SPRINGFIELD — Sophomore Dakota Aldrich was tasked with taming an explosive Brandeis offensive unit that entered Monday’s game against the Springfield College baseball team with a collective .355 batting average and 15 home runs in 12 games.
After eight innings, Aldrich walked off the mound and breathed a sigh of relief. He allowed zero runs and one hit while striking out eight hitters in a masterful second outing of the season.
Nick Naples retained the Pride’s one-run lead by sitting the Judges down in order in the ninth inning, as Springfield defeated Brandeis at Archie Allen Field, 1-0, in its home opener.
“Against good teams like that, you’ve got to mix it up real well. Hopefully you have all three pitches working well and today just happened to be that day,” Aldrich said. “Great defense too. Can’t stress that enough.”
After Sage Bray snagged a tailing line drive in right field to strand a baserunner in the eighth, Aldrich stopped on his way to the dugout and turned around to greet each one of his defensemen coming off the field to show his appreciation for their efforts.
“(Dakota) was out there throwing free and easy and getting guys out,” Springfield head coach Mark Simeone said. “He was battling and he deserved to be out there as long as he did.”
Jake Gleason tallied for the go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning. Mark Joao reached on an error with two outs, setting up Gleason to slug a first-pitch double to right center that scored his teammate from first.
Initially, centerfielder Dan Frey had a beat and raced toward the long pop fly, but a diving attempt came up empty and Gleason tried to stretch his double into a triple.
“At first I was like ‘that’s routine fly ball’ and then next thing you know I saw (Frey) running and sprinting, I was like oh my God I might have to leg this out,” Gleason said.
Eventually, Frey got the ball in and Gleason was tagged out at third base to end the inning, but was credited with the RBI to give Springfield a 1-0 lead.
“I tried turning on the afterburners,” Gleason said laughing. “I ended up hitting the ball kind of well.”
Gleason also laced a line drive single up the middle in the fourth to account for two of Springfield’s three hits.
“I haven’t really been hitting the ball too well, so lately my at-bats have been just go up there and hit it,” Gleason said. “I’m pretty easy going, relaxed about everything but now that I’ve finally been able to string a hit together and finally just sit and make bat on ball contact consistently, the hits will come.”
Aldrich ran into trouble once in the third inning. After recording the first two outs, he allowed a single. He then walked Victor Oppenheim to put a runner in scoring position. Mike Khoury followed up with a scorching grounder that looked fast enough to squeeze through the middle. Although Mark Joao lunged across his body to make the stop and flipped to Ryan Smith for the force to escape danger.
“I know I threw more pitches than I probably needed to but other than it didn’t really take energy out of me,” Aldrich said. “My defense was huge today. I think everyone contributed in some sort of way and guys were making huge plays that were really helping me out.”
Springfield is in the midst of a 13-game stretch in ten days that will conclude on Wednesday. After going 3-5 last week on their Florida Spring Break trip, the team took two from Emerson on Sunday and now move to 6-6 after Monday.
“We’ve played a schedule that I don’t know if Major Leaguers would agree to play from Spring Break through Wednesday,” Simeone said. “We played a lot of young guys today that went in there and did a really good job and we expect to do that on a regular basis. Little things help you win close ball games and we did those today.”
Springfield resumes NEWMAC play on Tuesday when it travels to Wheaton for a 3:30 p.m. tilt before returning to Archie Allen on Wednesday to host Dean.
Photo courtesy Jack Margaros