By Jared Prenda
The Catholic U baseball team claimed its first two wins of the season this past weekend as it scored a combine 23 runs in a doubleheader against McDaniels College in Columbia, Maryland. The Cardinals are projected to have a strong season coming off of their Landmark Conference Title last season. In the Landmark Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, the Birds were picked to be the best team in the conference. Despite these lofty expectations, the Cardinals have yet to win a game this year, with their record falling to 0-3 before the matchup.
The Cardinals wasted no time finding the scoreboard in the first inning of the opening game of the double-header. Senior Ryan Tracy tripled in the lead-off spot before being driven in on a single from classmate Bailey Lewis to put the Cardinals up 1-0. A few batters later, Bailey scored on a wild pitch and the next at bat sophomore left fielder Nicholas Torroella scored junior Nolan Lundholm on a fielder’s choice to put the Cards up 3-0.
Both sides would remain quiet until the third inning when the Green Terror scored 2 runs of its own to bring the game to one run. Catholic would expand its lead back to two in the top of the fourth when Torroella scored on a throwing error, Cardinals leading 4-2. Lewis would drive in his third and fourth RBI’s for the final two CUA runs in the seventh inning to bring the game to its final score of 6-3.
CUA pitchers were dealing in both games, with senior Jon Mierzwa, a closer last season, getting the start in the first game. The Laurel, Maryland native went six innings throwing 85 pitches and only giving up three hits and zero unearned runs. In the second game, junior Ross Dean had a shakier start, going five innings giving up six runs on eight hits but struck out five batters. The Catholic bullpen came out strong in support however, with four pitchers pitching an inning a piece to combine for 3 runs on 5 hits and 10 strikeouts.
The first game was a mere preamble for the events of the second half of the doubleheader, as the Cardinals would explode for 17 runs in the game. Center Fielder Lewis tripled in the top of the first to drive in junior catcher Jeff Guile, and was driven in the next at bat on a ground out by sophomore Michael Doody. McDaniels would respond instantly, scoring three runs of its own to take its first lead of the day, 3-2.
After that it would be all Catholic, as junior Will Pyne scored one run on a single in the second to tie the game. The fireworks, however, began in the following inning when the Cardinals would rattle off five runs. Tracy hit his second triple of the day to begin the inning and would score on a wild pitch during the next at bat. This triple would begin a rally for the Cardinals, as they combined for 6 hits in the inning alone and take an 8-3 lead. The Cards would score two more runs in fourth, four more in the fifth, and finally two more in the seventh before finally winning the game 17-9.
Lewis had a stellar day at the plate, going only 3-7 on the day but driving in five RBI’s and scoring 5 runs with a triple and a stolen base. Classmate Sean Dempsey also had a big day for the team. While catching the first game Dempsey had two hits, an RBI, and scoring a run. Utility player Will Pyne was instrumental in Catholic’s second game blowout, going 3-4 at the plate and driving in five RBIs. Junior classmate Connor Sullivan tied Pyne for the team lead with 3 hits in the second game, scoring twice and driving in an RBI.
Catholic’s next game is this coming Saturday, March 9th as the team travels to nearby Christopher Newport University for a road matchup. This marks the last game before CUA travels to Myrtle Beach, SC for the annual Ripken Experience over Spring Break. While in South Carolina, the Birds will play three games against Penn College, Dean, and Lancaster Bible. The spring break trip will also mark the last games the team will play before looking to defend their Landmark title. Catholic will open conference play on the road as it travels to Elizabethtown the weekend of March 16th for a three game series. The Blue Jays were tabbed a very close second best team in the preseason poll, tying Catholic with three first place votes and only 5 points less with 43. The matchup will be tightly contested and a likely early season look at the Landmark Conference Championship series.