By Chris Gionta
The Springfield College baseball team split a doubleheader with Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Sunday, losing the first game, 5-2, then winning the second game, 11-3.
After 378 days without a game, the Pride was able to finally return to intercollegiate competition against WPI on Sunday afternoon in a doubleheader.
“We were thrilled to be out here,” said head coach Mark Simeone.
The doubleheader was originally scheduled to be on Saturday at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Massachusetts, which was a home game for WPI. But, the game was pushed to Sunday at Archie Allen Field on the Springfield College campus. Still, this was recognized as a home game for WPI, so they took the field first in each game.
Springfield catcher, Nick Fazio, got the scoring started in the top of the second inning when he hammered a ball to left field and over the fence for a solo home run.
Nick Fazio goes yard to put Springfield on the board and the extended bench is loving it! pic.twitter.com/tUPT8hQqIf
— Chris Gionta (@Chris_Gionta) March 21, 2021
In the bottom half of the inning, WPI found themselves with men on second and third base with two outs. Their center fielder, DJ Brooks, hit a line drive into center field for a base hit, scoring the man from third. The man from second did not have the same luck, as in his attempt to score on the hit, he was thrown out by Springfield center fielder, Jack Cooney.
In the bottom of the third inning, WPI strung together three runs on three hits and a walk. Springfield’s starting pitcher, Noah Bleakley, came out after four innings pitched with three earned runs allowed.
Following him arrived Brendan Kirck, who was in a role the coaching staff did not plan for him to be in. With games only being played once a week, Coach Simeone is not able to utilize his starters the way he usually would.
“We go into the season with five starters,” said Simeone. “Now, all of a sudden, we’re going to have two starters a week, and we got some guys that are basically starting pitchers that pitched more than an inning today; two innings, and maybe in some cases, three innings, and they didn’t come in to any innings. And that really was the strategy. Many of our starting pitchers are going to come into the game with fresh innings.”
Kirck’s outing went well, as he allowed just one run and four base runners in 3.1 innings pitched. While he was pitching, the Pride managed a run on an RBI single from Nick Fazio, but left six men on base combined in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings.
In Kirck’s unfinished inning, Ben Arnold and Alex Gonfrade combined for two outs with one base runner allowed while not letting any runs score.
But, WPI’s pitching managed well enough to close out the game for a 5-2 victory.
The second game of the doubleheader featured some lineup changes for Springfield. The first game’s starting pitcher, Noah Bleakley, played first base, moving Jack Simonetty to third base, which moved Joe Traversa to shortstop, which was where Michael Barrett played in the first game. Joe Penkala played second base, replacing Ryan Smith from the first game, and Andrew McCarty played left field, which was where Noah Diamond played in the first game. Naturally, a catcher is not expected to spend both sides of a doubleheader behind the plate, so Cadin Maynard caught the second game and Nick Fazio was given the role of designated hitter after a 3-for-4 performance where he was a triple away from the cycle.
“We got a lot of pretty good players,” said Simeone. “So we’ve got a lot of guys that are good enough to be in the lineup that didn’t play today.”
Once again, Springfield got the scoring started in the second game, this time in the first inning. This time, Traversa doubled to right field, then moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the 2nd inning, with runners on the corners and two outs for WPI, the man on first went for 2nd. The throw went there as well, but not in time, while the runner from third scored to make it a 1-1 ballgame.
Springfield outfielder Conor Santoianni responded immediately with a leadoff home run in the top of the 3rd inning.
To lead off the 3rd, Conor Santoianni hits a home run to put Springfield back on top 2-1. pic.twitter.com/LfdXetEhqv
— Chris Gionta (@Chris_Gionta) March 21, 2021
The Pride did not stop there. McCarty walked, then stole second base, and advanced to third base on a pickoff attempt while at 2nd. Traversa then reached on a ground ball to the shortstop, where he bobbled the ball, and where McCarty scored. Cooney walked, then WPI’s starting pitcher was taken out. This did not interrupt Springfield’s offensive barrage, as Bleakley hit an RBI single immediately after. When Bleakley followed that up by stealing second, Cooney was able to score. Bleakley was eventually driven in by Maynard, who was moved to third on a Fazio single, then driven in on a Penkala sacrifice fly. This made it 7-1, Springfield.
“I don’t think we got ourselves out in the second game as much as we may have in the first game,” said Simeone. “So I do think our approach at the plate is better. We got some better pitches to hit as a result of it, and put some hits together in that big inning.”
Springfield’s starting pitcher, Mitch Wright, delivered a shutdown inning, and then his day was done after 3 innings pitched and one run allowed. In six innings pitched by a bullpen featuring Jacob Shpur, John Daley, Ian Benoit, and Blake Roberge, just two runs were allowed. Meanwhile, Springfield put four more runs on the board. Springfield ended up winning this game by the score of 11-3.
Springfield College baseball’s next games will be a doubleheader against Wheaton College on Saturday, April 3rd, at Archie Allen Field.
Photo courtesy of Joe Arruda