Fordham Baseball Takes Two Out of Three from Cornell

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John Stancweicz tosses a pitch against Cornell (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics).

By Jack McLoone

John Stancweicz tosses a pitch against Cornell (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics).

It was a long, cold start to the first home series for Fordham Baseball. The Rams welcomed the Cornell Big Red to Houlihan Park on Saturday for a doubleheader and a rubber game on Sunday. The Rams split the doubleheader before winning the final game, improving their record to 10-6-1.

Saturday was a windy 40 degrees – in other words, March in the Northeast and pretty tough baseball conditions. Naturally, the weather you would rather not play in was met with two extra-innings games.

Senior Ben Greenberg started game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, who had another solid outing, though it was his worst of the season. “Worst” is a relative term, however. Over his five innings of work, he struck out five, but walked four and gave up three earned runs.

The runs were actually courtesy of a couple of those walks. With a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning, Greenberg walked two batters before giving up a one-out, three-run home run.

The Rams scratched out one more run in the eighth in unconventional fashion. With runners on first and second with no outs, sophomore Billy Godrick reached ou a bunt single. A run was pushed in by sophomore Alvin Melendez’s ground ball to shortstop that resulted in a fielder’s choice out at second.

Melendez stole on second, putting runners on second and third with no outs. However, a strikeout for sophomore Matt Tarabek and a fly out for junior Justin Bardwell ended the inning, squandering a golden chance at more runs.

The Rams had another chance in the bottom of the ninth, with freshman Nick Labella hitting a ground-rule double to lead off the inning. The Rams eventually worked it to second and third with two outs, but Godrick struck out swinging to send the game to extras.

After sophomore reliever Kyle Martin struck out the side in the top of the 10th, Melendez walked, stole second, advanced to third, then scored on a Bardwell walk-off single to end the first game.

“There’s no question being at home is nice and it definitely helps to hit last in these close games,” said head coach Kevin Leighton.

Game two of the doubleheader went almost exactly the other way. Junior Reiss Knehr started for the Rams on the mound, but only lasted four rather inefficient innings. He notched another seven strikeouts, but walked four batters for the third game in the row and also gave up six hits. He was lucky to escape having only allowed one run.

Leighton confirmed he and pitching coach Pete Larson are trying to address his control issues.

“We’ve been working with Reiss to try to get him in the zone more often,” said Leighton. “He still hasn’t had his best stuff to date but he has battled.”

The Rams led 3-2 heading into the ninth, thanks to an RBI single from Bardwell and two separate ones from Goulard. But in the top of the ninth, junior reliever Anthony Zimmerman loaded the bases with two outs. He was relieved by freshman Matt Mikulski, who walked the first batter he faced, forcing in the tying run. He induced a groundout to end the inning.

After Fordham went down meekly in the bottom of the frame, Mikulski allowed an RBI single in the top of the 10th to give Cornell the lead. Godrick led the bottom of the frame off with a single, but was caught attempting to steal second. A fly out by Melendez and groundout by Tarabek ended the long and windy Saturday.

“Saturday was a long day, especially in the cold wind, but I thought the guys bounced back well on Sunday,” said Leighton. They certainly did bounce back, topping Cornell 5-3.

The Big Red struck first against junior starter Anthony DiMeglio with a two-RBI single. The Rams got one back in the bottom half off an RBI groundout from Bardwell.

After giving up an unearned run in the top of the second, DiMeglio settled in, finishing with eight strikeouts over six innings of work. The Rams pitching staff as a whole shut things down after those early blips, as sophomores Brian Weissert and Alvin Melendez only allowed four baserunners combined over their three innings of work.

The Rams took advantage of two errors to score two runs in the fifth, and then in the sixth Godrick continued his hot weekend by doubling home Goulard to give Fordham a 4-3 lead. Goulard scored on an insurance run in the eighth on another error after a failed pickoff attempt.

Billy Godrick had himself a weekend, batting .555 with two runs scored and an RBI.

Godrick is batting .333 this year with three home runs, six walks and a wild eight hit by pitches. He is doing all of this without playing much as a freshman, logging just 80 at-bats and hitting .275.

“Billy is off to a good start and he is bought in,” said Leighton. “He’s a tough out and can beat you with his power if you make a mistake, but also play small ball and really run and put pressure on the defense.”

Also joining him with a successful weekend was freshman Nick Labella, who hit .333 with two walks. He earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors for his performance.

The Rams are scheduled to face Iona in New Rochelle on Wednesday at 3:30, but predicted snow may be a problem. They follow that up with their first A-10 series of the season, on the road against Davidson.

“Right now our focus is on Iona. However, to date, I like what we’ve done on both sides but there’s no doubt we can be better on both sides,” said Leighton. “We need to continue to be relentless this week and bring a lot of energy, both at practice and vs. Iona.”