The dam is broken! Baseball bests Babson for first time in program history


Courtesy of Emerson Athletics

Emerson baseball fell 1-2 to Babson College, though notched their first-ever win over the Beavers in program history.

By Jordan Pagkalinawan, Managing Editor

Emerson baseball triumphed over Babson in game two of their three-game series on Saturday, marking the Lions’ first victory over the Beavers in the program’s history.

The win was the bright spot in the two-day series, which the Lions lost 1-2—falling to 3-6 in NEWMAC play and 15-14 overall. However, their performance against the second-best team in their division was strong enough, according to assistant coach Henry Butterfield, to tie Emerson’s program record for conference and overall wins in a season.

A Friday to Forget

Blanketed by sunny 87-degree weather at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton, the Lions’ play was anything but perfect in the first game of the series, falling to the Beavers 16-2.

Babson jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first with a right field single and a two-RBI single to right field. The Beavers followed with a two-RBI double off Lions’ junior pitcher Chris Lowe in the top of the second. A high single from senior infielder Thai Morgan to left field scored sophomore catcher Robby Posio, but they still trailed 5-1.

The Lions mounted two comeback victories earlier in the year, beating Bridgewater State in late March and Coast Guard on senior day. They hoped to work their magic once again, faced with multiple opportunities to cut the deficit.

After graduate outfielder Quinton Copeland was hit by a pitch and advanced to first, Emerson had him, junior utility Ty Bourne, and Morgan loading the bases. The Lions were unable to capitalize, unfortunately, after Hatch’s pop fly ended the second inning.

The next scoring runs would come in the top of the fourth as a wild pitch by Lowe ended in a run scored by Babson. Two more RBIs on consecutive at-bats would give Babson an 8-1 lead, and a three-run homer brought the score to 11-1. Despite the towering deficit, the Lions scored again as Copeland’s RBI single brought Morgan home in the bottom of the fourth.

Lowe’s day was done after the fourth, relieved by sophomore right-hander Alex Nissenberg. Babson scored four more runs in the top of the fifth, thanks to a home base steal, two earned runs, and an RBI. The Beavers scored once more in the top of the seventh with an opposite bomb to left field, and the game was called via mercy rule after seven innings.

A Saturday Split

Faced with defeat and motivated to turn things around, the Lions squared off against the Beavers on their rival’s home field in a Saturday doubleheader. They first won 12-5 and then lost 12-6.

In the first game, the Lions sprinted to a 4-1 lead thanks to a thrilling third inning. Emerson tied the game at one with Copeland’s left-field single that scored junior catcher Jake Okamoto. Loveland’s sacrifice-fly scored Morgan to give the Lions a 2-1 lead. They would get some breathing room behind Copeland scoring on a wild pitch and senior infielder Chris Ferara’s sac-fly scored Hatch. 

The momentum continued into the fourth, as Morgan’s single scored Bourne and Okamoto stole home to give the Lions a 6-1 lead.

Emerson continued to pile on the runs while keeping the Beavers in check. Following two runs scored by Babson in the fourth and fifth innings, senior catcher and co-captain Matt Nachamie and Okamoto scored on consecutive wild pitches in the sixth, giving Emerson a 6-3 advantage. Senior catcher and co-captain Matt Nachamie buried a two-run homer in the top of the eighth that also scored Ferara. As the Lions led 11-5 after a Babson sac-fly and RBI single, Morgan stole home in the top of the ninth, putting the exclamation point on a bounce back victory and keeping the Beavers at bay.

Okamoto and Morgan scored three runs each for the Lions in game one, while Copeland and Nachamie had two RBIs. The Lions’ pitching staff was equally excellent. Junior right-hander Benny Guevara came off the mound after striking out four Beavers and allowing five runs in six innings, while senior right-hander A.J. Ortega earned the save with four strikeouts in three innings.

Nachamie, who scored two runs and had two RBIs in the first game, was impressed with the team’s weekend outing. He noted that the team came into Babson’s home field with extra motivation following Friday’s blowout.

“We just wanted to come out [and] put some runs on the board,” he said. “All the guys at the plate just want to compete, everyone is thinking, ‘Compete, compete, compete.’ We make stuff happen that way.”

First-year infielder Justin Fields offered his perspective on Emerson’s historic victory.

“It was a lot of fun,” Fields said. “It was my first time at Babson, and it was a great atmosphere. Seeing one of the best programs in the country right now [and] competing against them and watching from the sideline was great.”

“We all came together for that game, and we looked good,” he continued. “The offense was rolling. It was just great for the whole team to get a sense of what we could really be, and hopefully we can carry that into the playoffs.”

Emerson was hoping to repeat their performance in the second game but couldn’t complete a Saturday sweep. After Posio’s ground out that scored Benway in the top of the second, Babson scored off of an RBI single and then took the lead with a sac-fly RBI. Trailing 3-1, the Lions slowly chipped away at the lead in the top of the third. Ferara’s left field single scored Loveland and, with the bases loaded, Ferara scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. Babson would regain the lead in the next inning with an RBI single, but Hatch’s fifth inning homer kept the Lions within striking distance at 5-4. The game was tied at five after Bourne’s left field single scored Ferara.

The Lions took a brief lead in the top of the fifth after Posio’s single scored Benway, but Babson quickly tied the game again with an RBI single. The bottom of the fifth turned out to be a productive one for the Beavers against sophomore right-hander Jake Morvillo, scoring on two wild pitches, two RBIs, and a sacrifice fly to earn an 11-6 advantage. Babson closed it out with a sac-fly RBI to left field, and the Lions fell 12-6.

Ferara and Benway led the way with two runs each, while Posio led in RBIs with two. On the pitching side, first-year right-hander Angelo Deer started the first four innings, ending with one strikeout and 11 runs. Sophomore right-hander Jake Morvillo pitched two innings and earned three strikeouts, and senior right-hander Joshua Caltabiano, who entered the 7th inning, finished with two strikeouts and gave up one run.

Following losses to Suffolk and Springfield, the 15-16 Lions face Wheaton College on Friday, April 21, at 3:30 p.m. Wheaton is currently ranked the No. 15 team in the country, compared to the unranked Lions, according to a recent poll by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

With the Lions mounting a playoff push, Nachamie noted the team’s desire to put more games in the win column.

“We’re going to try to win as many games as we can and put ourselves in the best possible position and best possible seeding to win playoff games,” Nachamie said.

Fields touched on the message from the veteran players following the team’s recent losing skid, as well as how it has motivated them heading into their looming series against Wheaton.

“The message mostly from the older guys has been, ‘We know what we can be when we’re at our best, so we just need to replicate that every game,’” Fields said. “It’s hard when a few things happen here and there—it’s hard to get back on track. But [the message has been to] stay within us, don’t worry about anything else and be a family, be one.”’

Vennochi’s message to the team is simple: “Stay the course.”

“These guys have put so much effort and energy in not just the last two or three weeks, but the [whole] year,” he said. “We’ve come really far. We’re one win away from setting the program record—that’s meaningful. It’s a long shot for the NEWMAC playoffs. I don’t think we’re mathematically out—I did go to Emerson, so my math skills are pretty low. But it’s always meaningful. You get to put the uniform on and you get to play hard.”

Vennochi also touched on the team’s chemistry and experience with adversity as the series comes up.

“I think this group is tight knit,” he said. “They care about each other, whether they play every day or don’t play at all. It’s a cool group to be a part of, and the culture they have set is positive.”

The head coach appreciates the opportunity to compete against a top team in the country, citing familiar opponents in MIT and Babson, who have been ranked in the top-25 in recent history.

“Not many teams get one crack at [No.] 15 Wheaton, and we get three,” he said. “The fact we beat Babson, it wasn’t a fluke—we beat them that day straight out. And they beat us too, twice. Once you beat someone like Babson, it’s pretty hard to not have belief you can beat anybody you go up against, and this team is talented enough to do that.”

Vennochi is applying a similar approach from the Babson win in the series against Wheaton.

“You have to be confident going into that series,” he added. “[Our] pitching, for the most part, has held up, and the offense is really capable. So it’s time to put it together. It feels like this will be the year we can [beat] Babson and Wheaton. That’s the year we’ve put together to this point. There’s still a lot at stake, and we’re pretty jacked up to have an opportunity to get them.”