By Ronald Hanaki
The baseball season began last week, and ESU is already riding a three-game winning streak despite a preseason poll ranking the Warriors only number four in the PSAC East.
On Friday, February 13, ESU inaugurated the new season with a 6-5 victory over Felician College in North Carolina.
The score was tied 5-5 after six innings when sophomore outfielder Ben Bortz came through with a two-out RBI single to give ESU the win in its season opener. Senior pitcher Andrew Furber came on in relief to throw five and two-thirds innings of shutout ball with nine strikeouts.
Felician’s bid to tie the game in the ninth inning failed when ESU freshman catcher Steven Zimmerman, Jr. threw out Felician senior infielder Branden Shaw at home plate to preserve the win for the Warriors.
That game was followed by a Valentine’s Day doubleheader against Felician that lasted over seven hours. Both teams were allowed to use metal bats in the twinbill.
Those metal bats may have been part of the reason why the Warriors were able to pummel Felician’s Golden Falcons 29-1
in the first game of the doubleheader. The Warriors had an early stranglehold on the game with an 11-0 lead after three innings.
The 29 runs that the Warriors scored are a new school record. It was also the worst loss for Felician in the 16-year history of its baseball program.
ESU beat Felician 11-6 in the second game to complete the three-game sweep of the Golden Falcons.
Despite being out-hit by three runs, the Warriors stayed patient in drawing eleven walks. Following a 3-3 tie after five innings, ESU’s plate discipline finally paid off when they were able to break the game open with a seven-run sixth inning.
Junior starting pitcher Brandon Holup scattered five hits and two runs in four innings. Sophomore pitcher Tyler Eckman made like Mariano Rivera and blanked Felician for two innings to record his first save.
Thanks to the three-game sweep of the Golden Falcons, the Warriors have improved their ranking by two spots to number eight in the latest NCBWA Division II Atlantic Region poll that was released this past Monday.
ESU is only two years removed from a championship season in 2013. However, with the departures of Atlantic Region Player of the Year Chris Knott and third team All-American Nico Delerme, the Warrior offense has some big shoes to fill this season.
After his outstanding performance against the Golden Falcons, the Warriors might have found their man. Redshirt junior first baseman Matt Walewski went 7 for 11 with 4 RBI for a 0.636 batting average and a 0.714 on-base percentage to lead ESU past Felician.
Other top returning players for the Warriors include junior second baseman Nick Rabasco, junior starting pitcher Brandon Holup, redshirt junior pitcher Matt Festa, and senior pitcher Andrew Furber.
ESU will visit Murfreesboro, NC for a three-game series against hometown Chowan University beginning this Saturday, February 21.
ESU’s first games at home will be a doubleheader against Clarion on March 6.
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