By Jack McLoone
After spending three weekends on the road, Fordham Baseball made its return to the Bronx in dramatic fashion, winning the first game of the double-header against the Manhattan Jaspers in extra innings, 8-4. The Rams dropped the second game 4-2, putting their record at 3-9.
As this was an out-of-conference double-header, both games were scheduled to be seven innings instead of the usual nine. However, the Rams and Jaspers needed the full complement in the opener.
Freshman Brendan Martin started for the Rams, and while he struggled at times, he was able to scatter six hits across the first three innings and keep Manhattan off the board. He was helped out by the Jaspers on the base paths, as three baserunners were caught stealing by sophomore catcher Justin Bardwell in those three innings.
However, the Jaspers finally turned hits into runs in the fourth inning. Junior pitcher David Wright entered the game in relief of Martin and immediately got into trouble. Evan Brown led off the inning by dropping a bomb over the head of freshman centerfielder Alvin Melendez that one-hopped the centerfield fence for a ground-rule double. The ball is probably over the fence in most other college ballparks, but thanks to being connected to Jack Coffey Field, Houlihan Park’s centerfield fence is 395 feet away.
Wright battled back by recording a groundout. But then Manhattan’s Jason Patnick hit a single through the left side and Wright misplayed the throw in, allowing Patnick to advance to second. After walking the bases loaded, Wright recorded a huge strikeout of Anthony Rocchietti. However, he followed that with a walk to Adam Genners, resulting in Manhattan’s first run of the day and the end of the day for Wright.
His line was not closed, however, as senior Shane McDonald allowed a two-RBI ground-rule double to the first batter he faced, Brendan Bisset. Manhattan led 3-0.
The Rams did not get on board until the bottom of the fifth inning, having only recorded one hit prior to that frame. The one run in the fifth was as much a product of the Rams’ bats as they were poor play from Manhattan’s Genners in centerfield. Senior third baseman Matthew Kozuch led off the inning with a single up the middle that Genners bobbled, allowing him to reach second. When Melendez followed that with a single up the middle of his own, Genners once again bobbled the ground ball, allowing Kozuch to get cross the plate.
Fordham tied the game up at 3 in the bottom of the sixth by linking together four hits from senior shortstop Luke Stampfl, senior left fielder Mark Donadio, senior DH Ryan Mahoney and Kozuch allowing with a couple of fielder’s choices.
After that ground-rule double to start his appearance, McDonald settled in with three straight one-two-three innings, leading the first game beyond the seventh inning. Both teams stayed off the board in the eighth, meaning at the very least the planned seven-inning game was going to reach a regular length affair.
Freshman Kyle Martin, who relieved McDonald in the eighth, got two quick outs to start the top of the ninth. However, Genners, who looked like he could be the goat of the game, stepped up by dumping a Texas Leaguer into shallow right field. A walk and a single later, Manhattan was up 4-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
After having an incredibly stagnant offense to start the game, the Rams offense came together when they needed it to most. Kozuch continued his big day by smacking a leadoff double on a 3-0 meatball from Shawn Kanwisher. After a walk to freshman outfielder Billy Godrick, a sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position and an intentional walk to sophomore second baseman Reiss Knehr loaded the bases with one out. Sophomore first baseman Brian Goulard did not even have to swing the bat for the game to be tied. Kanwisher took care of it himself, spiking a pitch through catcher Fabian Pena’s legs that brought Kozuch home.
Manhattan then made an interesting decision, not giving Goulard anything to hit with a base empty, with the walk loading them back up for Stampfl, the Rams’ best hitter. He answered the call on the second pitch of the at-bat, smashing a ball that just kept carrying until smacking the “Section 8” sign on the Jack Coffey Field bleachers beyond the left field fence, giving the Rams an 8-4 win in “extra innings.”
After the emotional victory in the first half of the double-header, the Rams were unable to get back up for the second game. Through three innings, both teams had just one hit. But in the top of the fourth, freshman pitcher Brian Weissert was unable to close out the inning after recording two quick outs. After a single and a walk, a triple from Patnick cleared the bases and chased Weissert from the game. Sophomore pitcher Anthony Zimmerman gave up a single to his first batter, putting the Jaspers up 3-0.
The Rams entered the seventh and final inning with just one hit and now down 4-0. And when Knehr and Goulard started the frame with back-to-back strikeouts, it looked like they were going to go down without much resistance.
But once again, Stampfl showed his power, hitting the gap in centerfield and motoring around the bases for an inside-the-park home run to spark a little two-out rally. Donadio followed that up with a single and scored on a triple from Mahoney, making it 4-2 Manhattan. However, Kozuch ended the game with a groundout to short.
Stampfl continued his hot start, going 3-8 with 5 RBI over the two games. His batting average actually dropped to .391. Kozuch went 3-4 in the first game, but went 0-3 in the second, keeping his batting average below the Mendoza Line at .175.
The Rams were supposed to be in action again this weekend against UMass-Lowell, but the games were cancelled due to the cold weather. Fordham is scheduled to continue its home stand on Tuesday, March 14 against NJIT, with first pitch at 3 p.m.