by Patrick Gustavson
Following a disappointing series against LIU Brooklyn to open Northeast Conference play that saw Central Connecticut’s baseball team lose two of three, they rebounded by sweeping a three-game set against Fairleigh Dickinson.
The Blue Devils won the first game on Friday by a score of 5-3 behind seven strong innings from sophomore pitcher Brandon Fox. Fox gave up just two runs on four hits with an impressive eight-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Fox’s lengthy outing was refreshing for the team, who sent out seven different pitchers in their prior game against Connecticut, even though that was by design.
On the offensive side, sophomore third baseman Buddy Dewaine, who struggled through the team’s first 10 games, broke through with three hits, two runs batted in and two runs scored.
“Buddy is a kid who played a lot last year on a team that made an NCAA regional, I expect him to be a good player every day,” Head Coach Charlie Hickey said of Dewaine’s performance.
Game two saw another strong offensive performance by the team, collecting nine runs on 16 hits. However, they missed many potential opportunities, leaving 16 runners on base. The Blue Devils were finally able to execute and string together hits, scoring five runs from the sixth to the eighth inning.
Despite the two victories, Hickey felt his team could have done more, even saying after Friday’s game that “we still are not a good baseball team.”
Following Saturday’s contest, he went on to say “just like yesterday, we were very fortunate to walk out of here with the W [win]. The game of baseball usually doesn’t give you that many opportunities. We’ll take it, but we have to get better.”
On Sunday, it appeared the Blue Devils’ inability to execute the plate had come to a head, blanked by the Knights pitching staff through seven innings, trailing 5-1. They had an opportunity in the bottom of the eighth with runners on second and third, but they were unable to produce.
Facing a four-run deficit, senior Mitch Guilmette stepped up in the bottom of the ninth and doubled into right field. He was hit in on a runs batted in single from Peyton Stephens. Now at a 5-2 deficit, fellow freshman Christian Layne doubled, leaving two runners in scoring position with just one out.
After pinch-hitter Dylan Maher walked to load the bases, leadoff man Dean Lockery grounded out to first base. However, Stephens scored from third, and both of the others runners advanced.
This left things up to Chris Kanios, who appeared to hit a routine, a game-ending fly ball to right field. But the ball got caught up in the wind, evading the right fielder. Both runners had already scored, but the bizarre hop the ball took allowed Kanios to come all the way around to score, winning the game for the Blue Devils.
Hickey said he was hoping for a single that could tie the game, not expecting the ball to carry enough for a three-run hit in the raw conditions. He credited Kanios for being the only player on the team able to “round the bases on that type of ball.”
The Blue Devils now improve to 6-8 on the season, with a 4-2 record in the NEC, fulfilling Hickey’s goal of being above .500 in the conference following the opening two series.
The team now begins a five-game stretch versus non-conference opponents.
Hickey’s goal for the upcoming games is to shore up the health of his pitching staff before entering the crux of the conference season.
He expects senior pitcher Andrew Hinckley, who hasn’t thrown in a game since the season-opener due to arm soreness, to see action in one of next week’s contests. Hickey stated the importance of having at least four healthy starting pitchers.
The Blue Devils will take the next on Tuesday against Fairfield at home.