By Jonathan Wiggington
The Mary Washington Eagles entered the Capital Athletic Conference baseball tournament with a 20-10 record. The Eagles played their first two games of the tournament in Fredericksburg, but traveled to Salisbury, Maryland Friday night to participate in the later rounds.
With the second-best record in the CAC, Mary Washington opened up the tournament against Villa Julie College, a team that they had already beaten twice earlier in the year.
The Eagles got on the board first with an electrifying second inning. Senior Jon Sims started off the inning with a double. A single by sophomore Nick Espinosa moved Sims in to scoring position. However, he wouldn’t stay there long. Junior Jeff Johnson brought Sims home on a single, moving Espinosa to second base.
After a single that loaded the bases by sophomore Seamus Bergen, a passed ball allowed Espinosa to score, and let the base runners advance one base. Senior outfielder Riley Gorman grounded out to short, scoring Johnson from third base, and advancing Bergen to third. Bergen later scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of freshman Eric Rehbein.
Going into the third inning, the Eagles had comfortable 4-0 lead, a lead that junior starting pitcher Andrew Cox would not surrender.
Cox started off the game by striking out the side, the first of eight and two thirds innings, and 10 strikeouts. Villa Julie was off balance the whole game as Cox and the Eagles dominated the team from Maryland, 8-5.
The Eagle’s second opponent in the CAC tournament was Wesley College. The Eagles men enjoyed a great day at the plate accompanied by great pitching. The Eagles scored four or more runs in three separate innings, while allowing only five hits to the opposing team from Delaware.
Every Eagles starter had at least one hit, while Espinosa and Johnson both collected four hits each. Johnson, as well as sophomore Will Wright, drove in four runs each. At the end of the game, the Eagles won 22-0, an uncharacteristically high score for any baseball game.
The Eagles now had to face off against Salisbury University, the favorite to win the CAC tournament. Unfortunately, the Eagles committed five errors, something that you cannot do against a team coming into the game with only one loss. The Eagles were ahead 6-5 going into the seventh inning, but surrendered three runs to Gulls, making the score 8-6.
Fortunately for the Eagles, a team can only be eliminated from the tournament by losing two games, and this loss to Salisbury was their first. Their next opponent, a familiar one, was Villa Julie.
The Eagles opened up the game with a chip on their shoulder. Wright drove in Rehbein, who had drawn a walk. Sophomore Frankie Sheffield later drove in Alex Rossi, who had reached base on a single to left center.
Sheffield was not done, in the third inning he drove in two more runners with a double, making the score 5-1. Sheffield and Wright both ended up with three RBIs, accounting for two-thirds of the runs the Eagles scored. The Eagles won their third game of the tournament 9-4, propelling them into the championship round against Salisbury, who had yet to lose a game.
In a game where neither team pitched well, the Eagles collected 23 hits, in a slugfest. The Eagles’ seventh inning was a sight to behold, plating seven runs, on three extra-base hits: a leadoff homerun by Espinosa, a 3-run double by Sheffield, and a RBI triple by Sims. The seventh inning ended with the Eagles in the lead, 15-14.
The Gulls tied the game at 15 after a fielding error by Sims. However, Sims would have the last word. Down to his last strike, Sims stroked a walk-off homerun to left center field, giving the Eagles the 16-15 victory, ending Salisbury’s 35-game win streak.
The win ensured a rematch against Salisbury with the CAC tournament on the line. Unfortunately for the Eagles, after having their win streak snapped, Salisbury came out firing on all cylinders beating the Eagles, 20-5, ending their run at the title.
The Eagles finished second in the tournament, after a well-fought series against the host team, Salisbury.