Baseball splits two doubleheaders to begin the season

The Garnet baseball team split two doubleheaders against Eastern and Catholic Universities this weekend, opening the season at 2-2. (Allegra Pocinki/The Phoenix)

Two days. Two doubleheaders. A 2-2 record. The Swarthmore baseball season has begun.

In the first weekend of the season, the Garnet played two double-headers, splitting both of them. Although the team looked nearly flawless in each Game 1, it was in the second game, mistakes and poor pitching doomed them late in the games.

“We beat ourselves in the second game of both doubleheaders,” infielder Michael Cameron ’12 said. “Overall, we need to limit distractions and focus on what we do best.”

On Saturday, the Garnet traveled to Catholic University to open their season against the Cardinals. In Game 1, the Garnet offense picked up where they left off last year, scoring two runs in the first inning of the season and two more in the third on a two-run single by outfielder Sean Bryant ’13. Sophomore slugger Nicko Burnett ’14, hitting second on Saturday, singled in a run in the fourth and hit his first home run of the year off Catholic’s Kory Smigocki in the seventh inning.

Looking to prove that his stellar 2011 performance was for real, left-handed starter Ignacio Rodriguez ’12 couldn’t have started the year any better. Making the Garnet’s offensive support look like overkill, Rodriguez tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out eight. No Cardinal hitter made it past second base the entire game.

Although the Garnet bats stayed hot in the second half of the Catholic doubleheader, the Cardinals battered the Garnet pitchers in a 12-6 loss. Swarthmore starter Zach Weiner ’12 was chased from the game in the third inning after giving up seven runs (five earned) on six hits. Weiner walked two and struck out two.

Neither Weiner nor Dylan Jeffers ’15, who gave up four runs in relief, got much support from their defense, as the Garnet made five errors that led to three earned runs in total. Although the Garnet jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on an RBI groundout by Burnett, an error and a wild pitch set the table for three straight RBI base hits by the Cardinals, who never trailed again.

“We made a lot of mistakes we probably shouldn’t have made,” third baseman Danny McMahon ’15 said.

On Sunday, the team returned to Swarthmore for their own home opener, a double-header against Eastern University. Once again, the Garnet won the first game and dropped the second. In Game 1, right-hander Kyle Crawford ’12 was able to hold a 1-0 until the fourth, when his teammates piled on six more runs to put the game out of reach.

With one out in the fourth, first baseman Spencer Ross ’12 singled and later scored on an RBI single by Tim Kwilos ’13. Successive RBI hits from Nick Constantino ‘14 and Anthony Montalbano ‘12 made it 4-0. Two batters later, after a Burnett sacrifice fly, Bryant capped off the inning with a two-run double.

Crawford, for his part, was able to go all seven innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on nine hits, walking four and striking out five. Eastern first baseman Dave Prager provided his team’s offensive highlight with a two-run homer off Crawford in the top of the fifth.

In Game 2, the Garnet found themselves on the losing side of another 7-4 game. Starter Grant Johnson ’14 allowed one run but lasted just four innings, when he left with a 3-1 lead.

“The cutter was probably my best pitch,” Johnson said. “It was my strikout pitch, my get-ahead pitch.

I’m not usually a strikeout pitcher, but had six in four innings, which is a lot for me. In general, everything was working really, really well.”

RBI singles by centerfielder Rory McTear ’13 and third baseman McMahon gave the Garnet an early 2-0 lead, and they added another run in the third on an RBI groundout by Kwilos.

“It’s awesome,” Johnson said, of the security pitching behind a strong lineup affords. “In the first inning yesterday, I gave up a home-run, and we’re down 1-0, but I knew that we were going to get them right back, and we tied it up and then scored two more in the next inning.”

However, in relief, Sean Mangus ’13 and Ramsey Walker ’13 combined to give up six runs on six hits over two and one-third innings. Mangus allowed the Eagles to tie up the game with two runs in the sixth inning, while Walker allowed all four of Eastern’s seventh-inning runs.

For the Eagles, Jim Edelman (six innings, one run) got the win.

As Spring Break approaches, the Garnet look forward to their annual trip. This year, they will travel to Arizona to play eight games from March 3 to March 9.

After a start that has produced mixed results, the Garnet look to prove themselves in Chandler and Tucson. “Some might look at a 2-2 record and be satisfied, but I know we aren’t,” Crawford said. “We’ve got a few practices left until our trip, and we have a lot of work to do.”

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