Smith propels Tribe past Sacred Heart

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JAMIE HOLT / THE FLAT HAT

Last year, William and Mary hit 27 home runs through a 54-game season, putting up a rate of 0.5 per game. This season, the team has four through just five games. That’s in large part due to senior catcher Hunter Smith. After leading the College with nine homers last season, he put up two more in back-to-back at-bats Sunday to help propel the Tribe (4-1) past Sacred Heart (2-3), 12-3.

“I’m just looking for a good pitch to hit, just trying to stay in the zone, use all fields,” Smith said. “[There’s] lots of pitch selection. Make sure you swing at the right pitches.”

With the decisive victory, the College evens out the weekend at 1-1 following a tough loss Friday.

FRIDAY, FEB. 22

The Pioneers started out the weekend with a lead-off double that would, one stolen base and one RBI groundout later, turn into a 1-0 lead for the visitors at the end of the first. Starting pitcher junior Wade Strain then shut down the Sacred Heart offense for the next four innings, allowing no more hits or runs and allowing freshman outfielder Matt Thomas to tie the game on a series of errors in the bottom of the second inning.

The game sat tied at 1-1 until the sixth inning, when freshman pitcher Tristan Snyder had a rocky relief appearance. After the first Sacred Heart batter was forced into a ground out, the next one was hit by a pitch, and the next series of pitches proved disastrous. Two doubles, a triple, two walks and a wild pitch later, Snyder was pulled, but the Pioneers had already racked up five runs and would add a sixth before the inning was over.

“We really just had one bad inning on Friday, where it sort of got away from us,” head coach Brian Murphy said. “Overall, I think we’ve pitched okay.”

The Tribe chipped determinedly away at the 7-1 lead in the later innings, putting up one run each in the seventh and eighth, but couldn’t overcome the sixth inning and was forced to concede its first loss of the season, 7-3. Cone and junior infielder David Angstadt were the only two College players to bat in runs in the loss.

SUNDAY, FEB. 24

Despite a rainout on Saturday, the Tribe played its final game of the homestand on a dry Sunday afternoon. The team got on the board first this time around, scoring twice in the bottom of the first as freshman outfielder Jack Cone scored on a wild pitch and Smith sent Thomas home on an RBI ground out.

As starting pitcher senior Bodie Sheehan held the Pioneers off the board completely for the first four innings, the Tribe continued to build on its lead. Senior infielder Zach Pearson hit a triple to score junior outfielder Brandon Raquet in the second inning, before Smith hammered his first home run of the day down the right field line in the third to make the score 4-0.

The Pioneers got one back in the fifth inning, forcing a home run off Sheehan to cut the home team’s lead to 4-1. In the bottom of the frame, the Tribe erased any hope of a comeback with a forceful four-run inning. Smith forced a pitching change with a 2-RBI homer, but the College kept on scoring; freshman outfielder Hunter Hart and Raquet both got on base with a single and a double, respectively, before Pearsonsent them both home on an RBI double to help the Tribe surge ahead to an 8-1 lead.

Sacred Heart’s defense continued to unravel as the game wore on, giving up four more runs in an endless seventh inning that started out with lead-off single from Smith for his thirdhitof the game. A walk, a wild pitch and then three consecutive hits from Pearson, freshman infielder Phil Conti and sophomore infielder David Hogarth increased the Tribe lead to 12-1.

Although the Pioneers got on the board again with two runs in the top of the eighth, they couldn’t put a dent in the home team’s commanding lead. The padding on the score allowed the Tribe to get some players at bat who hadn’t seen much time at the plate yet this season, including batters like senior infielder Jason Waldman, who came in as a pinch-hitter in the eighth for his second at-bat of the season.

“We didn’t make wholesale substitutions, because we wanted to make sure we stayed good on defense and gave our pitchers all the support they needed,” Murphy said. “But we got a few guys in there we wanted to get at-bats for. We wanted to get Waldman at bat. He’s a guy we’ll need, and he hasn’t hit much yet.”

The Tribe claimed the 12-3 victory to even out the weekend at 1-1 and improve its overall record to 4-1. Sheehan claimed the win on the mound, pitching just over six innings and allowing just one run on five hits, four walks and a single strikeout.

“Bodie had a good start,” Murphy said. “I thought he really battled. I didn’t think he was his sharpest, but that’s kind of what he does, he battles. He made some big pitches on runners in scoring position.”

Smith finished out the day with threehits, fourRBIs and a walk in four at-bats.

“It was good,” Smith said. “It’s always good to put your team up on top, especially when you’re struggling to score runs. So, it was good to get some runs on the board and string some good team at-bats together.”

With a rainy five-game homestand behind them, the Tribe will head to the road for their first weekday game of the season Tuesday in Charlottesville as it faces off against the rival Cavaliers.

“It’s a really good opponent,” Murphy said. “Virginia’s a really good team. … When you’re playing them, the big thing is that you’ve got to play well yourself, because they always magnify your mistakes. But I’m excited about it, I’m excited to get on the road, excited to play those guys. I think it comes at a good time for us.”