The Fairfield University men’s baseball season was stopped entirely after 11 games last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a long and anticipated wait, the Stags were back in action this past weekend, hosting the Canisius College Golden Griffins in a four game series. The previous meeting between the two teams was a split series in the 2019 season. 

The first double header of the series took place on March 20, at Alumni Baseball Diamond Field, where the Stags won their season opener by a score of 4-7. Starting pitcher Trey McLoughlin ‘21, demonstrated his dominance by striking out 11 batters and only giving up three runs in six innings pitched to receive his first win of the year. 

Fairfield found themselves in a 3-1 hole in the second inning, but showed great resilience to prevail in the end and win the game. 

The comeback started in the bottom half of the second, where Mike Becchetti ‘23 lined a double to right field, scoring Charlie Pagliarini ‘23 to cut the Griffins lead to 3-2. The Stags would tie the game on a Mike Caruso ‘21 RBI single and would then take the lead on a Mike Handal ‘22 run scoring double. 

After a solo Golden Griffins homerun in the fourth, the Stags punched back in the same inning with three runs of their own. Becchetti scored on a throwing error, then back-to-back sacrifice flies from Handal and graduate student Dan Ryan gave the Stags a 7-4 advantage.

McLoughlin held the lead for two more innings, where he was then replaced by Nick Grabek ‘21 who would finish the game with a perfect seventh inning picking up his first save of the season.

The Stags have been eager to get back on the field, a win on their opener will be huge for the team’s confidence. Head coach Bill Currier, has also been eager to see his team back and action, excited for the season.

“It’s great to see the players have a reason for all the practices and hard work,” said Currier. “[With] All the hard work the kids put in, it’s great to play. Everybody is seeing the new kids and the returning kids who haven’t played in over a year.”

The nightcap game was a batting clinic from the Stags, who blasted six home runs in a commanding 13-4 victory, making the series 2-0 Fairfield. 

Justin Guerrera ‘22, had a historic game belting three home runs, becoming just the third Stag ever to hit three home runs in a single game. 

His historic game started in the very first inning, where he lined a missile for his first of the day to drive three runs home and give the Stags a 3-0 lead.

In his next at-bat, Guerrera sent the ball over the center field wall to extend the Stag lead to 5-1 in the bottom of the third. Guerrera then ended his legendary night with a long home run in the sixth that cleared the scoreboard entirely. 

“He commanded the zone very well and made the pitchers throw to his power spots,” said Currier.  “He’s a very strong player who will be one of the best the conference has seen since Jack Gethings two years ago, with more power.”

Guerrera was not the only Stag to show his power in the final game, as the Stags belted six homers in the contest. The junior led the team with six RBI and three runs scored in the win with Handal, Ryan and Becchetti all driving in a pair as well. 

 On the hill for the Stags was Michael Sansone ‘22, who battled for seven innings, picking up his first victory of the season. Sansone was comfortable throughout the game, retiring nine of the final 10 hitters he faced and controlling the zone. 

High on confidence after a season opener win, the Stags build on with another strong outing and start off the season with a record of 2-0. 

The men’s baseball team completed the four game series the next day against the Golden Griffins of Canisius College, winning both games of the Sunday double header on March 21. 

After the series sweep, the Stags now have a record of 4-0, marking the best start to a season in program history. 

The opener of the double header was a close contest, with the Stags winning by a narrow margin of 6-3. On the mound for the Stags, fans saw the return of graduate student John Signore, who has not pitched at home since May 5, 2018. 

The sixth year senior started right where left off, as he pitched 5.1 innings while striking out six and allowing a lone run in his 2021 debut.

 His six strikeouts brought his career total to 239, tying for second place on the program’s all-time strikeout list, which is a huge accomplishment.  

The one run he surrendered was the first of the game, where he gave up a solo home run in the second inning and the Stags were down 1-0. 

As they did in the first game of the series, the Stags answered back, scoring in four-straight innings. 

Ryan began a two-out rally in the third after getting hit by a pitch. Thanks to a pass ball and a wild pitch on back-to-back pitches, where he reached third base. Ryan would complete the run as he scored on another passed ball. 

Graduate student Sean Cullen gave the stags a lead with an RBI single in the third inning. Matt Venuto ‘23 and Guerrera, added insurance to the lead, homering in the fourth and fifth innings, extending the lead to 5-3. 

The fifth inning home run by Guerrera marked the fourth for the junior on the weekend. The Stags would then add another  run with a Mike Handal ‘22 RBI single in the sixth.

Canisius added some pressure in the final stretch of the game, scoring two runs in the seventh inning, and filling the bases with the go ahead run at-bat.  Bryson Cafaro ‘21, would win the battle, ending the game with a strike out and a line out, securing his first save of the season.

Another gritty wins for the Stags, they show that they don’t mind playing from behind. In two out of the three games so far this season, they have gone down in early innings, but showed no signs of being rattled, prevailing with strong wins. 

The last game of the series was a much more dominating and comfortable win for the Stags, as they easily beat the Golden Griffins by a score of 8-0. 

The afternoon game would feature the return of starting pitcher Jake Noviello ‘22, who made his first appearance on a mound since the win over Manhattan in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships in 2019. 

Returning from an injury, Noviello tossed a gem of a game, best of his career with a personal best six innings and a career best seven strikeouts.

Fairfield gave run support to their starter with a pair of runs in the first and fifth innings. The Stags then added to their lead in the fifth inning with thanks to a Handal RBI groundout and a two-out blast by Ryan, his second on the weekend.

The Stags busted the game open in the sixth with a two run double by Ryan and a two run single by Guerrera, putting Fairfield ahead at 8-0.  

“Our goal is always to win the MAAC,” said Currier. “We achieve these goals by putting in our best effort each weekend and stay smart and healthy.”

The Stags definitely look like they will be competing for another MAAC championship and will be one of the most dangerous teams in the conference at this pace. 

Fairfield looks to build on this historic start, as they travel to Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ for another four-game set beginning on March 27.

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Fairfield U ‘22 | Sports writer | Sports media major | Essex, CT

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