By Chris Gionta
A large part of Springfield baseball’s victory over Wheaton on Saturday afternoon in the first game of their doubleheader at Archie Allen Field was their ability to perform under pressure.
With the game tied in the top of the sixth inning with no one out and the bases loaded for the Lyons, Pride reliever Jack DeGirolamo was in an unfavorable position. Yet, after a lineout to first base, a strikeout, and a groundout, the game remained tied and DeGirolamo remained without an earned run allowed all season.
“The pitcher’s got to believe that they can get the hitters out and attack — our defense has to be ready,” said Springfield head coach Mark Simeone. “We made the plays in that inning that were critical in winning that game.”
The first game began as a battle of pitching and defense. For the first four innings, no runner moved beyond second base.
Wheaton was able to break the offensive struggle with a hint of small ball. The leadoff batter of the fifth inning walked, then stole second base soon after. A groundout to first moved him to third, then the Pride could not throw him out at home on the next grounder.
An early response from Springfield seemed unlikely when its first two batters were retired quickly. However, a hit-by-pitch of Michael Barrett started the offense’s momentum. He stole second base, then was driven in by Joe Traversa to tie the game up. Jack Simonetty followed that up by hammering a double into left field to drive Traversa in and give the Pride a 2-1 lead.
Springfield starting pitcher Blake Roberge’s day was done after just two hits and one run allowed in five innings.
“[Roberge] was ahead of the hitters,” Simeone said. “He was aggressive — throwing his pitches with conviction, and whenever you attack and get ahead of hitters, offensive teams have to swing the bat so they don’t have to get behind in counts, and that’s exactly what he did. He had good command of his repertoire, and was going after him. And that proved to be his best outing of the season.”
The ball was then given to DeGirolamo, whose first inning of work started in a very troubling fashion. The Lyons’ first batter of the inning reached on an error, and the next two reached on a walk and a single to load the bases, but he was able to get out of it without allowing Wheaton to gain a lead.
The energy built by the Pride’s escape from the jam spilled over into the bottom of the sixth when Noah Bleakley led the inning off with a triple and Ryan Sorgi drove him in on a single soon after.
With the 3-2 lead, DeGirolamo went two more innings and did not see such a jam again. He went 1-2-3 in the seventh, then after walking his second batter of the eighth inning with one out, he executed the first half of a strike ‘em out-throw ‘em out double play that ended the inning and left the Lyon bench drained.
“Any time you get a double play like that in a close ball game — big-time play,” Simeone said.
Springfield added insurance in the bottom of the eighth after Andrew McCarty singled up the middle to drive Jack Cooney in. Bleakley came in to pitch the ninth, and with a man on first and one out, he induced a soft grounder to Traversa’s left. He grabbed it, stepped on second, and fired it to first to execute the game-ending double play.
The Pride took their momentum into the second game when they scored a run off a Sorgi RBI double in the first inning. In the second inning, they used aggressiveness on the base paths to scratch runs across. After Joe Penkala singled, the Thunder’s pitcher consistently attempted to pick him off until he threw it by the first baseman, which allowed Penkala to take second base.
Then, Traversa hit an RBI single to right field, and after his single, Simonetty lined a ball into left. Because of an awkward approach by the left fielder, Traversa bolted for third base, where he slid in head first safely while Simonetty advanced to second base. The next batter was Cadin Maynard, who grounded the ball to third base, but the third baseman’s throw to first was short. Maynard reached safely, and both Traversa and Simonetty came in to score.
In the top of the third inning, Wheaton responded with a sacrifice fly after they loaded the bases and made it 4-1. The third inning primed the Lyons for an explosive fourth inning that began with a triple, walk, and a double that made it 4-2. An RBI groundout brought the Pride’s lead to one, then an RBI single tied the game up.
The Lyons led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run that put them up by the score of 5-4. All while Wheaton’s offense gained life, its starting pitcher held Springfield scoreless for five consecutive innings to finish his appearance.
The Lyons added two insurance runs in the top of the eighth, but the Pride responded in the bottom of the inning with a run off a Noah Diamond RBI double.
After Wheaton was held scoreless in the top of the inning, Maynard hit a solo home run over the left field wall to make it 7-6. This brought up the team’s leader in home runs — Bleakley — who hit a high fly ball to left that he got just under, and fell into the left fielder’s glove to end the game.
The Pride’s next affair will be on April 12 at MIT at 3:30 p.m., and their next time on Archie Allen Field will be on April 13 against Elms at 3:30 p.m.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics