red Foxes fall to 7-12 in conference play, while the Stags improve to 12-4. Marist needs to come out strong Saturday if they want to compete against the best in the MAAC.
Edited by Andrew Hard
Photo from Kira Crutcher