By Chris Gionta
Anticipation built between the steady raindrops that fell to the field throughout the doubleheader. There were men on first and second base with two outs in the seventh inning, but the men on base had nothing to do with the intensity of the situation. Springfield was up 10-0, but they were attempting to complete a combined seven-inning no-hitter.
Sophomore reliever Matt Robinson reared back and fired a fastball that the Bates hitter popped up. Everyone’s eyes turned to shortstop Joe Traversa, who screamed “me, me, me” as he camped under the sky-high pop up. After an extended hang time, the ball reached the back of his glove, and embracement awaited for Brendan Kirck and Robinson.
Getting 15 of the 21 necessary outs was Kirck, who did not allow a single base runner in his performance while he struck out six.
“[Kirck was just] attacking the hitters, and had command of all three of his pitches — fastball, curveball, changeup,” said Springfield head coach Mark Simeone. “He was getting ahead, so he can use all his repertoire.”
Kirck has been putting extra emphasis on getting ahead of hitters, and attributed that ability to how he succeeded on Saturday.
“How you do in the bullpen doesn’t always translate to the game, but I knew I was ready to attack hitters,” said Kirck. “When ahead in the count, it’s easier to keep them off balance.”
In order to throw five perfect innings, the defense must also provide five perfect innings, which is what they did and then some.
“It shows the importance of throwing and catching the ball consistently,” Simeone said. “We talk about it every day. When we throw and catch at the beginning of practice, we talk about that being as important a 10 minutes as we have in that practice.”
No-hitters are always known to have one or two spectacular plays to maintain the goose egg in the hit column, and Saturday’s no-hitter at Archie Allen Field did not stray away from that norm.
“[Jack] Simonetty made a great play early in the game — just snagged one and threw it over to first,” said Kirck.
As the no-hitter looked more and more possible, the Pride’s shortstop made the play of the game. In the fifth inning with two out, Traversa got to a ground ball that was running for the outfield, then threw the ball across his body while jumping in the air. First baseman Noah Bleakley caught it on a bounce just in time to preserve the no-hitter, and what was a perfect game at the time.
“Traversa got one in the hole, and was Jeter-esque with the jump throw,” said Kirck. “That play got me really locked in.”
“Ninety-nine times out of 100, that’s a base hit,” added Simeone.
The overall win would not have been possible without Springfield scoring, and they made sure to provide a surplus of runs for their excelling pitchers.
They got started early when Andrew McCarty and Bleakley continued their 2022 dominance with a pair of RBI singles to make it 2-0 in the Pride’s favor.
Bleakley added an RBI single in the third inning to make it 3-0, and provided a triple in the fifth inning to complete a 3-for-3 game with two runs batted in.
After the Pride poured on five more runs, Simonetty capped off the scoring with an exclamation point by hitting an opposite field two-run home run to make it 10-0.
Following the no-hitter, Springfield was forced to contain some of their excitement to save for the second game of the day. Once again, the Pride took control early. Bleakley got his third RBI of the entire day on a single to put them up by the score of 1-0. A Bates error and a Joe Penkala RBI single extended Springfield’s early lead to three runs.
“It’s easier to play out in front,” Simeone said. “And we kept pressuring them offensively today, which was really good — really important.”
Bates was able to respond in the top of the second inning with a run off an RBI single, but a Cadin Maynard RBI single in the bottom of that inning brought the Pride’s lead back to three.
The Bobcats’ bats continued to wake up in the third inning when they scored two more runs to bring them within one of the Pride. Then, in the fourth inning, a sacrifice fly from Bates tied the game.
It did not take long for Springfield to retrieve its lead. McCarty led off the bottom of the fourth with a double down the left field line, which was followed by two loud outs on fly balls to center field, which each advanced him a base. The latter of the two was by Maynard, who received his second RBI of the game on the sacrifice fly.
In the top of the fifth inning, the Pride were in the most trouble they had been in all day. With one out, a Bates batter walked, and that plate appearance was followed by back-to-back doubles, which tied the game at five. With men on second and third base and one out in a tie game, sidearmer Jack DeGirolamo was called upon to clean up the mess.
The first batter he faced grounded the ball to Simonetty, who threw the runner out at home. After a walk loaded up the bases, DeGirolamo escaped the jam with a swinging strikeout.
In the bottom half of the inning, after Penkala and Max Giacco reached on singles, Simonetty hit a two-out go-ahead RBI single to bring the score to 6-5. DeGirolamo followed that up with a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth.
The sidearmer has had an incredible college career arc, as he was recruited as a catcher for the baseball team as well as a goalie Springfield’s soccer team, and is now a relief pitcher for the Pride. In 9.2 innings pitched this season, he has struck out 14 batters and has yet to allow a run.
“[DeGirolamo] has just gotten better every single day, and gained more confidence in the position change,” Simeone said. “He has been reliable, and again, his confidence is building, and I think you see that in the way he pitched.”
Closing the game out for the Pride on the mound was their offensive hero of the day in Noah Bleakley. After going 5-for-7 with three RBI throughout the doubleheader at the plate, he provided a 1-2-3 seventh inning that included two strikeouts.
“He’s that kind of athlete,” Simeone said. “And I think he will be a better offensive player this year now that he’s not a starting pitcher. He’s good enough to be a starting pitcher — he’s good enough to be out there every five or six days (…) [But being a reliever] gives him more time to concentrate offensively, and you’re starting to see that.”
The Pride improved to 5-10 with the doubleheader sweep on Saturday. Their next game comes on March 29 at 3 p.m. at Dean College, and their next appearance at Archie Allen Field will take place on April 5 at 3:30 p.m. against MIT.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics