Baseball Starts Season By Suffering Sweep to Texas A&M


Fordham Baseball got swept in its first three games of the season against Texas A&M. (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

By Jack McLoone

When asked about Fordham Baseball’s season-opening series against the University of Texas A&M, a perennial baseball powerhouse out of the Southeastern Conference, head coach Kevin Leighton said that he just wanted to see the team compete. While that’s coach-speak for “I don’t necessarily expect the team to win,” it’s also a fair appraisal of what the Rams did over their first weekend, dropping all three games, but two of the three in close fashion.

“It was definitely very exciting to get the season started, especially in an environment like Texas A&M,” said Leighton.

One of the biggest questions heading into the season was how the Rams would replace two of their lost starting pitchers, Reiss Knehr (MLB draft) and Ben Greenberg (graduated and transferred to St. John’s University, for his final year of eligibility). One possible answer is sophomore pitcher Matt Mikulski, who started the Rams’ opening game.

Mikulski made a case for sticking in the rotation, giving up just three hits and a walk over his four innings. However, he did get tagged for three runs, one on a sacrifice fly and another on a two-run homer by Logan Foster in the third inning. The home run can be forgiven, however, considering Foster led the Aggies with eight last season. The Rams ultimately lost 4-0, though Mikulski and sophomore reliever, Joseph Quintal, gave up just five combined hits.

The Rams set the tone for their weekend in Game 1, striking out a total of 16 times, 12 at the hands of starter, John Doxakis. The Rams recorded just two hits, both singles. Their first hit of the season came from sophomore second baseman C.J. Vazquez in the second inning.

Game 2 on Saturday was started by the Rams’ lone returning starting pitcher, senior Anthony DiMeglio, who led the Rams in strikeouts last season. His 2019 did not start on the same foot, as he lasted just three innings in a game the Rams ultimately lost 19-6. His first two runs were unearned thanks to a comedy of errors, including a wild pitch-throwing error combo that let a runner score from second without a hit.

The Rams scored their first run of 2019 in the top of the fourth thanks in part to their bread and butter from 2018, the stolen base. After reaching on a single, sophomore shortstop Jake MacKenzie, who led the team with 34 bases last season, stole second and then came home on a single from junior infielder Matt Tarabek.

DiMeglio was replaced by redshirt junior Mike Cowell to start the fourth, which kicked off a parade of relievers for the Rams. He got just one out while walking two, throwing two wild pitches and hitting a batter. He was replaced by junior Brian Weissert who contributed to allowing five to score (two charged to Cowell) without recording an out before being relieved himself by John Stankiewicz. By the end, the Rams were down 10-1.

The Aggies poured on another four runs in the fifth, all charged to junior Marc Bisogno, who recorded one out, plus one in the sixth, three in the seventh and another in the eighth. The Rams added one in the seventh when freshman outfielder Jason Coules hit his first career home run, a solo shot off of Brandon Birdsell. They also tacked on four in the top of the ninth, to finish the game with a 19-6 loss. They struck out 14 times.

Game 3 on Sunday was the tightest of the weekend, and one the Rams actually had a good shot at winning if the offense produced a little more. While the strikeouts fell to nine, they recorded just three hits.

The bats got Fordham on the board first in the top of the fifth inning when left fielder, Jake Baker, singled in Tarabek from second, where he had landed after a single and a wild pitch. For those keeping track, that’s two of their three hits.

Junior Alvin Melendez has served as one of the Rams’ primary closers or at least high-leverage relievers, in his first two seasons. Melendez started Game 3, and did just okay, lasting just 3.2 innings by giving up just three hits and one walk to two strikeouts. He was replaced with runners on second and third with two outs in the fourth by junior Kyle Martin the Rams’ top reliever last season. While he cleaned up that inning, he gave up two runs in the fifth, both on sacrifice flies thanks to good baserunning by the Aggies, and another in the sixth for the 3-1 final.

While Leighton was happy with some of the pitching performances, he was understandably a bit disappointed in other aspects of the weekend.

“We have to do some of the little things better and get back to our style of baseball,” said Leighton. “We weren’t able to run much at all, didn’t move runners well, allowed backside runners to advance on throws from the outfield and didn’t hold runners well.”

Despite the outcome, the Rams mostly held their own in a very hostile environment in College Station against a top-flight program. They will take another trip down south against North Florida this weekend for a four-game set, starting on Friday, followed by a double-header on Saturday.