By Chris Gionta
When the Springfield College baseball team sealed the victory in the first game of their doubleheader against Coast Guard on Saturday, the Pride also sealed a home conference tournament game by winning the western half of the NEWMAC. The journey to getting to that place has been an interesting one, as after starting the year 8-14, Springfield won 12 of their final 17 games, with most of those games coming in conference.
That successful stretch began after taking a tough doubleheader sweep to Babson, which will be the Pride’s first opponent in the NEWMAC tournament.
“It looks like we’re playing Babson, which is a team that beat us handily earlier in the season, so it’s a great opportunity for them to come here,” said Springfield head coach Mark Simeone. “Now we get a chance to get a little revenge here in the playoffs,”
In regard to Saturday, Coast Guard started the scoring immediately in the first game. After its first batter was hit, the second batter hit a double down the left field line to drive him in. The third batter of the inning hit a single to drive in the Bears’ second run of the inning with no one out. However, Springfield starting pitcher Blake Roberge was able to recover and retire the next three hitters.
The Bears added another run in the top of the second inning to make it 3-0, but that was the last run they were able to scratch across during the first game.
After a silent third inning from both offenses, the dangerous Pride lineup began to pounce. Cadin Maynard led off the fourth inning with a double that one-hopped the left field wall. Noah Bleakley was proving to be a tough out in the at-bat that followed, and eventually got a hanging curveball on a 2-2 count. He hit a hard fly ball that went over the left-center field wall — just to the right of the scoreboard. It was Bleakley’s eighth home run of the year. Ryan Sorgi followed that up with a home run of his own over the left field wall to tie it up.
The game turned from a close game to a blowout in the fifth inning. Springfield’s first seven batters of the frame reached base safely. It started with Jack Simonetty and Cadin Maynard taking a pair of walks. Next, Bleakley, Sorgi, Noah Diamond, and Luke DiMauro hit four consecutive singles to make it 7-3.
Eventually, with the bases loaded and one out, Michael Barrett hit a ground ball to second base. Coast Guard got the out at second base, but could not get Barrett at first base. Not only did DiMauro score from third, but Andrew McCarty scored from second base after taking the turn at third while the ball was going to first base. Barrett was then driven in on a Simonetty RBI double for the seventh run of the inning.
This was not the first time Springfield’s offense surged in its second and third times through the lineup. The day prior, the Pride scored 16 runs in the fourth inning. Simeone credits the players’ ability to learn from their early at-bats and ability to communicate what they see to each other.
“It seems like we’re doing some analysis and some assessment of what the pitcher’s bringing to the table, and also what kind of strike zone the umpire has,” Simeone said. “And I think our guys do a really good job of talking to each other after at-bats early in the games… I think our guys do a really good job communicating with each other and helping each other.”
In the sixth inning, the Pride had one man on and two out. However, after singles by Luke DiMauro, Andrew McCarty, and Joe Penkala — with DiMauro driving in a run and Penkala driving in two — they had scored three runs and extended their lead to 10.
After Roberge’s fifth consecutive shutout inning, Springfield won the game in seven innings. Roberge’s recovery came from using what he learned from his first time through the lineup and using it against his opponent.
“We mixed them up — threw some sliders early in counts because they were aggressive first-pitch swingers,” Simeone said. “I think as soon as we saw what they were bringing to the table against him, Blake [Roberge] adjusted and did a really nice job and threw those five shutout innings, which were really important for us.”
The second game was not important for the Pride, as their seeding in the NEWMAC tournament was not going to change no matter the result of the game.
Coast Guard’s starting pitcher had some of his best stuff, as he struck out 12 batters through seven shutout innings. The Bears won, 7-1, but Springfield was unaffected in the rankings.
“We put ourselves in a situation where, in essence, that game meant less because of what we did at Coast Guard yesterday and what we did in the first game today,” Simeone said. “So, I’ll take being in that situation more often.”
The team brought its record to 11-6 in conference play on Saturday. Their first NEWMAC tournament matchup with Babson will likely take place on Friday at Archie Allen Field.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics