The Fairfield University baseball team commenced their season this past weekend by participating in the “Baseball at the Beach” bash in Conway, S.C., on the campus of Coastal Carolina University by participating in a three-game set against the likes of Coastal Carolina, Virginia Commonwealth University and Middle Tennessee State University.
The Stags, coming off of their best offensive season in program history in which they set program records in runs scored (390), slugging percentage (.483) and home runs (75), came out hungry in their first game of the three-game set on Friday, Feb. 17 against Coastal Carolina. They smashed four long balls, two of which came from graduate infielder Griffin Watson, with infielder Mike Becchetti ‘23 and catcher Matt Venuto ‘23 each belting one of their own. Facing a superior program in the Chanticleers, the Stags raced out to a 2-0 lead at the top of the first inning off of the Becchetti homer before falling behind by six. Watson blasted his first of two long balls on the day by cutting the lead in half at the top of the fifth to make it 8-4.
The home-run frenzy would not end there, as Watson and Venuto would hit back-to-back jacks at the top of the seventh to keep the Stags within reach, 13-7. The Stags’ only runs in this contest were scored off of the long balls, but nearly everyone in the starting lineup contributed somewhat offensively. Seven of the nine starters managed to obtain at least one hit, with the unit getting 10 hits as a whole in the contest. Despite the solid offensive performance, it wasn’t enough to trounce the Chanticleers, as the Stags dropped their first contest of the season, 14-7.
The Stags faced off against VCU on Saturday, Feb. 18 in their second contest of “Baseball at the Beach”. They endured a rough start, as the Rams managed to tally six runs across the first two innings, including five in the first. Pitcher Jack Erbeck ‘23 was inserted in the third-inning to help cool things down, proceeding to pitch four frames to go along with six strikeouts. He retired nine consecutive batters before VCU added three more to the scoresheet at the top of the sixth to ramp their lead up by nine. Fairfield finally made some noise as Venutto smashed a three-run shot at the bottom of the seventh, which put them on the board but still trailed by six. They failed to score again, as VCU added one more run before the Rams secured the win, 10-3.
Lining up against Middle Tennessee on Sunday, Feb. 19, the Stags were hoping to bolster some much-needed confidence by coming out with a win before departing the Palmetto state. They managed to get the job done, with the offense coming up big in a 14-9 victory over the Blue Raiders. The Stags scored their first run of the game at the top of the first by thinking outside-the-box. With runners at first and third, Becchetti ran towards second and forced the throw, allowing Watson to steal home to put the Stags on the board first.
No team scored again until the fourth, as infielder Matt Bergevin ‘24 blasted his first homer of the season, a two-run bomb that increased the Stags lead to three. After Middle Tennessee cut the lead to one scoring two at the bottom of the fourth, the Stags rebounded by gaining their three-run lead back, in which outfielder Ryan Strollo ‘23 and infielder Charlie Pagliarini ‘23 each belted the first pitch in the fifth and sixth innings over the outfield wall, respectively.
After a five-run Middle Tennessee rally at the bottom of the seventh that put the Blue Raiders up by two, Fairfield tied the game at the top of the eighth after a two-run Watson single in which an error was committed by Middle Tennessee in the process. They then put up seven at the top of the ninth, destroying any remaining momentum Middle Tennessee had left as they went up a touchdown, 14-7. The rally started when graduate infielder Noah Lucier hit a leadoff double that proceeded to send him home off of a Watson single. Venuto brought home Lucier off a bunt single, reaching base safely in the process. Pagliarini later hit a two-run double down the right-field line to increase the lead by four. Bergevin proceeded to obliterate any remaining confidence the Blue Raiders had by demolishing his second long ball of the day to put the Stags ahead by seven.
Middle Tennessee added two more at the bottom of the ninth, but it was not enough, as the Stags achieved their first win of the season on the heels of an outstanding show put on by the offensive unit. Every starter picked up at least one hit, with Watson and Pagliarni leading the squad with three apiece. Watson also led the team with a superb batting average of .467 to go along with seven hits. On the mound, Colin McVeigh ‘24 got the nod and pitched three scoreless innings to start the ballgame before surrendering two runs in the fourth. Jake Memoli ‘26 made his collegiate debut in the fourth, relieving McVeigh, as the Green Brook, N.J. native pitched 1.2 scoreless innings to go along with just one walk to bring the game to the sixth. Graduate student Luke Marshall picked up the win, entering the game in the eighth inning with two runners in scoring position but would get out of the jam with a groundout to end the inning.
The Stags will travel to Washington, D.C. this Friday to take on George Washington University in a three-game set this weekend. For more information on the Fairfield University baseball team and athletics as a whole, please visit www.fairfieldstags.com.