Baseball Swept in Critical Series vs. URI

Originally published in The Fordham Ram on May 3, 2017.

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Mark Donadio knocked in Pat Garder with an RBI single vs URI on April 29. (Owen Corrigan/The Fordham Ram)

Fordham Baseball entered its series at the University of Rhode Island clinging to a 7-7 in-conference record, good for seventh in the Atlantic 10. Only seven teams make the A-10 Championship tournament. After the weekend of games, the Rams are now 7-10 and on the outside looking in at eighth in the conference.

Rhode Island, in second place in the A-10, was not kind to Fordham from the start. In game one, they lost 7-2 and only managed one hit. Sophomore starting pitcher Mike Cowell had his worst appearance of the season, giving up four runs, including back-to-back home runs, while getting just two outs in the first inning before being pulled.

Freshman Brandon Martin limited the damage there, but gave up a two-run single in the fourth. Freshman Brian Weissert relieved him in the fifth, and gave up one unearned run on the back of an error from freshman catcher Justin Bardwell.

After being held hitless for the first six innings by URI starter Taso Stathopoulos, the Rams’ only hit of the day got them on the board. Senior shortstop Luke Stampfl homered to left field with a runner on, his fourth of the season.

When asked if there was anything specific he could point to as a problem in game one, head coach Kevin Leighton said, “No, we just didn’t locate the ball well and they barreled them.”

In game two of the weekend, the Fordham bats came alive for 10 hits, but were only able to scratch across three runs in the 5-3 loss.

Graduate student pitcher Jimmy Murphy had another solid outing. He only allowed one run to cross in the first five innings, and it scored on a fielder’s choice up the middle. However, the Rams’ offense stranded multiple runners in scoring position.

The stranded runners came back to haunt them in the bottom of the sixth, when Murphy made his only real mistake of the game and URI designated hitter Mike Corin jumped all over the first pitch he saw for a two-run home run to put URI up 3-0.

Fordham was finally able to sequence some hits in the top of the seventh to the tune of three runs, all with two outs. Senior outfielder Jason Lundy singled up the middle to lead off the inning, but freshman utility man Alvin Melendez pinch hit and struck out. After Lundy stole second, senior first baseman Matthew Kozuch struck out as well. It appeared as though Fordham would strand yet another runner in scoring position.

But then the Rams finally had luck on their side. Bardwell lofted a fly ball to left, but it was dropped, which allowed Lundy to score and the inning to continue. Senior outfielder Mark Donadio and senior designated hitter Ryan Mahoney then roped back-to-back RBI singles to tie things up at 3.

Unfortunately for Fordham, that did not last long. In the bottom of the frame, a pinch-hit, two-RBI double off of Murphy gave URI a 5-3 lead they would not relinquish.

Going into game three, Fordham was desperate for a win, after having been swept by conference foe – and leader – Virginia Commonwealth the weekend before. However, they were unable to do so and lost in 7-3 in 14 innings.

Fordham jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third after Stampfl hit a sacrifice fly and freshman left fielder Jake Baker used his speed to score on a wild pitch.

Sophomore starter Reiss Knehr was able to keep the URI bats quiet until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Fordham was then up 3-0. Knehr gave up a two-run homer in the inning to cut Fordham’s lead to 3-2.

URI tied it up in the bottom of the sixth when Knehr could not finish off the inning. With two outs and a runner on second, he walked the next two batters and then an infield single scored the tying run. The game would remain tied there for the next seven and a half innings.

Outside of a third-straight shaky performance from Melendez, the Rams’ bullpen was stellar for a long time. Melendez had more wild pitches (two) than outs (one) before being relieved by freshman Kyle Martin, who went the next 2.2 innings. Sophomore Anthony DiMeglio got through the next two unscathed and Brandon Martin’s first inning of work was clean as well.

“Our bullpen has been pretty strong throughout the year and many of those guys are freshmen so they are being put in stressful spots and preforming well,” said Leighton.

“I thought our bullpen Sunday was huge and gave us a chance to win that game.”

Unfortunately, the bats once again could not get it done, stranding four runners in scoring position in extra innings. In the bottom of the 14th, Brandon Martin got tagged with a walk-off grand slam after giving up back-to-back two-out walks, giving URI the 7-3 win.

Now at 18-22 overall, and 7-10 in conference, Fordham is in eighth in the A-10. In a bit of scheduling misfortune, they cannot do anything to improve their standing this upcoming weekend, as they start a non-conference series with Long Island University-Brooklyn on Friday, May 5 at 6 p.m. Their next in-conference series is the following weekend against University of Massachusetts at home starting on Friday, May 12.

“Its tough, sometimes nothing seems to go right,” said Leighton. “I have reminded the guys that nobody feels bad for us, we need to pick up the intensity and fight our way out of it.”

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