Baseball splits against Union, preps for final playoff push

The Vassar baseball traveled up I–87 this past weekend, splitting both of the double headers they played against Union College in Amsterdam, NY. On Friday, the Brewers won a pitcher’s duel 1–0, but fell in the second game 12–3. The offense came alive for Vassar on Friday, carrying them to a 9–1 win, but in the day’s second game, the Brewers’ bats cooled off and the team fell 8–1.

Head Coach Matthew Righter, in his third season leading the Brewers, was pleased with how the team played against Union, who currently sit third in the Liberty League. To Righter, the Brewers’ two wins this weekend proved that the team is strong enough to compete with any conference foe. “Union is one of the better teams in the league, and we showed that when we execute on the mound, in the field and at the plate we can beat anybody,” Righter attested via email.

Righter was especially encouraged by the play of two Brewer pitchers: sophomore Pat Fitzgerald and first-year Sam Brinster. “We have high expectations for those two and we’re really happy to see everything come together for them and their two performances,” Righter said. The duo combined for nine innings and no runs allowed over the weekend, with Fitzgerald earning Friday’s win and Brinster earning Saturday’s.

One of the big bats that led Vassar’s offensive explosion in Saturday’s first game belonged to junior Matt Martino. The first baseman paced the Brewers with two hits, three RBIs and a run scored, and now leads the team with a .360 batting average, 45 hits and 21 runs scored for the season. Although splitting the series was not exactly the outcome the team wanted, Martino is proud of the way the group competed. “We had some outstanding performances throughout the weekend from both our pitching and our hitting that allowed us to compete with one of the premier teams in the Liberty League,” Martino commented.

Senior outfielder Taylor Smach, boasting a .309 batting average, has been a key contributor for the Brewers these past four years. Similar to Martino, Smach felt that this past weekend’s showing against Union displayed the team’s promise. “I think that our team showed a lot of bright spots this weekend against Union. We had a couple of excellent pitching performances and a lot of really good at bats,” Smach said. “The focus this weekend was to continue executing small jobs each inning and hopefully that would translate to us scoring runs and winning games.”

With the two conference wins this past weekend, the Brewers are now 7-13 in the Liberty League. While the Brewers have picked up some solid wins this season, toppling Union, Bard and RPI, an air of disappointment understandably hangs around the players and coaches. Righter attributes much of the difficulty the team has had to problems staying healthy. “We had some season ending injuries to some key players like captain Jake Doyle,” said Righter, “plus lingering injuries which affected other key players on our team throughout the year.”

In addition to injuries, Martino feels that little mistakes have held the team back. Cleaning up these mistakes could go a long way for the Brewers, especially given the depth and talent on the roster. “We are a team that can put it all together at any given moment, and when we do, we’ve shown that we can go toe-to-toe with anyone,” Martino expressed.

While injury issues have hampered the Brewers’ performance this year, they have also provided opportunities for less-seasoned members of the team to play and pushed them to step up. Smach believes this experience will stick with them, adding, “The biggest thing that the team has learned so far this season is that everyone needs to be ready to contribute and to help us win games.”

As the team nears the end of the regular season, Righter is maintaining a positive attitude. “My goal is to still find a way to get little jobs done no matter the circumstances, which I believe will lead to more wins,” Righter explained. “I believe we have the talent and the depth to win this year like we did versus Union and RPI and I’m looking forward to seeing how we compete this week versus New Paltz and on the weekend against RIT.” Smach echoed Righter’s sentiment, and emphasized the “trust the process” mindset. “Looking at the end of the season, it’s important that we continue to focus on executing the little things, trusting that the wins will come,” exhorted Smach.

If the wins don’t come, April 28 will be the final game in Burgundy & Gray for seniors Smach, Alex Hartnett, Jake Doyle, Matt Schwartz, Joe Conti, Bryan Rubin and Jesse Mulham. Junior slugger Martino is confident that the team will put together five more solid games to finish out the year. “Heading into our last week of scheduled games, we are still focused on making a final playoff push,” Martino affirmed. “We are confident in the ability of our team to make a run at any point and are ready to close out the season on a high note, whether we make the postseason or not.”

Regardless of how the final few games turn out, Smach emphasized that the benefits of playing baseball at Vassar extends beyond the wins or losses. “My favorite part of being a member of the baseball team is the opportunity to learn and compete alongside a dedicated group of guys,” Smach commented, “I will definitely miss all of the wonderful friends I’ve made through being a part of this program the most.”

Adjusting to playing without key teammates is never easy, but the Brewers have taken their personnel losses in stride, maintaining a positive outlook on the season and displaying a sense of resilience that bodes well for the future. Before the focus turns to that future, however, the Brewers still have a few games left, and they’ll be looking to finish the season and send the seniors out on a high note.

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