After an excursion last weekend to the Peach State to kick off their season, the Fairfield University baseball team packed their bags and headed south once again, facing George Washington University in a three-game set at Tucker Field at Barcroft Park in Arlington, Va.
The Stags began their three game set on Friday, Feb. 24, with graduate student Jake Noviello getting the starting nod. After taking a 1-0 lead at the top of the second off of a groundout from graduate right fielder Mike Handal that brought home second baseman Mike Becchetti ‘23, they proceeded to surrender three runs at the bottom of the second and an additional four runs at the bottom of the third, putting the Colonials in a comfortable spot leading 7-1.
Fairfield got some reassurance at the top of the fourth after third baseman Charlie Pagliarni ‘23 belted one down the left field line to bring the lead down to five. GWU regained their six-run lead by adding one at the bottom of the fourth inning in addition to capitalizing by adding one more at the bottom of the sixth, placing them firmly in the driver’s seat with a 9-2 advantage.
The game appeared to be out of reach for the Stags, who were on the verge of a lopsided defeat. The Stags, however, refused to back down, proving to the Colonials that the game is not over until it is over. They pulled off a six-run rally at the top of the seventh inning. The coming-out-party occurred as seven of the first eight batters of the frame reached base safely, with Handal being the first runner to cross home plate off of a double to left-center from graduate shortstop Noah Lucier. A two-run single off the bat of catcher Mike Venuto ‘23 trimmed the lead down to four, bringing home both outfielder Paul Catalano ‘24 and Lucier in the process.
A passed ball proceeded to bring graduate utility player Griffin Wilson home while Venuto advanced to second, cutting the lead further down to three. Pagliarini then ripped a shot down the right field line to make it a two-run game, with Lucier crossing home in the process. The Stags added one more run in the frame when first baseman Matt Bergevin ‘24 flew out to right with Bechetti scoring, heading into the eighth in a much more comfortable position than they were in comparison to the seventh.
After a scoreless inning tossed by righty Jake Memoli ‘26 and lefty Bowen Baker ‘24, the Stags’ job was not yet finished. They relayed that message by tying the game off of a Watson single that featured designated hitter Nick Sturino ‘25 coming home, evening the score at nine. Baker, returning at the bottom of the eighth, went on to silence the GWU offense by striking out two, sending the game into the ninth with momentum all of a sudden swinging in the Stags’ favor.
Fairfield then successfully thwarted control of the game from the Colonials at the top of the ninth, as Pagliarini capitalized on his tremendous offensive performance by blasting his second homer of the game, a go-ahead bomb that gave the Stags their first lead since the top of the second. Lucier put the dagger in the Colonials’ hearts by chopping a single to center that advanced Handal home, increasing the Stag’s lead to two. Jack Erbeck ‘23 came in at the bottom of the ninth to earn the save, his first of the season with Baker also obtaining his first win of the season.
“I think combined with the relief effort of guys coming in and getting outs for us with the clutch hitting with Pagliarini being the offensive catalyst of the game gave us this win,” Head Coach Bill Currier said, according to the game’s official recap. “It was just a combined effort of guys not giving up and feeling that we can come back on anybody. It’s a good character build for us.”
After a day’s rest on Saturday, the Stags played a doubleheader on Sunday, Feb. 26, with the first pitch being thrown at 11:00 a.m. The first game did not go the Stags’ way, as the offense struggled to get anything going against GWU starter Chris Kahler, who pitched a complete game by throwing 137 pitches while giving up only six hits and two runs in the process. A silent offense and defensive miscues early on hurt the Stags, as they fell behind 4-0 after three innings. While cutting the lead in half off of a Venuto double and a Pagliarini fly out to center which brought home Venuto, it wasn’t enough. The score remained unchanged throughout the remainder of the outing as the Colonials took one from the Stags, 4-2.
The second game proved to be a lot more eventful than the first for the Stags, as they took advantage of an exhausted Colonials team and trounced them to a whooping 15-2 margin. Becchetti added a single at the top of the first to make the score 1-0, while Venuto hit a double to right at the top of the second to increase the margin to two. The next two frames saw the Stags add three runs apiece, increasing their lead to eight. Sturino began the third inning rally with a walk, followed by a Lucier single and a wild pitch that Bergevin took advantage of by running home. The Colonials’ defensive gaffes continued in the fourth, as Bergevin reached base on an error that saw Venuto scoring, which preceded a Sturino walk and a single off of catcher JP Kuzcik ‘26.
Pagliarini continued to cement his role as being Colonials’ kryptonite by adding a single to right-center to increase the lead to nine. After the Colonials scored their only two runs of the game at the bottom of the sixth, Fairfield went on a rampage at the top of the seventh, adding six more runs to set the margin at 13. A two-run single by Becchetti got things going, before a Bergevin fly-out to right to bring back Venuto gave the Stags their first double-digit advantage of the weekend. A double from Catalano, in the game as a pinch hitter, soon followed, before a Kuczik fly-out and a Lucier double succeeded. The game went on to remain scoreless for the remainder of the frame, as the Stags returned to Fairfield on a positive note by taking the series, winning two out of three. Colin McVeigh ‘24 achieved his first win of the season, throwing for five scoreless frames while giving up only three hits and striking out two in the process.The Stags will return to Virginia next weekend, as they will take on the University of Richmond, William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University from March 3-5, respectively. For more information on the Fairfield University baseball team and Fairfield athletics as a whole, please visit www.fairfieldstags.com for more information.