Fordham Baseball Takes One of Each


Alvin Melendez, more known for what he did on the mound last season, takes a swing at the plate. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

By Jack McLoone

Alvin Melendez, more known for what he did on the mound last season, takes a swing at the plate. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

In baseball, like most sports, there are wins, and there are losses. But ties? Ties in baseball are so bad that the rare occurrence derailed Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game for a decade. But Fordham Baseball still managed to scoop one up thanks to travel constraints, hitting the trifecta of a win, loss and tie in its opening weekend.

The Rams 2018 started on a sour note with a 10-inning loss to the Evansville Purple Aces, but could have surely felt a lot worse.

Junior pitcher Reiss Knehr started the game for the Rams and struggled with his location. While most apparent in his three wild pitches and two walks over just two innings of work, he was all over the place for the majority of his abbreviated outing.

“Reiss wasn’t his best on Friday and unfortunately we felt it was best to make the switch,” said head coach Kevin Leighton. “He had some close pitches that went for balls, but that happens when you aren’t locating well.”

With the score 3-1, junior Anthony DiMeglio entered the game and promptly struck out the side in the third. The fourth was more of an adventure, with a two-run homer, and two wild pitches contributing to a four-run inning for Evansville. DiMeglio gave up another home run in the fifth, a solo shot, but added five strikeouts over the next two innings.

The Rams had scored three in the bottom of the fourth and then added another in the seventh, so heading into the bottom of the eighth they were down 8-5. With runners on the corners and one out, freshman second baseman Jake MacKenzie made an instant impression: a three-run home run to tie the game.

“It was great to see a freshman come up with a huge hit in that situation and he had good at bats all weekend for us,” said Leighton. “The bench was pumped as soon as the ball left the bat!”

Sophomore Kyle Martin came in for the Rams in the ninth and worked a 1-2-3 inning, but Fordham could not get sophomore Matt Tarabek in from second in the bottom half, sending the game to extra innings.

In the top of the tenth, Evansville’s Troy Beilsmith scored from first on a double, giving the Purple Aces a 9-8 lead.

The Rams had the tying run 90 feet away and winning run on first in the bottom of the 10th, but junior catcher Justin Bardwell watched the ball into the glove for a called third strike to end the game.

“It was definitely a game that we could have won which is frustrating, but it was great to see us fight back from being down 7-1 at one point,” said Leighton of the loss.

The Rams had to turn right around on Saturday and take on the Wofford Terriers, who were hosting the weekend’s tournament.

Fordham did what it could to erase the previous day’s loss right away, with sophomore Billy Godrick starting the game off with a solo shot to left field. An RBI groundout by junior first baseman Brian Goulard plated sophomore centerfielder Jake Baker, giving the Rams an early 2-0 lead.

It could not have been better conditions for senior starter Ben Greenberg to enter a game for the first time in a year after missing all of 2017 with a back injury. And for his first time back, Greenberg performed pretty well. Over his three-plus innings of work he struck out four batters and induced four groundouts, but also walked four batters. However, three of them came in his first inning, where he walked the bases loaded but worked out of it with a double play. When he walked the leadoff man in the top of the fourth, he was removed for freshman Matt Mikulski.

“Right now all of our pitchers are on a bit of a short leash,” said Leighton. “Ben really struggled early but he made some pitches, settled in and competed to get the ball to Mikulski.”

If Greenberg was impressive in his first appearance in a year, it was nothing compared to Mikulski’s first-ever appearance as a Ram. Outside of an RBI double in the sixth and a walk before being pulled in the seventh, Mikulski was immaculate. Over his 3.2 innings, he had seven strikeouts and just two hits and the one walk.

Sophomore closer Alvin Melendez came in in relief of Mikulski and slammed the door, giving up just one hit – and hitting one other batter – over his 2.1 innings to finish up the 2-1 win.

In the final game of the opening road trip, against USC Upstate, the Rams were bumping up against a time constraint, a rarity for baseball.

In the second inning, the Rams took a 3-0 lead on the back of a throwing error and a two-RBI triple for Baker.

Outside of a fielding error by Godrick in left that allowed to a run to score, the tandem of junior starting pitcher Mike Cowell and sophomore Brian Weissert were solid through seven innings, combining to allow just six baserunners while striking out six. The Rams added another unearned run in the top of the seventh, making it seem like they could get out of South Carolina with two wins.

Even when sophomore Kyle Martin gave up a run in the eighth, everything seemed okay. But then freshman John Stankewicz broke the streak of strong pitching that stretched back to the Wofford game, giving up two runs (one earned) while getting only one out in the bottom of the ninth, tying the game at four.

The Rams did not get much going in the tenth but neither did USC, and with the Rams needing to catch their flight home, the game was called a tie after ten innings. It was Fordham’s first tie since 2011.

By running the gamut of outcomes in their first weekend, this young Rams team got a lot of experience in a hurry.

“The young guys all showed well this weekend and it is difficult knowing exactly how they’ll perform, but we have had confidence in all of them,” said Leighton.

The Rams will get their next crack at it with an unusually early home opener on Wednesday, Feb. 21 against Army. First pitch at Houlihan Park is scheduled for 3 p.m. Luckily, some unseasonably warm weather looks to be in store.