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Baseball on Win Streak

By Alvan Eric P. Loreto

After a frigid start in suffocating South Florida heat, the MIT baseball team has suddenly become red-hot in the cool spring air of New England. Led by the bats of captains Kevin B. McKenney ’00 and Ethan T. Goetz ’00 and the reliable arm of David M. Piho ’00, the Engineers have won four straight after opening the 2000 season 1-6 against some stiff competition.

Rough Florida trip opens season

MIT opened the season on Sunday, March 19, by dropping a 5-1 decision to the College of New Jersey Lions in Homestead, FL. TCNJ (4-0). Pitcher Jason E. Szuminski ’00, who continues to receive considerable attention from professional scouts after an all-star summer stint with the semipro Rhode Island Gulls, turned in a solid complete-game, seven strikeout performance. However, the Lions strung together three-hit innings in the fifth and seventh to notch two and three runs, respectively. The Engineer bats never awoke, as the Lions’ pitcher Casoli kept Tech off balance with a decent fastball and a tricky curveball.

Monday, March 20, MIT dropped a doubleheader to Colby-Sawyer (NH). Before the game MIT learned that it would be without the services of captain and No. 2 starter Ahren M. Lembke-Windler ’00, who is expected to be sidelined for a month after suffering a dislocated left elbow. The news seemed to dampen the team’s morale, and the Engineers came out flat in 5-0 and 11-4 losses to the White Mules (4-0). The lone bright spot for MIT was third baseman Christopher J. Albrecht ’00, who went 3-for-5 with one run scored for the day.

The Engineers notched their first win against of the season against Massachusetts College, but not before dropping a heartbreaker to Ramapo (NJ) that morning. A two-out single in the last inning by catcher John J. Kogel ’03 brought home Alvan Eric P. Loreto ’01 from second, but Ramapo center fielder Jeff Matvienko threw out Ryan S. Balter G at third base to end the game, securing a 2-1 victory for the Roadrunners (4-1). Lack of offense by MIT spoiled a complete-game gem by up-and-coming pitcher Brian S. Nykiel-Furgala ’02, who allowed just one earned run and four hits for the game.

More strong pitching was turned in by Piho against Massachusetts College (6-4), but this time the Tech offense finally broke through for ten hits in the 7-1 afternoon victory. Loreto and McKenney scored early to stake Piho a lead. Piho only allowed two hits and no earned runs over the course of the game. A three-run double into the right-field corner by Matthew R. Berger ’01 in the seventh capped the win.

Lembke-Windler’s absence hurts

On Wednesday morning the T’s landed a rematch with the College of New Jersey, and the Lions streaked to their ninth straight victory with a 19-4 thumping of MIT. As expected, the Tech pitching staff wore thin in Lembke-Windler’s absence, and TCNJ took full advantage with an offensive explosion that validated their lofty national ranking. The Lions crushed ten extra base hits off MIT pitchers Berger and Jeffrey J. Billing ’01, including two doubles and a towering grand slam by senior center fielder Mike Eaton.

The Engineers finally showed fatigue under the blazing Florida sun in their Wednesday afternoon game, a 9-0 loss to perennial New England powerhouse Williams College (MA). Nykiel-Furgala registered another outstanding complete game, giving up only four hits and two earned runs while striking out eight. However, the MIT defense faltered, making seven errors that led to seven unearned runs for the Ephs (2-2). Williams senior pitcher Mark Daoust stymied the T’s, scattering seven hits over his seven shutout innings.

MIT closed out its spring trip Thursday, March 23 against Bowdoin College (MA), another strong New England baseball team. Riding a masterful 7-hit, 8-strikeout performance by ace Szuminski, the Engineers left South Florida on a high note with a 4-2 victory over the Polar Bears. Strong offensive showings were put on by Piho (3 hits, 2 runs scored), Loreto (2 hits, 2 runs scored), and McKenney (2 hits, 3 RBI), while second baseman Goetz displayed solid defense in making several key plays to smother late Bowdoin rallies.

Three game winning streak

The T’s returned to Cambridge, opening a 4-game homestand with a doubleheader last Saturday against Bates College (ME). The Engineers swept, 8-1 and 5-3, to keep the Bobcats (0-4) winless on the year. In the first game, MIT’s Billing evened his record to 1-1 by allowing five hits and one earned run over seven innings. Leadoff hitter Goetz went 3-for-4 with one run scored and one RBI to ignite the MIT offense.

In the second game the Bobcats hung tough, but a 1-out, 3-run triple by Loreto in the 4th broke a 2-2 tie, eventually making a winner out of Tech pitcher Albrecht.

Monday the Engineers hosted regular ECAC Tournament invite Worcester State College (8-5), and the result was fast-paced, error-free baseball. A WSC run in the top of the first was answered by an MIT run in the bottom of the first, and the game remained knotted until the fourth. An RBI single by Billing (2 hits) and an RBI double by Goetz (3 hits) gave the T’s a two-run lead, but Lancer left fielder Jason Grenier scored in the fifth to bring Worcester State within one.

The score remained 3-2 into the final inning, where Tech pitcher Piho provided late-game drama by picking off Lancer runner Keith Bianchini before retiring the side to give the Engineers their fifth victory.

Behind the solid hitting of McKenney (.400 BA, 14 hits), Goetz (.364 BA, .475 OBP), and Piho (.364 BA, 5 doubles), MIT (5-6) now looks forward to a three-game road trip to conference rivals WPI and Clark and tough nonconference foe Brandeis.