The baseball team started their 2013 season participating in the Ron Fraser Classic in Cary, North Carolina the second week of February.
Their first opponent of the season and the tournament was Villanova, a team who finished 28-27 in the 2012 season. The beginning of baseball was accompanied by the beginning of a new ace for Head Coach Dean Ehehalt. Looking to replace last year’s go-to guy, Pat Light, Ehehalt awarded senior southpaw Dan Smith this year’s opening day start.
“He [Smith] is going to have to learn to take over for Pat. He will have to figure out a way to be in that role, something he didn’t have to do in the past,” Ehehalt said. “Dan is kind of the go-to guy. If he pitches like he has in the past, we will be fine.”
Light finished his junior year before he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox as the thirty-seventh overall pick in Major League Baseball.
Led by Smith, the Hawks edged Nova 7-6 in their first tournament match up. Smith lasted four innings allowing three runs, two earned, and fanning three batters. Relieving Smith in the fifth was sophomore righty TJ Hunt who provided the team with three innings of work and also picked up the win.
“TJ has really made a lot of progress this year. In the fall he threw well and he has been throwing well in the pre-season. TJ has taken advantage of the opportunities he got,” Ehehalt said. Hunt has recently been named as NEC Pitcher of the week for his early season efforts. Senior righty Neil Harm pitched 1.1 innings against Nova while junior lefty Stephen Frey closed the game.
Sophomore outfielder Steve Wilgus and sophomore catcher Kyle Perry commanded the team’s offense with three hits a piece. Wilgus delivered two runs and an RBI for the Hawks while Perry gave the team three RBIs. Junior shortstop Jon Guida and senior right fielder Craig Sweeney accounted for two RBIs each.
MU was scheduled to play four more games in the Fraser Classic aside from the Nova game, but all were cancelled due to inclement weather.
Having little to no practice, the Hawks travelled to Nashville, Tennessee where they were hosted by the No. 2 nationally ranked Vanderbilt Commodores. This three game series began the regular season for MU.
The Hawks took the field with junior southpaw Andrew McGee taking the mound. Despite, McGee’s 5.1 innings work, and MU’s initial 1-0 lead in the second, the Hawks quickly fell to the Commodores with the final score showing 5-1. McGee was credited four runs, all earned, off of four hits. Succeeding McGee was Hunt, who pitched one inning and accounted for one earned run. Frey pitched the remaining 1.2 innings allowing only one hit.
The lone run by MU was scored off senior utility man Owen Stewart’s bat bringing Sweeney home. Sweeney ran the offense as he hit 2-4 with two singles.
Looking for redemption, Ehehalt sent his newly found ace to the mound. Smith pitched three innings and allowed six runs, all earned, with eight hits and three walks. Sophomore right handed pitcher Adam Yunginger followed Smith as he threw three innings striking out three and allowing three runs, three walks, and two wild pitches in the process. Sophomore righty Chris McKenna and freshman lefty Frank Trimarco each hurled one inning.
Junior second baseman Jake Gronsky reached base after being hit by a pitch and scored MU’s only run as senior third baseman Danny Avella plated Gronsky with a single in the fourth.
The Hawks could not prevail in the last game of the Vanderbilt series. Senior right hander Jon Shippee acquired his first loss of the season as he allowed two earned runs in 2.2 innings. Sophomore righty Jeff Paglione had three runs cross the plate, only one of which was earned, in his three inning appearance. Frey then took to the mound as he performed in 1.1 innings and gained three earned runs. Freshman lefty Anthony Ciavarello closed the game, pitching the final inning, which furthered the Commodores advantage by five, all credited to Ciavarello. With the last pitch thrown, the scoreboard read 13-1, Vanderbilt’s favor. Gronsky, Perry, Guida, and Stewart all had one hit for the day.
While MU did lose all three games, Ehehalt firmly believes this was largely due to Vanderbilt being scheduled early on in the season. “To play a team of that caliber, they just take advantage of every mistake you make. Down the road it will be beneficial; right now it exposed some of our weaknesses.”
Vanderbilt has a stock consisting of names such as Mike Yastrzemski, who is legendary Baseball Hall-of-Famer Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson and Kevin Ziomek, who is nationally ranked as no. 28 in MLB’s first-year player draft.
With a four-day rest after Vanderbilt, the Hawks looked to enhance their record as they travelled to Delaware University.
McGee opened the series on March 1. Throwing the Hawks’ first complete game of the season, McGee led the team to a 7-3 win as he struck out five. The top of the order proved vital in the victory as lead-off hitter Wilgus went 2-5 and Perry, batting second, went 2-4. Both men had two runs and two RBIs in the game.
The good luck unfortunately did not last long. Despite MU’s seven hits, only two hits short of the previous day, the Hawks fell short in a 5-4 loss. Smith tossed five innings for the day with three earned runs. Reliever Hunt threw 3.1 innings gaining two earned runs as well as his first loss of the season. Hunt now has a 1-1 record.
MU lost the final game against the Blue Hens, 11-4. Shippee was once again the starter, but it was Ciavarella who acquired the loss. Avella lead the offense as a designated hitter going 2-4 with two RBIs and one run. Right field freshman Dan Shea went 3-4 with one RBI.
The team currently has a 2-5 record on the season. Losing outfielders Josh Boyd, Ed Martin, and Jamie Rosenkranz to graduation last year, Ehehalt was forced to rely on the incoming freshmen class to stock the outfield.
“I think our freshmen are talented,” Ehehalt said, “They’re [freshmen] like fish. You go fishing and some days you catch them and some days you don’t. From an outfield stand point, we will be ok. It will take time to settle and we’ve got some young guys in the mix. Time will tell.”
The team next looks to improve their record in North Carolina as they face East Carolina University this Friday.
PHOTO COURTESY of MU Photography