Baseball’s Bats Go Quiet Against George Washington


Fordham Baseball lost its first series of the season when it dropped two out of three to George Washington. (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

By Jack McLoone

Ben Greenberg pitched a complete game in Fordham’s only weekend victory over George Washington on Saturday (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

I guess I am a jinx.

After running the headline, “Baseball Improves to 6-0 in Three-Game Series” last week, Fordham Baseball lost two of three to the George Washington Colonials over the weekend (note: that turned out to be incorrect; the Rams lost two of three in an early-season series against USF). The Rams dropped Friday’s 11-inning game 5-3 and Sunday’s contest 7-2, but did secure a 7-2 win on Saturday.

The Rams are now 23-14-1 and 7-5 in conference, putting them at fifth in the Atlantic 10.

As was his mantra after the team had won six straight three-game series, Head Coach Kevin Leighton focused after the game on the micro, not the macro.

“We have to play one game at a time and not worry about series, stats, records, etc.,” said Leighton. “We just want to go 1-0 in the game that we have that day, and I think that’s the best way for us to move forward. Our guys have kept us in just about every game this year and that’s a good sign and all that we can ask of them.”

Friday’s 5-3 loss featured a rare occurrence for Fordham Baseball: the Rams did not steal a single base. As of right now, Fordham Baseball leads the entire country in stolen bases with 122, 20 more than the next closest school, Wofford, and in three fewer games, at that. (I’ve been trying to work in this fact for a while, but have not had the space). But that has been the key to the Rams’ success: getting on-base at about a NCAA-average clip, but then running aggressively – and successfully.

“We’re always looking to run and be aggressive; unfortunately, we didn’t have many base runners and their pitchers were very quick to the plate,” said Leighton. “It’s definitely a weapon out of our arsenal, but at the end of the day, we need to get on base to score runs regardless.”

Junior starting pitcher Reiss Knehr got off to a slow but not worrisome start when the leadoff batter singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and then third on a sacrifice bunt. That leadoff batter then scored on a groundout, giving the Colonials 1-0 lead.

The next six and a half innings were a stalemate, particularly for the Rams, who did not have a hit through the first six innings. It’s a little hard to steal a base when you don’t have any baserunners.

However, the Rams did take advantage when they finally got on base in the seventh, with two runs scoring on an RBI triple from freshman third baseman C.J. Vazquez, putting the Rams up 2-0.

Knehr came out for one more inning, giving up two runs on a double to give the lead right back to the Colonials in the top of the eighth. It was his most in-control start in a while, walking just two over the career-high eight innings. He struck out four.

But the Rams showed fight, not going gentle into that good Bronx night, putting up a run in the bottom of the ninth on an RBI single from sophomore shortstop Matt Tarabek to tie it at three and send the game to extra innings.

But in the top of the 11th, sophomore Kyle Martin, who had come to relieve Knehr starting in the ninth, was small-balled into giving up another two more runs, giving the Colonials a 5-3 lead. The Rams brought the game-winning run to the plate with one out in the bottom of the frame, but a flyout and strikeout ended the first game.
Game two on Saturday looked a lot more like the Rams we have grown used to, with the team hitting, stealing bases and starting off hot from the mound. The Rams won 7-2.

The starting pitching came in the form of senior starter and cornerstone Ben Greenberg, who tossed his third career complete game, racking up a career-high eight strikeouts in the process. He did not walk any batters and gave up two runs on nine hits. The performance actually raised his ERA to 1.74, showing just how consistently good he has been all season.

It took the Rams a little while – maybe they were in awe of Greenberg’s work on the mound, but eventually the bats woke up. It started in the sixth inning, when freshman second baseman Jake MacKenzie hit his team-leading seventh home run of the year, a two-run shot. Tarabek scored later in the inning on a Little League-esqe pair of throwing errors on the same play, giving Fordham a 3-0 lead.

The Rams tacked on four more in the bottom of the eighth, first on a Tarabek squeeze bunt following a triple by sophomore outfielder Billy Godrick and a walk by MacKenzie.

After the bunt, MacKenzie and Tarabek double stole, allowing them both to score on a single off the bat of junior catcher Justin Bardwell. A double from Vazquez plated two more for the 7-0 lead.

Greenberg gave up two runs as he faded down the stretch, but the Rams prevailed 7-2.

In the rubber game on Sunday, Fordham was on the receiving end of the kind of performance they got out of Greenberg, with George Washington starter Nathan Woods giving up just one run earned run over a complete game, striking out eight.

The Colonials jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning off of junior starter Anthony DiMeglio, though all three runs were scored as unearned due to a fielding error by Tarabek at short. After they added two more in the fifth, there was not much more the Rams could do.

The Rams did scratch across a run in the bottom of the fifth thanks to an RBI single from sophomore outfielder Jake Baker, and Bardwell scored in the sixth on a throwing error. The game ended 7-2.

Fordham will look to get back to its winning ways with a three-game series at A-10 foe St. Joe’s starting on Friday.