NASHUA, N.H. — April traditionally brings showers, but for the last two seasons, the month has also brought some pretty good baseball for the Merrimack College baseball team.
The Warriors, who split a double-header against Saint Anselm here at Holman Stadium on Saturday, have won seven of their last nine games and are now 15-14 on the season. The Warriors are sixth in the NE10 Northeast Division with big divisional games this week against Bentley and Saint Michael’s on deck.
Ed. Note — This story will appear in Monday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
The Warriors’ bats exploded in the eighth inning of Game 1 on Saturday, turning a 3-2 lead into a 7-2 victory.
In Game 2, the Hawks chased Merrimack started Vin Zappulla after just 3.2 innings, but the Warriors were in the hunt late in the ballgame.
Trailing 4-2 entering the bottom of the ninth, Merrimack’s Matt Nicholson doubled to lead off the inning. Nicholson advanced to third on a William Keegan sacrifice fly to right field and he crossed the plate on a wild pitch to make the score 4-3.
Cory Wasylow singled to left on the ensuing at-bat and Mike Jamele was put into the game as a pinch runner, but he was caught in a rundown after a pickoff attempt from the catcher to empty the bases and take away the tying threat. Thomas Joyce flied out to end the game.
“It was a pretty positive weekend,” said Merrimack head coach Nick Barese. Merrimack won Game 1 of the three-game series, 5-4, on Friday night.
“Each game was a good battle,” Barese said. “Saint Anselm has good pitching and we were, offensively, able to get some timely hitting. From our standpoint, the bullpen was key to keep us in games and give us an opportunity late in every game. We were either bringing up the tying run or having it on base. We pulled it out in two out of the three games and fell shot the third time. But we’re happy with the way the guys played.”
The Game 2 loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Warriors; Merrimack had a winning streak as long as seven games last April.
Merrimack went 14-6 in April last season; the Warriors are 7-2 in April thus far in 2018.
“A lot of it has to do with familiar opponents,” Barese said. “We know who we will see once we get into divisional play and the guys are clicking at the right time. Our pitching has been slower to start but it came around at this time last year, too. Our bullpen guys are finding their role and solidifying things. Offensively, it’s the same thing. Guys are sliding into their spots in the lineup and we’re figuring it out. We’re putting good swings on the ball. The divisional play helps. We see these teams a lot and we have good game plans. It’s just a matter of can we execute?”
The Warriors, at times, are also battling the elements as much as the opponent. Friday night, in Game 1, the skies were clear and temperatures were in the 60’s. Saturday afternoon, the sky was overcast and the air was damp and in the 40’s.
“In the Northeast, and in the NE10, that’s what you get with March and April baseball,” Barese said. “At this point we’re used to it. But it takes some mental toughness. We pride ourselves on being mentally tough.”
Matthew Ronai leads the Warriors this season with a .382 batting average. Matt Nicholson leads the team with five home runs — Paul Buckley hit a solo shot on Saturday — and Nicholson’s 28 RBIs are also a team best.
Third baseman and leadoff hitter Joey Porricelli leads the team with 43 hits along with No. 2 hitter Tyler Lyne; they’ve also each scored 31 runs. Lyne and Porricelli went a combined 5 for 8 in the Game 1 victory.
In Game 1 of the series, starter Anthony Lupi picked up his third win of the season.
“We feel like our identity is that we won’t give up,” Barese said. “Regardless of the situation. Offensively, from our standpoint, our pitching staff has a lot of confidence because our bats can always get hot. Same with the starting pitchers and the bullpen. We have good pitching and some power arms in the bullpen that can keep us in games, keep it manageable and give our bats an opportunity.”
The Warriors hit the road for their next six games, beginning on Tuesday afternoon at Bentley. After that, the Warriors will be at AIC on Thursday and then play a three-game weekend series at Saint Michael’s in Vermont next week.