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Baseball’s Losing Streak at Four

Engineers Seem to Produce Only Behind Pitcher Jason Szuminski’s Arm

By Alvin Eric Loreto

Team Member

After smooth sailing into their sixth victory in a row, the varsity baseball team finally encountered the rough waters of the NEWMAC last week. As a result, the T’s dropped four straight games, leaving them with a 7-9 record.

Before abysmal defense doomed them to their current slide, the Engineers had stretched their winning streak two more games thanks to the dominating right arm of pitcher Jason E. Szuminski ’00. On March 30th, Szuminski pitched a complete-game, 3-hit shutout as MIT defeated UMass-Boston 7-0 to close out their four-game homestand. No baserunner for the Beacons (10-9) made it past second base on Szuminski, whose blazing 91-mph fastball and wicked slider produced 10 strikeouts and many harmless ground-ball outs.

April 5 saw Szuminski and his team take their show on the road to Worcester for their NEWMAC conference opener against WPI. Although he had lost a bit from his fastball, Szuminski exhibited solid control and excellent command of his off-speed pitches, giving up just one earned run in another complete-game 6-2 victory. Szuminski scattered seven hits and struck out 8, bringing his record to 3-1 and lowering his ERA to an astounding 1.85. The Engineers rallied to the win behind clutch two-out run-scoring hits in the 4th inning from Christopher J. Albrecht ’00 and John J. Kogel ’03, as well as a monster two-out, 3-run double by Matthew R. Berger ’01 in the 5th inning.

The T’s returned to Worcester April 6 for another conference game, this time with NEWMAC cellar-dwellars Clark University. MIT jumped to a 7-3 lead but could not hold on, eventually dropping a wild, sloppy 15-9 decision that gave Clark its first conference victory of the season. Despite the frustrating defensive performance, MIT displayed some fireworks on offense: leadoff hitter Ethan T. Goetz ’00 made yet another solid offensive contribution with three hits and three stolen bases, and third baseman Albrecht went 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored.

On Friday April 7 MIT took a break from conference play to visit Brandeis University, traditionally one of the premier Division III baseball programs in the Greater Boston vicinity but struggling in their 2000 campaign. The result was an ugly, excruciating 19-3 loss for the Engineers that left them licking their wounds and marveling at the firepower of the Brandeis lineup.

With the sharp sting of the blowout still fresh in their minds, the T’s returned home on Saturday April 8 to face bitter NEWMAC rival Wheaton College in a doubleheader. MIT had its four-game home winning streak snapped as they were swept by the Lyons 10-3 and 1-0.

Engineers’ errors cause loss

In Game 1 the Engineers hung close to the conference leaders for four innings before a faltering defense opened the floodgates in the 5th. A bases-loaded single by Wheaton freshman third baseman Scott Beattie took a bad hop and scooted between the legs of Tech center fielder Loreto, allowing three runs to score. The error capped a five-run inning for the Lyons, and junior pitcher Craig Zapenas made it stand by shutting down the Tech offense entirely after a three-run first inning. Zapenas recorded 1-2-3 innings in the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th and 4-batter innings in the 4th and 5th. RBI singles from McKenney and Albrecht in the first provided the only offense that MIT could muster.

In Game 2 wind gusts picked up to around 35 mph, turning the contest into a classic pitchers’ duel. Extra-base hits were turned into catchable fly balls, and extra movement on pitches produced ground balls instead of line drives. The result was four hits and no earned runs between the two teams in a contest that lasted a little over an hour. Tech pitcher Piho was masterful for the third straight appearance, striking out three and walking none. However, he undeservingly picked up his first loss of the season because of MIT’s failure to finish on defense. With two outs in the 3rd inning, a throwing error by shortstop Goetz placed Wheaton baserunner Phil Desilets on second. On the very next play, another throwing error by third baseman Billing scored Desilets from second. Piho closed the inning with a strikeout and went on to record 1-2-3 innings in the last four innings, but he could receive no offensive support in the blustery conditions. Lyon freshman pitcher Mike Hunsinger retired 27 of the 28 batters he faced, one shy of a perfect game. McKenney broke up Hunsinger’s bid for perfection in the 5th inning with a leadoff single down the left-field line, but he was stranded at third base to end the inning.