Baseball splits matches in non-conference play

Junior Matt Schwartz hits a frozen rope in a game at Prentiss Field earlier this season. Vassar baseball looks to build off of some recent non-conference games as they brace for league playoffs./ Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

The Vassar baseball team took on two opponents in back-to-back double headers this past weekend. The Brewers hit the road to compete with Moravian College on Saturday, April 21, and then headed back to Prentiss Field to match up against Lehman College at home. The Brewers lost two close games on Saturday, both decided by a single run.

For VC, juniors led the scoring in the first game: Jake Doyle was 2 for 3 with a homer from Matt Schwartz. The second game proved to be livelier on the offensive end, but the Brewers were unable to hold off Moravian and fell in their second game.

The following day, VC took on Lehman College for another double header. From the first two innings, the Brewers had a stronghold on the game: Vassar scored twice in the bottom of the first inning and came back strong after Lehman put up two runs in the top of the second, answering with three runs in the bottom of the second. The Brewers exploded for four more runs over the course of the game, compared to the Lightning Bug’s two, securing the 9-4 victory for the Brewers in their first matchup of the day. While the team’s offense in the second game of the day was equally explosive, the Brewers had an incredible defensive game, only allowing Lehman to drive in one run the whole game and finishing out the weekend with a 9-1 victory.

After their four-game weekend, the Brewers are now just over .500 for the season, sitting at a convincing record of 14-13. The Brewers have had a stellar season so far, picking up three wins each against St. Lawrence University and Skidmore College and picking up one win each against University of Rochester and Clarkson University.

The Brewers were able to pull out two conclusive wins on Sunday after a tough day of games on Saturday. Senior captain Bobby Kinne, who is amongst the top players in the Liberty League, commented on the challenges each weekend can bring. “The biggest difference between the two days was our execution. On Saturday we made a few uncharacteristic mistakes that cost us in two tight games,” Kinne explained. “But on Sunday, we were much more prepared and executed on a higher level. The guys have been so great bouncing back all year long from tough losses, and I think it’s a testament to the mental toughness and resilience of this group.”

These next few games are important for the Brewers because securing some more wins could help them land a playoff spot, something that Kinne and the rest of the team have their sights set on. However, just making the playoffs is not their only ambition. Kinne commented. “We are hoping to clinch a playoff spot in the next two weeks and make a run at the Liberty League title. Last year we dropped both playoff games, so we want to not only make the play-

offs, but also make some noise when we get there.”

In terms of how they are going to achieve their goals, Kinne is focused on getting the team physically and mentally prepared for the last few games of the season. “For me personally as a captain, I just want to help everyone feel prepared and energized in this final stretch of the season and get my job done on the field. We have such a deep, talented and well-coached team, so I trust everyone will be ready for this playoff push and, ideally, a title run after that,” Kinne expressed.

Although the Brewers are a younger team this year, players and coaches alike can attribute much of their success to the leadership and knowledge of the upperclassmen and captains.

Sophomore pitching standout Max Spencer has nothing but respect for the upperclassmen on the team, especially the three captains, Bryan Rubin, John Madsen and Bobby Kinne. “Be-cause our team is so young, and so many of our freshmen and sophomores are in important roles, having leadership that does all of the little things right is crucial to the learning process,” Spencer explained. “Our leadership has done a great job at showing the younger guys what they’ve learned over their careers, and this kind of leadership has enabled us to be better ball-players.”

In terms of team dynamic, Spencer cited the importance of attention to detail. Due to the full schedule, it is difficult for the team to only have long-term goals in mind: “Because we play so many games, often four in one weekend, it becomes difficult to constantly have a hard focus on larger goals,” Spencer commented. “Of course, we have plans to do big things this year, but our belief is that if we get the small things done, day in and day out, it will lead to bigger success.”

Spencer feels that this type of day-to-day is necessary for the team’s success and that the positive atmosphere the Brewers boast has helped them adapt to obstacles over which the team has no control. “Whenever there may be adversity, our team dynamic allows us to easily adjust and trust the ways we prepared to face that scenario in our practices, therefore mak-ing that obstacle easier to overcome,” Spencer expressed.

This baseball team has found incredible success thus far, and much of it can be attributed to unfaltering enthusiasm and support from the upperclassmen, as well as an important shift in the culture of the team. Coach Matthew Righter, who is in his second season at Vassar, explained the immeasurable impact that the seniors have had on the team this season. He remarked, “They have all been engaged and work hard, especially captains Bobby Kinne and John Madsen. Those two have been transformational to our program and will be truly missed next year. Our other seniors—Derek DeMild, Chris Lee, Eric Strickland and Matt Hernandez—have also been an important part of this program.”

Wins and losses are not the only focus for the team. There is a emphasis on fostering a positive team dynamic and creating a team culture that emphasizes not only being successful in baseball but also excelling when it comes to academics. Righter commented on how proud he is that the team enjoys and takes advantage of being involved in other aspects of the Vassar community.

“In addition to our upperclassmen being engaged in baseball, they have also been instrumental in changing the culture of this team. I think other people at Vassar can say they appreciate the way this team engages the rest of the community and how the guys go about their business,” Righter expressed. “They are respectful and caring for others plus do their very best in the classroom. We were actually just awarded by the ABCA [American Baseball Coaches Association] for having a team GPA of 3.56.” Coach Righter credits the change in the team culture to the efforts of the seniors and expects that this mentality will continue for years to come, with the help of the underclass-men following suit.

With two big league matches each coming up against Bard and Union on April 28 and 29 and May 5 and 6, respectively, if the Brewers continue playing with the tenacity they have been bringing to each game all season, they will be a tough group to stop when playoffs roll around.

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