Walk off grand slam
Morgan Douglas – Sports Editor
Owls’ baseball has been as consistent this season as the day is long.
Baseball boasts a 16-6 record more than halfway through the season and has not lost back-to-back ball games all year.
“It’s the perseverance,” Outfielder Billy Sullivan, a redshirt freshman, said, “It has been all year, we get down in the last inning, no matter how many runs, forget about it. We’re going to win that game and we know we’re going to win that game. There’s no quit in this team. Nobody gets complacent.”
There was no greater representation of Sullivan’s sentiment than this past Saturday’s 7-3 victory over the Le Moyne College Dolphins.
The Dolphins and Owls played a doubleheader at the Owls’ home ballpark, which saw the road team take the first game, 12-4.
After a quick turnaround, the Owls took the field for game two in search of revenge.
The second leg of the doubleheader, a seven-inning game was a true pitcher’s duel through the early innings, as the two teams combined for just one run through the first five frames.
Dolphins starter Jacob Marshall, the 6’6” right hander was the first to blink, surrendering a solo home run to Owls’ centerfielder Andrew Eng, a graduate student.
Eng had no doubt the ball was gone, as he admired it for a bit and flipped his bat before circling the pillows.
“He looked very comfortable,” head coach Tim Shea said, “There’s been at bats where he’s been leaning and leaking forward and getting on his front foot, but that at bat, he looked very comfortable.”
Owls’ starting pitcher Nick Guarino, a graduate student came out and with an important shut down inning in the top of the fifth to hold the lead at 1-0, he was assisted by a nice catch made by Sullivan in the outfield.
Unfortunately for Guarino, the top of the sixth inning was not so easy as the previous frame.
Guarino ran into trouble and was unable to finish the inning, surrendering three runs and with it the lead before being replaced by pitcher Tommy Hughes, a redshirt sophomore, who got the Owls out of the inning before further damage could be done.
The stage was set for a dramatic late comeback, it was up to the Owls to deliver in the final innings.
A leadoff walk and a pair of base hots loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh.
Team captain, infielder Tony Zambito, a graduate student, was next up and was hit by a pitch to force in a run and make cut the Dolphins lead to 3-2.
Zambito was hit by a pitch earlier in the game and has been hit six times this year, something he wears as a badge of honor.
“I’m pretty sure the (program) record is 12 hit by pitches, so that’s what I’m going for right now,” Zambito joked, “But in that situation, a hit by pitch is just as good as a hit.”
The Dolphins finally made a pitching change, but it mattered naught, as Sullivan, who’s batting average is hovering around .400 was up, and he delivered with the game-tying single.
“All I was looking for was one pitch,” Sullivan said, “Fastball in the outer third to try to do some damage, stay to the right side of the field, and I got the job done: Give Andy (Eng) a shot to take the big swing. I knew he was going do it soon as he got up there.”
He was right. Eng hit his second home run of the contest to finish the game in style. A walk-off grand slam to give the Owls the 7-3 win and send the crowd home happy.
“It’s awesome,” Zambito said, “Walk-off grand slam on the first opening weekend at home. There’s nothing better, you can’t beat it.”
The Owls will hit the road for their next game against the College of Saint Rose on Wednesday, April 6.