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Streaking Beaver Baseball Closing in on .500 Mark

By Alvan Eric Loreto

TEAM MEMBER

The up-and-down, twisting and turning season continues for the MIT baseball team, who held a 10-14 record going into yesterday’s nonconference home game against Babson College.

While individual Engineer performances on the field have ranged from subpar to superhuman, the team has managed to maintain its cohesion throughout its roller-coaster ride through conference play. Despite a few tough losses, Tech continues to play gritty, hard-nosed baseball.

Tech gets early lead on Tufts

Coming off a conference doubleheader sweep at the hands of first-place Wheaton College, the Engineers’ path remained rough with an April 10 home contest against local powerhouse Tufts University, ranked No. 2 in New England. The T’s stunned their opponents early, jumping to a 2-0 lead and keeping the game close for six innings behind solid pitching from junior southpaw Matthew R. Berger ’01.

However, the Jumbos (15-4) ignited for 4 runs in the seventh and never looked back, eventually coming away with a hard-fought 6-2 victory. Although they played tough defense, MIT could only manage 7 hits off Tufts freshman pitcher Jonathan Lee, including two singles each from second baseman Ethan T. Goetz ’00 and catcher John J. Kogel ’03.

Tuesday, April 11, saw the T’s brave bitter 41-degree weather for a pivotal NEWMAC road game at rival Babson College. With ace pitcher Jason E. Szuminski ’00 at the helm, MIT cruised to a 14-8 victory. Szuminski notched his fourth victory of the year with 6 innings of work, surrendering only 2 earned runs. David M. Piho ’00 took over in the 7th, throwing 3 strong innings to pick up the team’s first save of the season.

The story of the game, though, was offense: five Tech players had multi-hit games, led by right fielder Kevin B. McKenney ’00. McKenney scorched Babson pitching for four hits and four RBIs, including a 3-run home run to left field in the first that set the tone for the game. In addition, Piho had three hits, including an opposite-field blast in the second inning, and third baseman Christopher J. Albrecht ’00 continued his hot ways with three hits. Left fielder Ryan Balter G capped the fireworks with three hits and four RBIs.

Tech drops game to WPI

On Wednesday, April 12, the Engineers returned home to face conference opponent Worcester Polytechnic Institute, whom they had beaten earlier in the year.

Looking for the first season series sweep since 1997, Tech found themselves down early, as WPI jumped to a 6-2 lead after four behind a 2-run homerun by shortstop Jay Katz. The Engineers tightened the screws and mounted a comeback behind strong pitching from Albrecht (3 innings, 1 hit, no earned runs). Timely hits from Balter, Goetz, and catcher Timothy J. Gilmartin ’01 drew MIT within 2, but the late rally could draw no closer, resulting in an 8-6 victory for the visiting team.

The win was the sixth straight for streaking WPI (12-10-1, 5-3 NEWMAC), who remain a possible first-round opponent for Tech in the conference tournament.

MIT’s overworked pitching staff received a boost when Ahren M. Lembke-Windler ’00 returned from his elbow injury to make his first start of the season April 14 against visiting Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design. Lembke-Windler pitched efficiently, but his 4-inning stint was doomed by 4 MIT errors that led to 5 unearned runs. In all, 8 errors were made on the day by the MIT defense, which wound up giving the Bees (8-18) 7 runs that led to their sloppy 14-6 win over the host team.

MIT was hampered by the absence due to injury of starting outfielders McKenney (sprained shoulder against WPI) and Alvan Eric P. Loreto ’01 (pulled hamstring against Babson). On offense, the Engineers managed 16 hits, including 4 from Goetz, 3 from Piho, and a pair from reserve outfielder Jason A. Poff ’02, but it was still not enough to overcome their poor defensive showing.

Piho displays his versatility

The headline story of Friday’s contest, though, was the defensive effort by Piho, who accomplished a feat that has been done just once in the major leagues. In a hallmark display of versatility and athleticism, the 6’ 4" senior from East Berlin, PA became the first MIT player in history to play all nine positions in one game. Piho started the game at catcher, where he threw out SCAD baserunner Eduardo Garcia on an attempted steal to end the inning.

From the 2nd through 5th innings, Piho played each position in the infield, one per inning, and from the sixth through eighth innings he played in the outfield, again one position per inning. In the sixth Piho brought crowd to its feet when he nearly threw out another Bee baserunner at home plate on a single, missing him by a step. Piho then moved to the pitcher’s mound for the ninth inning, where he held the Bees hitless and scoreless to finish the game.

With McKenney and Loreto still ailing but given the OK to play, the T’s traveled to Natick, MA on Saturday April 15 for a conference doubleheader showdown with Springfield College. Szuminski took the hill for the first game, and MIT’s confidence soared. However, Springfield pitcher Kevin Cahill muffled the Tech bats just enough, and his teammates touched Szuminski for one big inning to squeeze out a 4-2 win. Szuminski pitched 5 out of 6 scoreless innings, registering 6 strikeouts, but in his lone lapse in the 3rd, the Pride scored 4 runs on 4 hits, including a 2-run homer by sophomore right fielder Austin Kimball.

Cahill went the distance, striking out 4 and escaping bases-loaded jams in the 2nd and 4th innings and silencing all Tech hitters except Loreto (3 hits, 1 RBI) and Albrecht (2 hits).

MIT pulls out win in final inning

Game two was a thriller that came down to clutch hitting in the final inning. MIT held a 5-0 lead after one and a half innings, but the lead evaporated quickly when the Pride struck back with six runs in the bottom of the second, the last three on a 3-run dinger from first baseman Mike Conway. Springfield stretched their lead to 8-5 with 2 runs in the fourth, but the Engineers exploded for 4 in the top of the fifth for a 1-run lead. The Pride answered back with 1 in the bottom of the fifth, and both teams scored once in the sixth, knotting the score at 10-10 going into the final inning and setting the stage for the dramatic finish.

With one out and none on in the top of the seventh, Tech right fielder McKenney belted a 2-0 fastball over the fence in right-center for his second home run of the year, breaking the tie. The next Tech batter, Loreto, took the very next pitch to the same part of the park, where it short-hopped the fence, leaving Loreto with a double and chasing Pride pitcher Nate Jyringi from the game.

Jyringi’s replacement, senior Mike Anguish, got the final two outs, stranding Loreto on base and leaving his team down by only one going into their final at-bat. With Tech starting pitcher Piho still on the mound for the final inning, Springfield held a glimmer of hope for victory, which quickly turned into a blinding flash with a leadoff double by third baseman John Lipinsky.

However, Piho slammed the door by retiring the next three batters, leaving Lipinsky on third base and securing the hard-earned 11-10 victory for the Engineers.

The split dropped Springfield to 4-5 in conference play (13-10 overall).

MIT avenges early loss to Clark

On April 18, the Engineers played host to Clark University in another NEWMAC contest. Seeking revenge for an ugly 15-9 loss earlier in the year, the T’s pounded the Cougars from the get-go and did not let up, eventually cruising to a 17-5 blowout. Despite wind chill in the lower 20s, MIT collected twenty hits, including four hits and three runs scored from McKenney, three hits and three runs scored from Goetz, three hits and three runs scored from Piho, three hits, three runs scored, and 4 RBI from Loreto, and three hits and 2 RBIs from Kogel.

Lembke-Windler picked up his first win of the year, going the distance and scattering 10 hits while striking out five. The Cougars (10-17, 3-6 NEWMAC) shot themselves in the foot with 2 errors and 9 wild pitches.

With Wednesday’s game against Wentworth Institute of Technology rained out, the Engineers looked to even their conference record at 5-5 with Thursday’s home game against Babson. The Engineers play host to nonconference foe Endicott College today at 3:30 p.m. before journeying to the United States Coast Guard Academy tomorrow afternoon for a doubleheader, their final regular-season games.

In the midst of uncomfortably cold April weather, the Engineers have warmed up a bit, raising eyebrows within the NEWMAC and preparing to make a bit of noise come tournament time. Related stories: