Baseball team gets last laugh against WPI

First-year+infielder+Briggs+Loveland+has+driven+in+five+runs+this+season%E2%80%94one+of+which+was+a+walk-ff+against+WPI+on+April+12.

Photo: Bryan Simmons-Hayes

First-year infielder Briggs Loveland has driven in five runs this season—one of which was a walk-ff against WPI on April 12.

By Tyler Foy, Sports Editor

With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, first-year infielder Briggs Loveland delivered the final blow necessary for the Emerson Lions to complete an eight-run comeback against Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The baseball team took a 40 minute bus ride to their midweek NEWMAC match-up at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Mass. Emerson entered the game coming off four straight losses—the first of which was an 11-10 loss to WPI concluded by a three-run ninth inning from the Engineers.

The Lions looked for—and found—redemption in their second meeting, but the game was far from smooth sailing.

Starting the game for the Lions was first-year right-hand pitcher Ezra Charles, who sat the Engineers in the top of the inning. Emerson capitalized in the bottom of the first with a double from junior first baseman Matt Nachamie to deliver the first of many runs in the ballgame.

The tide turned in favor of the Engineers in the second. Charles hit one batter and walked another to open the inning, and the next at-bat was a hard line drive fielded quickly to hold the runner at third. Bases loaded, WPI’s Michael Fraser got a pitch he liked and sent it over the fence for a grand slam. 

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Charles got out of the second, but the long ball would haunt him again in the third. A bloop and a blast extended the Engineers’ lead to 6-1 which led to a pitching change for the Lions; sophomore right-handed pitcher Chris Lowe entered the game and pitched two scoreless innings.

Once the Lions appeared to have stopped the bleeding, WPI struck again. Lowe got the first batter out to start the fifth but back-to-back walks and a single loaded the bases with Fraser at the plate again. He delivered another key hit—a single into center field, scoring two. A hit by pitch loaded the bases again, resulting in another pitching change. 

Junior right-hander Joshua Caltabiano stood in to mitigate the damage—a task he did successfully, getting out of the jam with only one additional run allowed in the inning.

Staring at a 9-1 deficit, the Lions had their work cut out for them if they wanted to get back into the ballgame. Loveland said the older players kept team spirits high. 

“It just seemed like we weren’t gonna pull through,” he said after the game. “We were down 9-1 in the fifth inning, but our captain Calvin Jacey and senior Joseph Colucci pulled us together and said ‘hey, there’s no quit in us, we can chip away.’”

 Emerson started the bottom of the fifth with two base runners who moved into scoring position after a bunt. Junior infielder Thai Morgan laced a double into right field, scoring the Lions’ first run since the first inning. A fielder’s choice from Nachamie brought in the runner from third and Emerson moved from eight runs behind to six.

A pivotal shutdown inning from Caltabiano allowed the Lions to return to offense, and a single and a wild pitch put the Lions in scoring position. Senior infielder Calvin Jacey scorched a double into the gap to score the runner, cutting the Lions’ deficit to five.

The Lions were gaining momentum and first-year two-way player Lucas Simms was slotted in to pitch. He kept the ball rolling for the Lions, sitting the Engineers down in order.

Loveland led off the bottom of the seventh with a double. An error allowed Morgan to reach base as well. Nachamie, who had already driven in two runs at this point, stood in the right-handed batter’s box looking to continue his dominance. A couple of pitches later, he cranked one to the opposite field fence for a three-run homer to close the gap to two. 

WPI reliever Carter Bach walked the next batter, and a double off the lefty bat of senior outfielder Lou Davolio put runners on second and third with one out. Junior infielder Jake Hatch sent a ball deep enough to score the runner on third and a strikeout ended the inning with WPI clinging to its 9-8 lead.

The Lions’ progress seemed to slip away as a lead-off triple, a hit-by-pitch, and a walk loaded the bases for the Engineers. In came sophomore right-handed pitcher Benny Guevera in a tough spot and three outs to get. 

His work began with a groundout to second base, scoring one. The next batter sent one to second, but Loveland threw the ball home to secure the out.

Guevara escaped the jam with a strikeout, only allowing one runner to score. Guevara said he thrives in high-pressure situations like these.

“It’s amazing,” Guevara said after the game. “It’s a lot of pressure, but it speaks a lot to the coaches and having faith in me. I’m just going to do my absolute best to provide for the team. I really want the ball in those situations.”

Photo: Bryan Simmons-Hayes
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Benny Guevara notched his second win of the season against WPI.

The Engineers held off the Lions in the eighth—a challenge Emerson returned in the top of the ninth. The Lions entered the bottom of the ninth down 10-8—a scenario WPI knew all too well. Just one week prior, in the teams’ meeting on April 5, WPI scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Lions 11-10. Now, the Lions had a chance to return the favor.

Senior infielder Joe Colucci hit a single after a line out to start the inning. A walk and a Jacey single loaded the bases for sophomore catcher Jake Okamoto. The Californian placed a sacrifice fly deep enough to score the runner from third, closing the deficit to 10-9. 

Down by one, the Lions didn’t have any more outs to work with. But a failed fielder’s choice allowed senior outfielder Quinton Copeland to reach home and tie the game at 10. 

Loveland walked to the plate to face WPI sophomore pitcher Noah Pins. Loveland, who had struck out swinging in a pinch-hitting appearance against Pins on April 5, now found himself a shot at redemption. 

He slapped Pins’ second pitch back where it came from, taking two hops before reaching the outfield grass. Jacey was waved home, but the center fielder threw a dime to the catcher’s glove. The ball landed after a hop and Jacey slid headfirst behind the tag. By the time the umpire could make a call, the Lions knew they won. Loveland said he had manifested the appearance.

“I just had that feeling,” Loveland said. “I [knew I was] going to be up this inning and as the inning went on, it just seemed like it was becoming reality. I went to our first baseman Matt [Nachamie] and one of our sophomores Blake Benway and said ‘We’re winning this game.’ They both went ‘Whoa, whoa, don’t jinx it.’ And I kind of just walked away. I had that confident feeling of ‘this is coming to me.’”

As Loveland’s teammates rushed towards him when he rounded first base, he said he felt the greatest adrenaline rush of his career. He reflected on the moment and his previous failures in late game situations.

“That’s a terrible feeling,” he said of past walk-off losses. “Some of those nightmares loomed over me for so long. To have the one finally go my way was so awesome.”

Emerson baseball battled back from an eight-run deficit to win an unlikely ballgame, returning the favor against WPI and moving to 2-4 in conference play. 

Guevara said the team’s determination has been a part of their mentality since day one.

“We preach that if we stick together…we’re gonna win a lot of games,” he said. “Sometimes we get in those moments where we were down 9-1 and the dugout goes a little silent for a couple innings. But we stuck through it. We didn’t hang our heads.”

The Lions will continue their season on April 15 against Babson College.

Vivi Smilgius contributed to reporting.