RPI baseball met Vassar College on Friday, April 3 and Sunday, April 5 to exchange a pair of double-headers. Rensselaer entered the matchup with a 6-2 conference record and 7-7 overall record, having faced Skidmore College and Union College each with a pair of double-headers over Spring Break in Winter Haven, Florida. In the series, RPI swept Skidmore and exchanged even losses with Union. Prior to the series against RPI, Vassar was struggling with a 0-4 conference and 1-5 overall record, having been swept by Clarkson University in Auburndale, Fla.
Rensselaer also attended the Russmatt Central Florida Invitational in the same week, a tournament of over 200 colleges from all three divisions of NCAA baseball, losing a 12-inning game to Lawrence University and trading games with Thomas College. Prior to the trip to Florida, early-season play was primarily cut from or relocated within the Engineer’s schedule. After losing the first two games of the season to Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. on February 14, four of the next seven games were cancelled and the other three were postponed. Salisbury University and RPI managed to play a game on March 16 in Salisbury, Md., resulting in a 5-11 loss.
The first game of this week’s match-up started well early for the Engineers; after walking Vassar’s freshman infielder Eric Strickland, senior pitcher Jared Jensen retrieved the first out of the game by picking off Strickland at first base. After Vassar’s Bradley Kendall singled in the next at-bat, Brooks English batted into a 4-6-3 double play, ending the top of the first. The Engineer’s early momentum accelerated in the latter half of the first; senior second baseman Tim LeSuer sacrifice bunted Jensen and senior third baseman Tyler Listing into scoring positions, after both Listing and Jensen had started off the inning with back-to-back singles. In the next at-bat, Listing stole home on a wild pitch by Vassar pitcher Adam Erkis. With a man on third and one out, senior shortstop Nick Palmiero rocketed a triple to left center, easily sending Jensen home. RPI scored again in the next at-bat after sophomore first baseman Jason Ramos grounded out for the third RBI of the game.
The Brewers and Engineers exchanged runs in the third and fourth innings, with the score standing 6-2 RPI at the end of the fourth. Vassar would not score for the remainder of the game; Jensen struck out the first three batters he faced in the fifth, though one reached first on an error by the catcher. Rensselaer added to its lead in the bottom of the fifth with a two-run double from senior outfielder Shane Matthews, which came after junior outfielder Nick Annunziata and sophomore outfielder Thomas Desmond simultaneously stole second and third bases during the at-bat. That would be the end of scoring for the game, ending in an 8-2 win for RPI. Jensen notched his first win of the season, having pitched all seven innings and striking out eight.
In the second game of the day on Doris Robison Field, RPI utterly slaughtered Vassar. After a two-run second frame, RPI had a marathon of an offensive third frame. The inning started with a Listing walking, followed by Jensen being hit by a pitch, followed by a bunt-single from LeSuer, which loaded the bases with no outs for Palmiero, who walked in Listing. Then, Ramos singled to left field, allowing Jensen to score, followed by a two-run single from Annunziata, driving in Palmiero and LeSuer. A couple at-bats later, Ramos scored on a wild pitch, leaving a man on third and second with one out. Junior catcher Michael Croke then shot a double down the right field line, picking up the two RBIs. At this point, Vassar starting pitcher Trent Berg was finally relieved by Robert Winkelmann, having given up 10 runs in less than three innings. After walking Listing, Winkelmann let up a three-run homer to Jensen, the 10th run of the inning. That would be the end of the remarkable rally for RPI.
The Engineers would score again in the fifth on a two-run homer from Jensen and another two-run blast from Lawrence. With a couple more extra insurance runs in the seventh and Vassar being held scoreless, the game ended 18-0 in favor of Rensselaer for junior pitcher Greg Echeverria’s third win of the season. Echeverria struck out eight, including all three batters faced in the third inning.
Echeverria was named the Liberty League Pitcher of the Week for the week preceding March 23 for his .167 opponent batting average and 15 strikeouts in his 11 innings pitched that week against Salisbury University and Skidmore. With this win, Echeverria has pitched and won three consecutive complete games.
After relocating to Columbia University’s Robertson Field two days later, the two teams met again. Game three started in favor of Vassar, striking first after Vassar’s Denis Shanagher doubled, took third base on a wild pitch, and scored on a single from Nick Johnson in the first inning. In the third, Shanagher again advanced to third on a wild pitch after walking and stealing second, but was left stranded.
Rensselaer’s hitting remained mute until the fourth inning, when Ramos doubled to drive Palmiero home, who had reached first base on an error by Vassar’s shortstop. On the next at bat, Annunziata singled to shortstop, putting a man on first and second for RPI with one out for the next man up, Thomas Desmond. Given the strong position to score held by RPI, head coach Karl Steffen elected to replace Ramos on second with sophomore infielder Jeff Sitarski as a pinch runner. Desmond then ripped a triple to right center, sending Palmiero and Sitarski home for two RBI’s, putting Rensselaer up 3-1 over Vassar.
After pitching five innings and holding Vassar to one run, junior pitcher Charles Parslow was relieved by junior Stephen Schiavone in the bottom of the sixth. After striking out the two following hitters from Vassar, Rensselaer was still holding onto its short lead of 3-1. This wasn’t to remain, however. In the bottom of the seventh, Vassar brought the game within one on a single from Strickland after Kendall hit a double with one out. Schiavone then attempted to pick Strickland off at first but failed in his attempt, allowing Strickland to advance to second. Strickland then advanced to third on a ground ball to shortstop. On the at-bat, Schiavone threw a wild pitch as the fourth ball, walking Vassar’s English and allowing Strickland to score, tying the game at three. At this point, senior pitcher Adam Kalish relieved Schiavone and closed out the inning.
In the top of the eighth, Vassar made three fielder changes, replacing their third- and first-basemen and pitcher. Rensselaer then grounded out three times, never reaching base. After Kalish struck the first batter he faced out looking, Vassar’s Dakota Sagnelli fatefully tripled to left center. Adam Aponte relieved Kalish to no avail; in the next at bat, Matt Hernandez singled up the middle, allowing Sagnelli to score, ending the game 4-3 Vassar.
Game four started with a return to the Engineer’s favor, starting off with Jensen reaching second base with one out after a throwing error by Vassar pitcher Jonny Mrlik. Jensen then advanced to third on a ground-out to third base by LeSuer and scored unearned on a double by Palmiero. Rensselaer would go on to amass eight runs distributed 2-2-3 in the third, fifth, and seventh innings, respectively. The Brewers were held scoreless until the seventh, when senior pitcher Sean Conroy allowed the only run of the game. Conroy struck out seven for the win, including all three faced in the third.
In the series, the Engineers advanced to a 9-3 conference record. The Engineers will next face Bard College with a game at each team’s home field. The first will be a home game at Robison Field on Saturday, April 11, followed by an outing in Annandale-On-Hudson, N.Y. the next day. The Engineers have four remaining in-conference games, which will be against the currently undefeated in league, Clarkson University Golden Knights and Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers on April 18 and 19 and May 1 and 2, respectively.