Baseball players know better than anyone that in this sport of cosmic lore, counter-intuition and superstition, it is better to be lucky than good when the game is breaking your way.
But it felt as though the baseball gods were on Delaware’s side Sunday when the Blue Hens used a ninth-inning bloop single to score a 7-6 win over William and Mary at Plumeri Park. After the two teams split the first two games of the series — with the College dominating Friday’s opener 10-2 and the Blue Hens edging the Tribe in a 16-14 Saturday slugfest — Sunday’s win gave Delaware a 2-1 series victory over the Tribe in the important conference matchup.
“Baseball is a very, very, very strange, humbling game,” head coach Frank Leoni said. “I’m very disappointed.” (More after the slideshow.)
The College did come within inches of tying things up in the bottom of the ninth after sophomore third baseman Ryan Lindemuth and senior pinch hitter Sean Aiken drew back-to-back, one-out walks. A deep fly-out to right from junior shortstop Ryan Williams brought Lindemuth just 90 feet away from scoring the equalizer. Senior catcher Chris Forsten then stepped into the batter’s box with a chance to change the outcome of the entire series. After taking strike one, the righty hit a slow roller up the third baseline. Lindemuth bolted for home as Delaware’s third baseman charged, picked up the ball and threw across his body to first. The throw beat Forsten by a step, the umpire signaled an out, and the game was over.
“I was shocked that they threw him out,” Leoni said. “I thought their only option was to throw to the plate but that’s the way it goes. It’s tough to watch.”
For the second straight day, inconsistent pitching plagued the College. Junior starter Matt Wainman was spotty, turning in four-and-two-thirds innings, allowing five runs — only three of which were earned — on seven hits and four walks.
“This [series] was a battle. Every game, every inning and it’s tough to lose the last two,” junior second baseman Kevin Nutter said. “We put everything we had out there across the board. It just seemed like the last two days, baseball wasn’t on our side.”
But the Tribe’s bats kept things close. Senior right fielder Stephen Arcure had a big day, going 2 for 4 with a walk and three RBIs.
“The key for me was getting my pitch,” Arcure said.
Nutter also produced from the lead-off spot, going 3 for 5 with a run.
The College took an early lead in the first when Nutter singled and Arcure drove him in with an RBI single of his own. Then, in the second, the Tribe added to its advantage with a solo shot from Williams.
Delaware would respond, though, putting up three in the third with the help of Williams’s error.
The momentum swung back to the College shortly thereafter, when the Tribe tied it up with an RBI triple from senior left fielder Tadd Bower in the bottom of the inning.
But the Blue Hens weren’t done either, knocking Wainman out of the game with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth to take a 6-3 lead.
Once again, the College battled back in the bottom of the sixth. Lindemuth got plunked to lead off and freshman designated hitter Josh Smith doubled to move him to third. After Forsten walked to load the bases, an RBI walk from junior center fielder Ryan Brown scored Lindemuth. Arcure then tied it up with a two-RBI double down the left field line to make it a whole new ballgame heading into the seventh.
“I took a first pitch ball and then got myself in a good count and got another good pitch to hit,” Arcure said.
It wasn’t until the ninth that Delaware would break through again. Jimmy Yezzo led off with a hard-fought walk on a full count, fouling off pitch after pitch from Williams — now on the mound — before the righty finally missed to put the go-ahead run on first. Joe Giacchino pinch ran for Yezzo and advanced to second on a bunt before Leoni moved Williams back to shortstop and gave the ball to junior closer John Farrell. Two batters later, with two down, Cameron Travalini dropped a softly-hit 2-2 pitch just between Williams at short and Brown in center to score Giacchino and give Delaware the winning run.
The loss came with significant conference-standing implications. With plenty of baseball left to play, the Tribe entered the weekend tied with the Blue Hens for third place in the conference. Now, the College, with its 8-7 CAA record, is looking up at a three-way tie for third between teams with 9-6 conference records.
“The thing is the season’s not going to wait for us,” Leoni said. “It’s not going to wait for us to heal our psyches. We got some big battles coming up. We gotta get back on the horse.”
The Tribe will return to the diamond when it hosts Richmond Tuesday before heading South to take on conference-foe Georgia State in a three-game set over the weekend.