Baseball drops first four in league play

assar Head Coach Matthew Righter gestures in a game last year. His team’s third- place finish in the Liberty League last season was the best-ever for Vassar baseball, but Righter’s third campaign at the helm has gotten off to a rocky start in conference. Courtesy of Nick Jallat.

Baseball season is notoriously long. With their first home series of the 2019 campaign in the books, the Brewers of Vassar baseball are glad of that. After getting swept in four games by Clarkson, and outscored 49-17 in the process, the Brewers’ focus is perhaps more forward-facing than the average team. To their credit, Vassar isn’t hiding from its shortcomings.

Brinster acknowledged the obvious disappointment of the series, saying, “It was a rough weekend. We didn’t play our best.” Junior third baseman Matt Martino added, “[We’re] not happy with our performance at all. We made a lot of mistakes that we need to clean up this upcoming week.” There is not much more that needs to be said about the outcome of the weekend’s four games, which the Brewers lost 13-3, 18-5, 7-1 and 11-8.

All this is not to suggest that the weekend lacked any high points. Martino exploded for a pair of home runs in the final game, including a fourth-inning grand slam that knotted the score at six. Sophomore catcher Brent Shimoda finished 5-for-10 at the plate. Vassar’s pitchers struck out as many hitters as Clarkson’s, and the Brewers led for the first four innings of the weekend’s first game. As Martino acknowledged, “There were some bright spots in the series where [guys] stepped up in big ways to help us compete.”

There is also good reason for the Brewers to be optimistic going forward. Coach Matthew Righter’s group started Liberty League play strong, taking three out of four games against nearby Bard, with the one loss coming by a single run. The Brewers are 3-5 in conference play, good for fifth in the Liberty League, and 8-11 overall.

Sophomore catcher Brent Shimoda slides into base during a recent game. Shimoda went 5-10 at the plate in four weekend games against Clarkson, but his play was one of only a few bright spots for Vassar. Courtesy of Nick Jallat.

The team also has a knack for finishing stronger than it starts: in 2017, after losing their first five Liberty League games, the Brewers finished 11-10 and qualified for the conference postseason tournament. In matchups with traditional powerhouses like Williams and Babson, Vassar’s non-conference slate reflects a confidence that one rough series can’t shake.

Martino spoke to his belief in the Brewers: “We know that we can compete with any team in the Liberty League on any given day, and we’ve seen that earlier in the year against really good teams from around the country.” Brinster, getting right to the point, promised, “We’ll bounce back.”

While losing four straight games hurts, it’s the 16 games remaining in Liberty League play that will determine whether Vassar qualifies for the conference tournament, a tournament they’ve never won. The remaining Liberty League games will also speak to how the Brewers digest and move on from the past weekend, a true test of the team’s character.

From an attitude standpoint, Vassar appears to be in the right place. The team also has the talent to put the Clarkson series in their rearview mirror. Seven Brewers are currently hitting .300 or better, including Shimoda, whose .537 on base percentage leads the team. Sophomore pitcher Matt McGannon has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 3:1, and junior Mitchell Mullock, second in innings pitched, boasts a ratio of 4.5:1.

Vassar’s baseball program started in 1992. From its inception to the turn of the century, the baseball team went a combined 56-162. They didn’t belong to a conference. The subsequent 16 years saw two fourth-place finishes as the highest in Vassar’s Liberty League tenure. The last two seasons, Head Coach Matthew Righter’s first, have been Vassar’s best in program history.

Last year, the Brewers finished third in the Liberty League—good for their highest rank ever. Vassar baseball, after decades of difficulty, is recovering nicely from that dismal start. If this year mirrors the program’s rise, the 2019 Brewers are primed to bounce back after a tough weekend at home to kick off Liberty League play.

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