Baseball Takes Two of Three from James Madison

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The Fordham Men’s Baseball team is off to a roaring start this season.

By Jack McLoone

The Fordham men’s baseball team is off to a roaring start this season (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

Coming into the 2018 season, there were two main questions for Fordham Baseball: how will senior pitcher Ben Greenberg do after missing an entire season due to an injury, and will the bats show up after having one of the worst offenses in Division I last season?

In the first half of Fordham’s doubleheader at James Madison on Saturday, the answers to both those questions were positive.

Thanks to the atrocious weather on Friday, the Rams and Dukes were forced into a doubleheader. Despite not having planned out his pitching staff for two games in one day, head coach Kevin Leighton was not concerned.

“It can throw a wrinkle in the plans for the starting pitcher, but it definitely isn’t a major issue,” he said. “You have to be able to adapt and adjust, because things happen.”

Greenberg started game one, and looked just as good as he did as a part of the Ram’s combined one-hitter against USF two weeks ago.

Through the first five innings, Greenberg allowed only three baserunners, and just one of those was a hit.

However, the Rams were also stymied themselves until breaking through in the top of the sixth. After beating out an infield single, sophomore Alvin Melendez took second on a passed ball and then stole third, allowing him to score on a groundout by junior Justin Bardwell.

Greenberg went one-two-three in the bottom of the sixth, his final inning.

“His first game back, he struggled finding the zone early but was able to battle through,” said Leighton of Greenberg. “Since then, he’s been in the zone with all of his pitches, and has given us tremendous outings.”

Fordham had only three hits heading into the sixth. By the end, they had 11.

The Rams added three more runs in the top of the seventh, taking advantage of a hit batter, an error, a wild pitch and a walk to make it 4-0 through six and a half.
Junior pitcher Anthony DiMeglio came in and gave up one run in the seventh and two in the eighth to send the game to the ninth as a one-run game, 4-3. However, sophomore Billy Godrick hit his third homer of the season, a solo shot, to give the Rams an insurance run. Melendez, who came in to close, didn’t need it, as he set down the Dukes in order to complete the game one win.

The Rams collected 11 hits in the 5-3 win, but managed to top it in their second game.

It was a quiet start, and the Dukes were actually leading junior starting pitcher Reiss Knehr and the Rams 3-1 through three innings.

And then the top of the fourth happened.

It’s hard to encapsulate just how many things went wrong here for James Madison. The Dukes had two outs with a runner on first after Bardwell tried to score from third on an infield grounder.

Then: single, two RBI double, throwing error, walk, pitching change, hit by pitch, RBI walk, RBI single, three RBI single, single, error that scored a run and a wild pitch that scored a run. I’ll give you a second to do the math.

Yup, a nine-run fourth inning. The Rams never looked back, coasting to a 14-6 win. They collected 12 hits.

“Winning the doubleheader definitely feels good and it is something we can build on,” said Leighton. “We did a lot of things really well in both games, but we also have some things that we need to clean up.”

They once again topped their hit total by one in the rubber game on Sunday with 13, but this time James Madison came alive too.

With the Rams up 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh, freshman Matt Mikulski, who has been stellar so far this season, relieved sophomore Brian Weissert. He experienced all the bumps of a freshman season in just a third of an inning of work. After getting a fly out to start the inning, he hit the next batter, gave up a single, walked the bases loaded and then hit another batter to force in a run and end his day.

He wasn’t off the hook, however, as all three of those baserunners came around to score as well.

“It was frustrating to lose Sunday’s game but it wasn’t entirely on the pitching,” said Leighton. “We had opportunities to end the inning and/or limit their runs but we didn’t get it done.”

Specifically, with two outs and the game scored at five in the same inning, a wild pitch allowed the runners to move up. However, an errant throw by Bardwell allowed two more runs to be scored, giving the Dukes the 7-5 lead that they never relinquished. The Rams added one back, but lost 7-6.

Fordham now sits at 5-4-1 overall, with their road trips to warmer climates over as the calendar turns to March.

The weather in the Northeast has been finicky lately, so the odds that it stays cold for a while are pretty high. Leighton isn’t too worried.

“I think the cold is harder on the people watching the games! We are used to the colder weather, and, although I’m sure our guys would prefer warmer weather, we can’t control that. We just need to be relentless and play with energy no matter what the temperature is.”

The Rams will travel to Coppin State in Baltimore for a three-game series starting this Friday, March 9.