Manifesting their strength on the diamond from pre-season conditioning weight room sessions with RPI head strength and conditioning coach Joe Schoenleber, the RPI baseball team slugged Alvernia University in Ashland, Virginia, on Saturday, winning 6-4 in their first game of the season. With the close of the ninth inning, head coach Karl Steffen celebrated his 800th career win. Steffen, a player in his own right who was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1978, began coaching at RPI in 1985. He is one of seven coaches in Division III history to have achieved this status.
At the top of the third inning, junior Yahriel Jimenez took advantage of a grounder by sprinting home off of third with bases loaded, collecting Rensselaer’s first run. Alvernia took the lead in the bottom of the inning with a two-run single, then increased it by another run in the bottom of the sixth.
Beginning in the top of the seventh inning, the Engineers scored four runs. Earning a walk, junior Jeff Sitarski was sent to first base, then proceeded to second following a single by sophomore J.T. Sawyer. Sophomore Christian Spagnuola bunted to move up his teammates, but was outed himself. Next up to bat, junior Matt Lawrence helped Sitarski home, and Sawyer went along to tie up the game. Jimenez and junior Sam Lawrence got the next two runs, bringing the score to 5-3.
In the eighth inning, Spagnuola doubled home Sawyer, but when Alvernia returned the favor, it merely mitigated their deficit.
“Coach Joe [Schoenleber] has always done a great job in getting us prepared for our season,” said senior team co-captain Steven Schiavone, who pitched on Saturday, striking out six. “He always has high energy in the weight room which is transferred to us athletes as we step in to work out either early in the morning or after a long day of class. It is definitely a competitive environment in the weight room which is what we need in order to compete highly in a competitive sport such as baseball. After such a successful season last year, our intensity and willingness to get better was definitely evident in the weight room this pre-season.”
Undefeated so far this season in all six of their games, the Randolph-Macon College Yellow Jackets, whom the Engineers faced on Sunday, came out on top in both games of the doubleheader, although the second was called in the fifth inning due to rain.
In Game one, the score was tied 3-3 in the final inning until Jeffrey Butler tripled, scoring the final run for Randolph-Macon. Game two spelled disaster for the Engineers when Randolph-Macon gathered ten runs in the third inning, winning 14-1 overall, but although the score wasn’t so good, many rookie RPI pitchers got the opportunity to practice off a real mound for the first time.
“What’s good to take away from Randolph Macon was that all the pitchers got to throw in a real game off a real mound,” said senior co-captain Greg Echeverria. “Now I’m sure everyone has a better idea of what to work on for next weekend and the rest of the season.”
The Engineers will be busy on Saturday when they challenge Oswego State in another non-league doubleheader in the morning, and then play Virginia Wesleyan College in the afternoon. To close out the weekend, they will compete against Oswego State on Sunday.