Hornets seize ODAC lead with win over Washington and Lee
WINCHESTER – One day after losing for just the fourth time this season, Shenandoah University’s baseball team bounced back in a big way when given the chance to take over sole possession of first place in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference regular season race.
The Hornets hit a trio of home runs as part of a 13-hit attack against visiting Washington and Lee Thursday afternoon to back seven strong innings from starting pitcher Colin Morse, and SU picked up a 9-5 conference victory at Bridgeforth Field to seize the ODAC lead.
The two teams entered the day tied atop the ODAC standings and Shenandoah – ranked No. 1 in both the D3baseball.com/NCBWA and the American Baseball Coaches Association top 25 polls – now has a one-game lead over the Generals with two conference games remaining for each school. The Hornets (32-4, 15-3 ODAC) can lock up their fourth straight No. 1 seed in next week’s ODAC tournament by winning one of their two games against Virginia Wesleyan at home on Saturday.
“This game was really huge,” Hornets sophomore shortstop Robbie Marcelle said. “Bouncing back from (Wednesday, a 4-1 non-conference loss to Messiah), we had to come back and have some fire in our butt because yesterday we got it handed to us. We came out today with a purpose. We came out looking to get our front side down, hit line drives. Just let it loose.”
Marcelle, who was 2-for-2, reached base five times and scored twice in Thursday’s win, was one of three Hornets to hit a solo home run against Washington and Lee (23-11, 14-4), joining slugging senior designated hitter Jake Loew and junior third baseman Donnie Forgacs. All three players finished with two hits.
Junior second baseman Tristan Baker (double, two singles, walk) added three hits in a Hornet lineup that roughed up two of the Generals’ best arms – senior starting pitcher Tom Concklin and sophomore reliever Danny Devereux – for nine earned runs on 12 hits after mustering just five hits in Wednesday’s loss.
“I just thought our guys were mentally ready to go,” said SU head coach Kevin Anderson, who added that the Hornets wanted to be aggressive against Concklin, who entered the game with a 2.63 ERA. “That’s the great thing about baseball. Unlike football where you’ve gotta sit for a week, you’ve gotta get right back out there and make some adjustments in pregame, and the guys carried it over. I mean that’s a huge win.”
The Hornets’ own ace looked the part on Thursday after a rocky first two frames, as Morse scattered five hits over five different innings and limited W&L to two earned runs. He walked three, hit a batter and struck out eight over his seven innings to improve his record to 8-0 this season.
Two of Morse’s walks and the hit-by-pitch came in the second inning before the junior right-hander found a rhythm.
“(Morse) made some adjustments in between innings, which is a sign of a very mature pitcher, where a lot of times when things aren’t going good, you can’t find it, but he kept his composure, settled in,” Anderson said. “I mean the wind was blowing straight out and to only give up two against a really good Washington and Lee club is a testament to him.”
Morse, pitching in front of a handful of major league scouts, found himself in trouble in the top of the second inning when he gave up a leadoff single to Ryan Monson and sandwiched back-to-back strikeouts between a pair of walks to load the bases with two outs.
Morse plunked leadoff man Kyle Ruedisili on the first pitch to plate the game’s first run before he escaped further damage with his third strikeout of the inning.
“Just felt a little robotic at first, really wasn’t getting my hand out of my glove,” said Morse, who also surrendered a solo home run to Ryan Weston in the top of the fifth. “But I just beared down and talked to Coach Anderson and (assistant coach) Mike Scimanico in the dugout and really just kind of figured out what I was doing, reset, tried to not be so tense. Then the runs started coming and I started to relax a little bit.”
W&L’s lead evaporated quickly, as Marcelle tied the game with a solo shot to center off Concklin to lead off the bottom of the second.
“It’s awesome. As a pitcher you give up one, you start to think about it like ah, was that my fault? And then you get a run back and it’s just we’re back in this,” Morse said of Marcelle’s homer, his second of the season. “It was just one run but Robbie’s home run definitely put us back in there and got everyone else hyped up the rest of the game.”
Loew gave SU the lead with a mammoth homer – his 10th of the season – to right field with one out in the third, and RBIs from Abel Arocho and Dan Cameron broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth to give the Hornets the lead for good.
Forgacs’ solo shot in the sixth, his first of the season, gave SU a 5-2 lead before a Hornet two-out rally blew the game open in the seventh, when four hits – including RBI singles from Christian Rice and Forgacs and a two-run double by Nick Goode – generated four runs and a 9-2 lead.
SU reliever Matt Burns gave up three runs (two earned) in the top of the ninth before Tyler Hott closed out the win by getting the final two outs.
Concklin (6-3) lasted just 4 1/3 innings for W&L, during which he allowed four earned runs on six hits, two walks, a hit batter and two strikeouts while taking the loss. Devereux was tagged for five earned runs on six hits and a walk over 2 1/3 innings.
Shenandoah’s doubleheader with Virginia Wesleyan (19-17, 10-8 ODAC) is scheduled for a noon start on Saturday.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com