Marist was looking to avoid the sweep in Sunday’s matchup against Fairfield. Their MAAC tournament aspirations might be in question, but they were still facing off against the number-one team in the conference. In an absolutely wild back-and-forth game, resilient hitting and smart baserunning led to the Red Foxes walking off the Stags 15-14 in a thrilling game.
Fairfield has one of the most prolific offenses in the country (13th in batting average), putting up 28 runs through the first two games. Junior Brian Yetter, who had allowed 15 earned runs over his last two starts was entrusted with the start, as head coach Lance Ratchford was hoping he could find his stuff against Fairfield. Following a 1-2-3 first inning, Yetter appeared to be heading in a different direction, however, the Stags’ bats erupted in the second inning.
After graduate student Mike Handal drove in the first run of the game with a single, Fairfield decided to flex their power. Freshman Matt Bucciero started the barrage with a towering two-run home run to dead center. Before Marist could catch their breath, senior Ethan Hibbard drove one out to left field for his second home run in as many days. And after the next batter was retired, graduate student Griffin Watson hit Fairfields third home run of the inning to extend the Stags’ lead to five.
The primary issue for Marist all season has been letting games get away because of massive innings, but the response they would immediately have reinvigorated life back into McCann Baseball Field.
Graduate student Brian Hart led off the inning with a solo shot to right field. Though this was just the beginning, with the first seven Marist hitters reaching base before an out was even recorded. Senior Danny Moshier drove in the Red Foxes’ second run, while senior Dylan Hoy drove in another with a single that resulted in a second run also coming home following a throwing error by Handal. Freshman Bayram Hot would tie the game at five with a run-scoring groundout to first.
“The team that showed up today is the team that I want to roll with,” Ratchford said. The Red Foxes have struggled to find consistency all season, but this game displayed their true capabilities.
After junior Peter Ostensen loaded the bases again, Fairfield head coach Bill Currier finally decided to go to the bullpen. The Stags appeared to be out of trouble after senior Justin Kapuscinski hit a blooper to shallow right field, but second baseman Mike Becchetti could not corral it, leading to the go-ahead runs scoring. And just as the bombardment appeared to be over, a crucial mistake put the finishing touch on an insane second inning. After just barely missing a home run earlier in the at-bat, freshman Ethan Conrad blasted a three-run home run to left-center field to give Marist their tenth run of the inning.
“He’s one of those kids that got a chance to play early, won a job and just turned this year into an outstanding freshman year,” Ratchford said.
With the number of runs scored this early, it left plenty of time for a comeback. The Stags cut the deficit to four after tacking on one in the third inning. With the bases juiced in the fourth inning, senior Charlie Pagliarini cleared the bases with a double down the first base line after Conrad could not field it cleanly in right. Pagliarini would tie the game just a few pitches later on a wild pitch. And after Matt Bergevin reached on a walk, Handal would drive him in with an opposite-field single to put Fairfield back on top.
Whoever wanted to win this game more was who would win this game. A Conrad leadoff double in the fifth inning allowed Hoy to tie the game at 11 a piece with a two-out double. However, the Stags responded with a two-run top of the sixth.
One team scores and the other strikes right back, it was a common theme throughout. A Conrad run-scoring ground out brought the game back to within one in the sixth, but an eighth-inning Bucciero sacrifice fly negated that. Though Hot made sure to get that run right back, launching a solo home run to center field to lower Fairfields’ lead back to one.
With a shorthanded bullpen, Ratchford really needed the arms he had available to come through with the abbreviated start from Yetter. Senior Danny Keon, freshman Steven Mazza and freshman Caleb Kempler all did a fantastic job at keeping Marist in the game throughout the final 5⅔ innings.
“They really pulled together and they just tried to just hold it down as our offense was just getting itself going and trying to chip away,” Ratchford said.
Kempler’s dominant 1-2-3 ninth inning gave Marist all the momentum they needed to finish the job in the bottom of the inning. A bunt single, an error and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. The Stags got one after redshirt sophomore Marco Ali grounded into a fielder’s choice. However, this allowed Hot to come to the plate. Fairfield decided to play their middle infielders halfway for the chance at a double play and with a 3-2 count, Hot chopped one to the shortstop who attempted to turn two. However, Hot was booking it down the line and beat out the throw, but because Hoy was hustling all the way, he was able to score from second base on the fielders’ choice to walk off Fairfield.
“I knew I just had to put the ball in play and good things would happen,” Hot said.
Baserunning has been a point of emphasis all season for this team. They set the single-season stolen base record and they are always looking to take that extra bag. Today, that is what won them this game.
“I rounded the bag hard, saw he missed it, and just took the opportunity to get home,” Hoy said.
Had Hoy not taken the extra base, this game may have gone to extra innings, where anything could have happened, but luckily for Marist, this was not an outcome they needed to deal with.
“Whether or not we’re in the tournament, it’s just about the culture,” Hot said. “We got to take that feeling of winning such a big game against a really good team in Fairfield into next fall and next year and just keep rolling.”
Marist will play their final series of the year on Thursday, May 18th at 11 a.m. when they host Canisius in game one of a doubleheader. It is still unclear if it is possible for Marist to make the MAAC championships, but this team did just beat the number one team in the MAAC and will be ready to finish the year strong no matter what.
Edited by Andrew Hard
Photo from Marist Athletics