The Monmouth University baseball team pulled off a comeback from a nine-run deficit with an Austin Denlinger walk-off home run before stellar pitching propelled the Hawks to two wins as Monmouth swept their doubleheader against the University of Maine at the USA Baseball Complex on Feb. 24.
The Hawks claimed the first game 15-14 through the aforementioned comeback, before using 16 strikeouts to win the second contest, 4-1.
Whilst trailing 9-0, senior catcher Phil Stahl sparked the Hawks’ comeback with an RBI single in the fifth. Junior infielder Casey Caufield followed Stahl’s lead, driving in two more with a triple, and senior outfielder Ben Winstead topped off the inning with a two-run homer – his third in three games – to cut the deficit to four. Monmouth then erupted for six more runs in the seventh inning, including an infield RBI from grad student infielder Will Trochiano.
Stahl reached home on a wild pitch to bring the Hawks within one before Winstead dropped a two-run double into left to give the Hawks their first lead, leading 10-9. Senior catcher Brady Mutz would add a two-run home run of his own to give a Monmouth cushion in the eighth, but a more focused and disciplined Maine would retake the lead with a five-run ninth inning. With two batters out at the bottom of the ninth, Denlinger heaved a game-winning home run over the wall, sending Winstead home for two RBIs and a 15-14 win in the thriller.
There were significantly less fireworks in the second matchup between Maine and Monmouth, as senior pitcher and infielder Joey Ventresca knocked down seven batters in four scoreless innings, and lefty grad student pitcher Mason Miller followed up Ventresca’s effort with four very strong innings of his own, waiving seven batters. Monmouth’s offense got going through Stahl, who sent junior outfielder Eric Sabato home on the first run in the seventh, and Winstead returned the favor and sent Stahl home after adding a two-RBI triple, making it 3-0 in favor of Monmouth. Caufield took a sac fly for Winstead to extend it to 4-0, and, although Ryan Bearse gave up a run in the ninth, Monmouth comfortably held on for a 4-1 win and the sweep of the doubleheader.
Head Coach Dean Ehehalt reflected on the live bats and strong pitching that led the Hawks to victory: “Two good team wins today in very different fashion. In the first game, a lot of timely hits, good at bats and a balanced attack in the back end of the game. The team got some energy and momentum when we cut the deficit to 9-5. Dante gave us a great outing in relief, which enabled us to get back in the game. The entire team showed a lot of character late in the game. Back and forth at the end and a never give in attitude; many big hits and at-bats. Austin Denlinger has shown that he wants to be in that moment and did he deliver.”
The following day, Monmouth took on Penn State at Coleman Field, and despite a strong start, the Hawks faltered at the wrong time and could not surmount the hole they dug themselves into.
Monmouth started off the second inning with two runs, as Denlinger’s RBI double sent catcher Mason Wolf home for a score before Trochiano joined Wolf across the plate on a wild pitch, giving Monmouth a 2-0 lead. Penn State added one run of their own at the end of the second inning, preceding their six run third inning which gave the Hawks too much to handle. Although Sabato homered in the fourth to give the Hawks three runs and bring them within five, neither team would score again in the inning. Penn State would add a run in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to put things out of reach and secure an 11-3 defeat of Monmouth.
The Hawks will enjoy a short break before taking on Merrimack three times in three days, from March 3 to March 5.