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Baseball Wins First Conference Series of the Year

chris mckenna backpageThe University’s baseball team took two of three from Manhattan over the weekend to improve to 5-12 overall (2-1 in the MAAC) on the season. 

MU first got an extra-inning win over the Jaspers on Saturday, March 28. The Hawks came away with a 5-4 win in thirteen innings, and the victory was also Head Coach Dean Ehehalt’s 600th of his career. 

However, Ehehalt, currently in his 22nd season at Monmouth, wasn’t too focused on the milestone. 

“600 is great and I’ll talk about that in a couple years, but I don’t get caught up in all that stuff,” Ehehalt said. “Right now I’m happy for our guys. They battled, and that was a wild game with great plays made on both sides.”

The Hawks’ pitching was very impressive for the game, but their defense was sloppy at points. All four of Manhattan’s runs were unearned as the Hawks committed three errors for the game.

Senior Chris McKenna got the start for MU and allowed only three hits over eight innings of work, including six strikeouts, while freshman Justin Andrews pitched in with four innings of work in relief. Andrews struck out two and allowed one unearned run on two hits. Freshman Mike Brambilla was the third MU pitcher used, and managed to get the win after one scoreless inning in which he allowed one hit.  

Leading the way offensively for MU was junior DH Cary Jacobson. Jacobson was three for six with one RBI, and also scored two runs for the Hawks. Dan Shea and Shaine Hughes each chipped in with two hits on the afternoon. 

Heading into the bottom of the third the Hawks found themselves down 2-1 before taking the lead in the inning. Seniors Steve Wilgus and Kyle Perry got things started for MU when they reached base on errors. Hughes then advanced the two runners into scoring position where Wilgus eventually scored on a Chris Gaetano groundout and Perry on an infield hit from Jacobson to put MU in front 3-2. 

After each team was held scoreless over the next four plus innings of play, MU was able to push across an insurance run to increase their lead to two in the bottom of the eighth. The Hawks loaded the bases behind singles from Jacobson and Hughes, and Grant Lamberton then drew a bases loaded walk to give MU a 4-2 advantage. 

The Hawks were unable to close out the victory in the final inning of play, however, as Manhattan manufactured two runs behind one hit and an MU error to tie the game at four. Despite threatening in the bottom of the ninth, MU could not push across the game winning run and the contest went into extra innings. 

Neither team mounted serious threats through the first three extra innings, but in the bottom of the thirteenth Lamberton drew another bases loaded walk to plate MU’s fifth run of the game and give them the victory. 

“We have to close out our ninth inning a little bit better,” said Ehehalt after the win. “They are extremely tough and they scratch and claw till the last out, but we were real fortunate today and I was happy for our guys.”

The Hawks and Jaspers were right back at it the following day when the two teams met for a doubleheader. Similar to the first contest in the three game series, both of Saturday afternoon’s matchups were hard fought and close battles. MU came away with a 3-2 victory in the opener before falling by two runs in the series finale. 

TJ Hunt was masterful for the Hawks on the mound to start the day as he went the distance to earn his second win of the season. Over seven innings the senior right hander allowed just two runs on three hits and struck out four.

Gaetano was the only Hawk to record multiple hits for the game with two while also recording two RBIs and a run scored. 

MU jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first. With two outs in the inning Hughes got things started with a screaming double into the gap before Gaetano put the Hawks on the board by blasting his second home run of the year to give his team a 2-0 lead. 

Manhattan didn’t trail for long; however, as the Jaspers used a leadoff walk, sacrifice bunt and two base-hits to tie the game at two in the very next frame. 

Following two scoreless innings the Hawks managed to regain the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. After junior Robbie Alessandrine walked and moved to second on a sac bunt, Wilgus lined a double over the head of Manhattan’s right fielder to knock him in and put MU in front 3-2. 

That proved to be all the Hawks needed as Hunt shut down the Jaspers in the sixth and seventh innings to give MU the victory. 

Things looked promising for the Hawks early in the second game of the double header. A Hughes RBI single gave MU a 1-0 advantage in the first, and it appeared the team was on its way to sweeping Manhattan for the weekend. Unfortunately, for MU, they were unable to hold on and eventually fell 4-2 in eleven innings.  

Errors were the Hawks undoing as Manhattan pushed across two unearned runs in the fifth inning which allowed the game to go into extras. 

Junior left hander Anthony Ciavarella got the start for the Hawks and pitched well. Ciavarella went seven and two thirds innings allowing two unearned runs on six hits while striking out seven. Fellow junior Frank Trimarco got the loss in relief, and gave up two runs on two hits over three and a third innings of work. 

The Hawks will look to use the series win as momentum as they travel to Piscataway to take on in-state rival Rutgers this Wednesday. MU then gets back into conference play when they return home for a three game series against MAAC foe Quinnipiac this Friday, April 3. First pitch is scheduled for 12 pm.

PHOTO COURTESY of Taylor Jackson