Originally published in The Fordham Ram on March 1, 2017.
While the weather in the Bronx seemed like perfect baseball weather, the Rams were out in California to take on the #21 Long Beach State Dirt Bags. The Rams were stymied by Long Beach the whole weekend, losing all three games with scores of 6-0, 8-4 and 7-1.
The Rams started off their weekend on the wrong foot. Sophomore Mike Cowell – coming off a strong performance against Houston Baptist – got hit hard in the first inning. He walked the first batter and then hit the next one. A single from the next batter loaded the bases. Brock Lundquist drove in the first run of the game with a single to right field, and then a balk brought in the second run. Cowell did not even get a break with his first out, as it was a two-RBI sacrifice fly, putting the Dirt Bags up 4-0.
“I think playing teams like Long Beach State you learn that when you make a mistake you are going to pay for it,” said head coach Kevin Leighton. “Whether it’s missing over the middle of the plate or missing a cutoff man, teams like Long Beach capitalize on it.”
While four of the Rams’ five hits on the day were doubles, the Long Beach State pitching staff kept them in check. Only one Fordham baserunner reached third base. Additionally, the Dirt Bag staff put together 13 strikeouts.
After his rough opening inning, Cowell settled down, throwing another four scoreless innings.
The Saturday game started out much better for the Rams. After a strikeout by freshman leftfielder Alvin Melendez, sophomore Brian Goulard stroked a double down the right field line. Senior Luke Stampfl drove him in with a triple, his first of five hits on the day on his way to hitting for the cycle.
Once again, the Dirt Bags took advantage of mistakes by the Rams to get on the scoreboard. Sophomore pitcher Reiss Knehr drilled leadoff man Jarren Duran to start the bottom half of the opening inning. An error by sophomore catcher Justin Bardwell on a sacrifice bunt attempt put the next runner on. A groundout to second advanced the runners and Duran was then singled home, tying the game.
After Long Beach State tagged Knehr for another run in the bottom of the second inning, the Rams answered back in the top of the third. After a Melendez strikeout, Goulard singled and Stampfl doubled to put runners on second and third with one out. Bardwell lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, tying the game back up at 2.
The Rams took back a two-run lead in the top of the fifth. Fordham took a 3-2 lead on a home run from Stampfl, meaning he had all the hard parts done (the double, triple and homer) in his first three at-bats.
“I think the one thing that I have noticed is that he’s been more aggressive in his at bats so far,” said Leighton. “He has really been fun to watch these past six games and I hope he can continue to be a big contributor to our offense.”
The Rams scored their other run on an RBI single from senior third baseman Matthew Kozuch.
After getting one back on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth, the Dirt Bags chased Knehr from the game with three runs in the sixth. Lucas Tanacas led off the inning with a solo homer to tie the game at 4. A single and a dropped third strike on a wild pitch put runners on first and second. Two batters and a pitching change later, it was 6-4 Dirt Bags.
Fordham was held scoreless the rest of the game. In the seventh inning, Stampfl completed the cycle with a single to left field. He finished the game 5-5.
The Dirt Bags added two insurance runs off freshman pitcher Kyle Martin in the eighth, which brought the game to its 8-4 final.
Fordham out-hit Long Beach State, doubling the Dirt Bags hit total 14 to 7. However, they stranded 11 runners.
On Sunday in the get-away game, the Rams once again struck first in the opening half inning. Senior centerfielder Jason Lundy singled to start the game and moved to second on a groundout by Goulard. A single to centerfield by Bardwell brought in Lundy.
However, in the bottom of the first inning, Long Beach State got the run back off graduate student pitcher Jimmy Murphy. Leadoff man Jarren Duran singled and then stole second to put himself in scoring position. A fielder’s choice to second moved him up to third, where he scored on a single back up the middle.
Murphy was able to hold the Dirt Bags to just the one run in the first frame, but was tagged with two more in the second. However, one of the runs was unearned due to a throwing error from sophomore catcher Justin Bardwell.
Murphy gave up one run apiece in the fourth and fifth innings, giving Long Beach State a 5-1 lead.
While the Rams collected eight hits over the course of the game, they were held off the scoreboard for the rest of the game, eventually falling 7-1.
Overall, the trip was disappointing for the Rams, who now fall to 1-5 over their first two weekends.
“I thought overall as a group we have some things to work on, but a number of guys had very good individual weekends,” said Leighton. “Long Beach is a very good team in all aspects and they didn’t make any mistakes the entire weekend.”
The Rams will be on the search for more hospitable climes for one final weekend when they travel to North Carolina to take on Canisius next weekend. The series starts on Friday, March 3 at 3 p.m.