Rallies spur College to series sweep (Baseball: Tribe 7, Old Dominion 4

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March 18, 2008

4:40 PM

The brooms were out in force Sunday at Plumeri Park as the Tribe capped an impressive three-game sweep of defending CAA regular season champs Old Dominion University with a 7-4 victory, running the team’s conference win streak to seven games.

p. Freshman pitcher Tim Norton went eight strong innings on the hill, allowing just two earned runs, while junior centerfielder Ben Guez blasted a first-inning home run to give the squad a lead it would not relinquish.

p. Junior pitcher Dexter Carter took the loss for the Monarchs while surrendering six runs in four and one-third innings, succumbing to a blistering Tribe offense that posted 27 scores over the course of the weekend. Junior designated hitter Robbie Nickle was the main catalyst Sunday, going 2 for 4 at the plate with a homer and three RBIs to back Norton’s strong showing.

p. Despite pitching with a sore arm, Norton kept the visiting hitters on the defensive, relying on a slew of early changeups and curveballs to attain favorable counts while keeping ODU back on its heels. The freshman was unbowed while facing a dangerous squad that was ranked as high as 25th in the country in some preseason polls.

p. “You just treat them like any other team,” Norton said. “My changeup was working well, while I kept them off-speed with breaking balls.”

p. Norton’s coach agreed with that assessment.

p. “He’s so good with his location on his off-speed pitches,” Head Coach Frank Leoni said. “He pounds the strike zone which makes him very effective.”

p. For Leoni, the comfortable triumph was a welcome respite from the drama of the preceding two contests — both one-run Tribe victories.

p. Friday night in the series opener, the College found itself trailing 6-0 after four and a half innings, with senior pitcher Pete Vernon struggling to find his best stuff early. However, the squad’s offense came alive in the bottom of the fifth when senior leftfielder Greg Maliniak led off the frame with a solo homer that ignited the Tribe.

p. The College added four more runs in the fifth to cut the deficit to 6-5. In the seventh, Nickle added a two-out, two-run double to the barrage, providing the final margin as Vernon gutted out the start to pick up the win.

p. A day later, the squad found itself in familiar territory, again trailing by a 6-0 margin, this time after only two innings. The Tribe battled back, scoring seven runs off second-team All-American Anthony Shawler, before entering the bottom of the ninth down 12-10. After the Tribe tied the game at 12-12, Guez capped the furious rally with a game-winning single as senior Sean Grieve picked up the win in relief.

p. Because of the Tribe’s late game heroics, the squad finds themselves in strong position entering the bulk of their conference schedule, currently sitting in fourth place with a 7-2 CAA record, one and a half games back of first.

p. However, Leoni is staying grounded.

p. “I’m very happy with our current position, but we’re trying not to look too far ahead. It’s very early and this is a long season.”

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