Anthony Cittadino, Assistant Copy Editor
The Utica College baseball team has returned from Spring Break to begin the regular season, as they started off with a three game conference series against Houghton College. UC fell 12-1 in its first matchup against the Highlanders, but was able to salvage the series by winning one game.
Houghton tacked on six quick runs throughout the first three innings. Junior Alex Rocci got the start, but had to leave the game early due to sickness.
“I ended up leaving our road trip early because I became very sick,” he said. “I started the first inning and had to leave the game after that and ended up heading home.”
The lone Pioneer run was produced in the ninth inning as freshman Matt Fitzgerald recorded his first career double, sending freshman Tim Quinlan home.
The following day, the two teams faced off for a double-header and the first pitch was thrown at noon. UC tied the series with a strong 5-0 win.
Senior Josh Webb threw a gem as he pitched through seven shutout innings and struck out 12. Webb felt great about the team’s first victory.
“I feel I did what I had to do to get the win,” he said. “I was keeping the other hitters off balance by mixing speeds and changing locations. Overall, team-wise I feel we are taking steps in the right direction. We are playing like a team, turned some double plays, moved runners and had some timely hitting which we have lacked lately.”
Webb also says that since the Pioneers have earned their first win, they will loosen up and start to play better.
“Absolutely a weight has been lifted,” he said. “We still have to press and get wins and fight to make it to the Empire 8 Tournament, but not press as much now I think.”
The Pioneers started off strong, scoring three runs in the first inning. The first run was scored on a wild pitch as sophomore Jake Ryan crossed the plate. Not long after, Quinlan smoked one down the right field line for a triple to score two more. The scoring ended in the third with a sacrifice fly ball from Quinlan to extend the lead to five.
The following game came close down the stretch, but Houghton came out on top, winning 5-4 in nine innings. UC went up 3-0 as the third inning came to a close. Senior Matt DeMartino crossed the plate for the first Pioneer run.
“I felt that I did a good job getting on base,” he said. “The team has been getting players on base but has had trouble scoring them. But a few games this week we were able to take advantage of players on base. What went wrong was our defense and not hitting in situations. When there are guys on base and we are unable to score them and we aren’t putting the ball in play then we won’t be a very successful team.”
Once the sixth inning hit, the Highlanders came alive, scoring three quick runs to tie the game. Houghton added on some insurance runs in the eighth to go up 5-3. As the ninth inning kicked off, there was some early life for UC as they loaded the bases for DeMartino. The senior reached first on a fielder’s choice to bring the Pioneers within one. Unfortunately for the Pioneers, the rally fell short, as the game would end with a routine ground ball. Houghton improved to 11-10 and UC fell to a record of 1-10.
The Pioneers will host Elmira this weekend for three games. All games are set to be played at the Utica College Baseball Field.
Featured image; Senior Josh Webb had 12 strikeouts in the Pioneers first win of the season last Friday afternoon. Photo taken by Jeff Pexton