he Elizabethtown College baseball team faced off against Widener University in a three-game series that took place this weekend. The Blue Jays won two out of three games against the Widener Pride, losing game one of a doubleheader with a score of 5-2, but then winning game two of the doubleheader with a score of 8-6. Etown won its third and final game of the weekend series with a score of 3-2.
The Pride enjoyed a home field advantage in both games of the seven-inning double header that took place in Chester, Pa. last Saturday. However, this didn’t appear to bother the Blue Jays, who continued to play the aggressive baseball they played all season long.
In game one of the doubleheader, the Pride got off to a fast start, scoring five runs in the first two innings off of Etown senior starting pitcher Matt Ruth. Etown senior relief pitcher Rob Cressman relieved Ruth to pitch the final 3.2 innings, giving up no hits and no runs, while striking out three batters.
Etown got two runs back in the top of the fourth inning when first-year outfielder Coltun King hit an RBI triple to right center field that drove in senior first baseman Luke Gatti. The next batter, senior outfielder Kevin Berkheiser, reached base on an error by Widener’s shortstop. This allowed King to score on the play, making the score 2-5. There would be no more runs scored in game one of the series, as Etown left six men on base in their game one loss.
The Blue Jays’ offense got rolling in game two, as they doubled their hit total from game one, recording 16 hits, six of them doubles. Senior catcher Dillon Tagle started the scoring for the Blue Jays with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. After a scoreless second, Tagle started a four-run third inning for the Blue Jays with a run batted in (RBI) single. Tagle’s single was followed with RBI hits from Gatti and Berkheiser.
Widener made it 5-2 in the bottom of the third, but Etown earned two of their own in the fifth inning with RBI hits by sophomore infielder Ryan Haggerty and sophomore infielder Tyler Weary. Gatti hit an RBI double in the sixth for the Blue Jays to give them their last run of the game. This made the score 8-3 in favor of the Blue Jays. The Pride made it interesting in the bottom of the seventh by scoring three times, but it wasn’t enough as Etown held on for the 8-6 win. The day went to Luke Gatti, who went 5 for 7 in the two-game set with a pair of RBIs.
“We had much better at-bats in game two of the series, mostly because we were patient hitters. This forced their pitchers to throw a lot of pitches, particularly more strikes that we could capitalize on,” first-year infielder Zack Tomasko said.
Tomasko also said that this year’s team is very talented defensively and he believes that the team has the ability to beat any team, as long as each player comes to the plate with a patient approach. He added that the team has a good mix of consistent hitters, power hitters and players who can do both. “That’s what makes this team special,” Tomasko said.
According to first-year pitcher Dylan Manning, this year’s team has a lot of young talent: 15 first-year students in all. He believes that his fellow first-year players are playing better in every game and that the future looks bright for the team. He also believes that the team’s pitching staff this year is fairly young and still learning from experience. “We have a very solid pitching staff this year; however, sometimes we don’t execute pitches well during games. That’s what it comes down to, staying focused and executing,” Manning said.
Nick Gulla, Etown’s first-year starting pitcher in game three, executed his pitches very well as he turned in his best start of the season in front of Etown’s home crowd on Sunday. He allowed two runs over six innings, registered five strikeouts and only allowed two Widener batters on base throughout the three innings.
Widener was able to build a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, but the Blue Jays matched Widener’s two runs immediately in the home half of the inning. Tagle hit an RBI double (his eighth double of the year) to drive in junior shortstop Kyle Gable. Etown’s next batter, Gatti, tied the game with an RBI ground out.
While the first two games of the series featured the offensive power of both baseball teams, game three was a pitcher’s duel. The game remained tied until the bottom of the eighth inning when Etown was up to bat.
Gable walked to lead off the inning, and then stole second base to record his 18th stolen base of the season. But Gable wasn’t finished: on the very next pitch, he stole third without a throw from the Pride’s catcher. With a runner on third, Tagle gave Etown the lead with a hit into center field that allowed Gable to score. Cressman ended the ninth inning for the Blue Jays with three immediate outs.
Etown needs to remain undefeated for the rest of their season if they want a chance at making the Commonwealth Conference Playoffs. The team will conclude its regular season next weekend against Lebanon Valley College and Franklin & Marshall College. The team hosts its Senior Day Friday afternoon prior to its 3:30 p.m. start against Lebanon Valley’s Flying Dutchmen.