Baseball splits doubleheaders against Cornell and Princeton

by Gayne Kalustian | 4/6/15 6:01pm

04.06.2015.sports.m-baseball2_Annie-Duncan
Third baseman Nick Lombardi ’15 took a mighty cut for the Big Green in Sunday’s doubleheader against Princeton.
Source: Annie Duncan

After competing in two doubleheaders this weekend, Big Green baseball has concluded its rounds in the Lou Gehrig Division and has established itself as the King of Splits. After playing both Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania last weekend and the first home games of the season this past weekend against Cornell and Princeton Universities, the team finished with a win and a loss in all four doubleheaders thus far.

The Big Green opened this past weekend with a devastatingly close 1-0 loss to Cornell in a well-pitched duel between Mike Concato ’17 and Cornell’s Brian McAfee, a 4-1 pitcher who allowed just two hits in seven innings of work on the mound. Both Big Green hits came during the first inning, with one off the bat of designated hitter Joe Purritano ’16 and the other from left fielder Ben Socher ’17. McAfee shut out the Big Green with six strikeouts on just 68 pitches.

Over the seven innings, Concato allowed four hits, one of which turned into the lone run of the game. In the top of the fourth, Big Red second baseman Tommy Wagner drove home first baseman Ryan Karl with an RBI double.

In game two of the doubleheader, the Big Green put Jackson Bubala ’17 on the mound to start the competition. At the tail end of the preseason, Bubala began making a case for himself in the starting rotation. Bubala earned his first career win in the second game against the Big Red, allowing just one hit in his first five innings of work before surrendering two hits in the sixth inning — one of which turned into Cornell’s first run of the game. He finished the game allowing a total of four hits. Bubala now leads the Big Green’s rotation in ERA at 3.00, though the statistic must be taken with a grain of salt. The rest of the rotation took on some of the team’s toughest competition earlier this year, during which the Big Green struggled to find success, losing seven of the eight games played during the team’s trip to California in March.

“[Bubala’s] put himself in a better position from a conditioning standpoint,” head coach Bob Whalen said. “He’s stayed away from deep counts and hasn’t really walked hardly anybody. I asked those guys that go the [ninth], or even the [seventh inning], every day the goal is to get 18 outs with the lead or a tie to shorten the game, and [Bubala] has done a really good job with that.”

Bubala was pulled in the seventh inning after walking the leadoff hitter and putting another runner on base on a single to left field. Marc Bachman ’18 came into the game, but secured only one out before retiring back to the dugout after three runs crossed the plate. Patrick Peterson ’18 finished the last 2.2 innings and gave up another run.

The less-than-graceful final frames, though, were nullified by an extremely active Big Green offense, which was missing in game one but started tallying runs in the first inning of game two, scoring eight total runs in the nine-inning game. Three of those runs came from shortstop Matt Parisi ’15, who has been invaluable to the team both on offense and defense this season, batting .341 from the leadoff position. While he hasn’t been perfect — he was picked off taking a swooping lead off second base on Sunday — he’s been a crux of the team this season.

Parisi has been particularly useful on the field, playing just to the left of a rotational group of young second basemen who have been trying — sometimes successfully and other times not so successfully — to fill the void left by Thomas Roulis ’15. While it’s not uncommon for freshmen to post sub-.200 batting averages — they’re going up against pitching that wouldn’t be found in a high school game — the offensive dip from Roulis to younger players learning to navigate the batter’s box cannot be ignored. Roulis was the second most consistent hitter for the Big Green last year, behind only then co-captain Jeff Keller ’14. From a defensive standpoint, freshmen Dustin Shirley ’18 and Justin Fowler ’18 are doing their jobs, but when you see a ball fumbled with, a diving catch just tipped and missed like in game one of the doubleheader on Sunday, you can’t help but wonder if Roulis would have made the difference on the play. Even if he would have made the difference on certain plays, it’s difficult to say that he would be the difference in entire games. The experience on the diamond, Parisi said, isn’t changing the way he is playing his games.

“It doesn’t really make a difference whether we’ve got new guys to your right or to your left,” he said. “As a shortstop, you’ve always got to take control of the infield no matter who you’ve got around you.”Following the split results against Cornell, the team hosted the Princeton University Tigers on Sunday, splitting the games in the opposite fashion of the doubleheader just the day before by winning the first and losing the second. Duncan Robinson ’16, one of the Big Green’s strongest talents, took the start on the mound Sunday and went the length of the game, striking out eight batters. The outing marks an improvement from his season opening outing against the University of Pennsylvania last weekend, wherein he gave up four runs in 6.1 innings on the rubber.

“I’d like to think that I’m in my stride right now, but I’m trying to get consistent outings,” Robinson said. “I had a good outing against [California Polytechnic State University], struggled a little bit against Penn and did well against Princeton, so just kind of looking to avoid the ups and downs and maintain consistent outings.”

The only real moment of tension in the outing came in the final half-inning of the game, when Robinson put two runners on, split by a strikeout and followed up by a ground out. With two runners in scoring position, Robinson got ahead in the count 0-2 and sunk the batter with a curveball, called by Matt MacDowell ’15. MacDowell will likely catch the remainder of the season after Adam Gauthier ’16 broke his hand in practice earlier in the week. The Big Green won the game 3-1 with its three runs coming again from the top of the order — Parisi with two and Socher with another.

Game two against the Tigers was a more disappointing outing for the small Big Green fan base that braved the late winter winds. Captain Louis Concato ’14 started the nine-inning game and allowed three earned runs over the six innings he occupied the mound. The men’s offense fell flat, batting against Princeton’s Luke Strieber, whose ERA was 7.07 going into the game. The Big Green did not score a single run across nine and only tallied four hits. Streiber was pulled after 8.1 innings when Parisi and Socher reached base and both found their ways to scoring position. Princeton’s NickDonatiello put out the fire by retiring Dartmouth’s final two hitters on just seven pitches.

With the completion of last weekend’s games, the Big Green is moving back to its own subdivision of the Ivy League — the Red Rolfe Division, alongside Yale, Harvard and Brown Universities — to fight for the top spot and a bid to the Ivy League Championship Series. The team, now with a .500 record, is currently leading the Red Rolfe Division while Penn sits atop the Lou Gehrig Division on a seven-game win streak. Before the team resumes conference play, it is slated to play two midweek games: at home on Tuesday against Boston College and on the road Wednesday against the College of Holy Cross.