College sweeps Marist in season-opener

0
535
Courtesy Photo / Tribe Athletics

The score was 3-3 when freshman outfielder Jack Cone stepped up to the plate in the eighth inning of Feb. 17’s game against Marist (0-3). William and Mary (3-0) had fought its way back from an early 3-0 deficit, but there was still work to be done, and time was running out in the bottom of the eighth. Cone was still looking for his first hit of the night, and the Tribe was still looking for a go-ahead run.

“I read it out of the pitcher’s hand down,” Cone said. “I saw it bounce back a little fast, but I was able to get in there in time. It was just a good read.”

Cone’s swing cracked the ball all the way to the right-field fence. It fell just short of a homer, but was plenty good for a triple.

“I was just thinking about laying down a bunt, but I saw he was playing a little in, and [redshirt senior infielder Kyle Wrighte] told me to sit on a fastball and just don’t let that one go,” Cone said.

Standing triumphant on third base, Cone waved his hands to the rain-sodden faithful at Plumeri Park, beckoning for their cheers. He got more moments later, when he dove home on a wild pitch to score the final, game-winning run.

“I read it out of the pitcher’s hand down,” Cone said. “I saw it bounce back a little fast, but I was able to get in there in time. It was just a good read.”

That read would put the Tribe ahead 4-3, giving the team its third win of the weekend and its first series sweep since 2017.

FRIDAY, GAME 1

The Tribe started out its 2019 season with a triple from leadoff hitter Wrighte. Cone then put up an RBI on his first college at-bat with a fly-out to right field. The College scored two more runs on a double from senior infielder Zach Pearson to surge out to an early lead over Marist, 3-0.

Although Marist pushed back as the innings wore on, putting up a run in the third and then tacking on two more in the fifth to tie the game, the Tribe held on. Freshman pitcher Tristan Snyder, coming in as relief for junior pitcher Wade Strain, shut the Red Foxes down for the last four innings, throwing six strikeouts and allowing just three hits, zero walks and zero runs. Meanwhile, the College offense topped off its early lead with five more runs to finish out the game with an 8-3 victory.

FRIDAY, GAME 2

Senior pitcher Bodie Sheehan, a fixture on the mound last season, was the starter for the second game of Friday’s double-header, pitching six full innings. The Tribe once again got out to an early lead as freshman infielder Hunter Hart took advantage of a walk, a failed pickoff and a pair of errors to score an unearned run in the fourth and give the Tribe the lead, 1-0. This time, Marist immediately answered back in the top of the first, scoring twice on three singles to surge ahead, 2-1.

Once again, relief pitching shut down any chance of offensive success for the visitors. Sophomore pitcher Randall Prosperi and redshirt junior pitcher Chris Farrell combined to force the Red Foxes through a scoreless final two innings, allowing only two hits and one walk between them while striking out three batters. On the offensive side, Wrighte blasted a homer past the scoreboard to tie the game in the sixth, 2-2. Two innings later, junior outfielder Brandon Raquet put another ball over the fence to secure the Tribe’s second victory of the day, 3-2.

SUNDAY, GAME 3

 After a rainout on Saturday, the Tribe finished out the weekend series in an 11 a.m. matchup Sunday. Marist wasted no time getting on the board, echoing the Tribe’s start in Game 1 by putting up a quick three runs on an error and a volley of hits in the first inning.

Down 3-0 by the first time they came up to bat, the Tribe was undaunted. It slowly picked away at Marist’s lead with a series of one-run innings. In the bottom of the first, lead-off hitter Wrighte got to second on a walk and a wild pitch, then was able to score on the next two ground outs. In the second, another walk and wild pitch combination sent freshman outfielder Matt Thomas home to cut the deficit to 3-2. Thomas then completed the comeback in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single to tie the game, 3-3.

The steady offense, combined with seven scoreless innings thrown by sophomore starting pitcher Jacob Haney and freshman relief pitcher Zach Tsakounis, set Cone up for his game-winner in the eighth inning. The Tribe would with a 4-3 victory.

“I think our starting rotation from this weekend, which was Strain and Sheehan on Friday and then Haney today, I think all those guys were solid,” head coach Brian Murphy said. “I think they’ll get better as they get into the flow of the season. I thought everybody that pitched out of our bullpen this weekend did a really good job. … It was a good weekend overall for the pitching staff.”

A highlight from the opening weekend series was the important role that new additions to the roster played in the three victories.

“We had two of our freshmen get wins on the mound in [Snyder] on Friday and obviously [Tsakounis] today,” Murphy said. “Obviously [Cone] did a lot to help us win. [Thomas], [Hart], all of those guys played significant roles this weekend.”

Coming into the season with a roster composed mostly of underclassmen, the freshmen’s influence has already been felt everywhere from the bullpen to the starting lineup. Pitchers like Tsakounis and batters like Cone were given high-impact roles in their very first weekend of college baseball.

“It was just very exciting, definitely a confidence-booster too,” Cone said. “Just being out there with these guys is incredible, it’s a great group of older kids that push you and help you get better. … We’re all just talking to ourselves, just finding a way to help out and do our job, just be contributing factors without having to adjust much.”

This successful integration of new players into the lineup is a positive development for a team looking to rebound from a stagnant 2018 season.

“We’ve been preparing hard for the season all year long,” Murphy said. “The goal for us right now is just to figure out how we win and what our formula is to win games and try to play as close to that as possible. So, a couple different types of games this weekend, but I was pleased with the results.”

The Tribe will look to further establish this formula as it opens another weekend homestand against Sacred Heart Feb. 22 at Plumeri Park.