Baseball completed a phenomenal week of play beating the University of Pennsylvania on the road before taking two of three from Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) opponent Niagara over the weekend in West Long Branch.
It was the Quakers of Penn who got on the board first in Wednesday’s single game set, scoring three runs in the first two innings off Monmouth’s senior left-handed pitcher Kyle Ajjan.
The Hawks’ bats responded in a massive way the next inning, erasing a three-run deficit in a hurry and turning it into a three-run lead after scoring six in the top half of the third.
Fifth year center fielder Kyle Norman got the inning rolling with a single to left field that plated two runs to get the Blue and White back within one.
Sophomore first baseman Nick Campana, junior right fielder JP Walsh, and sophomore designated hitter Sean McHugh each followed up in the inning with run-scoring hits of their own, helping MU jump out to the 6-3 lead.
The Monmouth bullpen helped close the door on the Quakers the rest of the way, throwing 6.1 quality innings of relief while only allowing one run to secure the 8-5 non-conference victory.
Sophomore left-hander Evan Ferris led the strong relief effort, going 4.2 innings allowing just one run while earning his first career win.
“The pitchers battled all day and made the pitches when they needed,” said Head Coach Dean Ehehalt. “Evan Ferris was outstanding; he settled the game down for us, so it was a huge effort on his part.”
Senior third baseman Max Goione also tacked on his first home run of the season to left field, giving MU a much-needed insurance run late on.
Monmouth took this momentum and rolled with it heading into a huge weekend series with conference rival Niagara beginning with a doubleheader on Saturday.
The Hawks made sure they had game one wrapped up from the start, scoring the first five runs of the game in just the first three innings of play.
Long contributed to three of the team’s first four runs, scoring twice and driving in one.
Then it was Koniencki who remained red-hot at the dish launching his first home run of the season to left field making it a 5-0 lead.
“It was really important coming into the weekend that we jumped out and got a lead, that was our goal and we certainly did that,” said Ehehalt. “In the second inning we manufactured some runs and took advantage of some things and put up three and took control of the game.”
After Niagara got one back in the top half of the fourth; fifth year left fielder JD Andreessen got ahold of his team-leading fifth homerun on the year which drove in three runs and extended the Monmouth lead to 8-1.
Sophomore pitcher Dan Klepchick threw seven strong, three-run innings while striking out ten batters to earn his fourth win of the year in what would be a 9-3 final.
“He [Klepchick] makes big pitches in big spots and pitches out of jams and he keeps getting better,” said Ehehalt. “He gives us a chance to win every time out.”
The Blue and White took a step back in game two of the doubleheader, getting shutout 5-0 to even up the series.
Freshman Rob Hensey got the start in this one, allowing two earned runs and three hits in 3.2 innings of work. Then it was the junior Regan Dombroski who took over, allowing three earned runs on six hits in just one frame.
The story of the game was a lack of hitting for the Hawks who could only manufacture four hits without getting on the scoreboard.
MU did finish out the week on a high note though, grabbing a conference series victory with an 8-3 win in the finale on Sunday.
This time it was Niagara who got off to the quick start, scoring three runs in the first two innings off senior pitcher James Kelly.
However, the come from behind effort did not take long for the Hawks who suddenly found themselves with a 4-3 lead after Koniencki launched his second home run of the series, this time a grand slam over the center field fence.
“Clay just proved that one swing of the bat gets you back in the game, we were a much different team after that and I was hoping we got a spark,” said Ehehalt. “We were fortunate Clay put a good swing on that ball.”
Monmouth added four more runs in the innings that followed without allowing any more on the defensive side, earning themselves their fourth conference victory of the season.
The 14-19-1 Hawks will be in New York City for a non-conference matchup with Columbia this afternoon, with first pitch slated for 3:30 p.m.
This weekend, Monmouth will travel to Fairfield for a three-game MAAC series; the opener on Friday will be followed by a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. First pitch for both days will be 12:00 p.m.
PHOTO TAKEN by Karlee Sell