By Alex Hyman, Staff Writer
The Hofstra baseball team was well on its way to its first ever series win over VCU and its first CAA sweep since taking a series against George Mason last April, but the good feelings quickly turned ugly in the series finale.
Controversy struck in the top of the ninth after the first pitch of the inning from junior pitcher Bryan Verbitsky traveled a few feet behind a VCU batter. There had already been tension between the two squads and this triggered an ugly moment for the Pride's season as a benches clearing brawl insued.
Verbitsky was immediately ejected from the game and when the fighting came to a close, the game saw multiple ejections from both teams.
"We are not going to say if we were right or wrong," Russo said. "We're going to defend ourselves and I have no arguments with Verbitsky being thrown out and we just defended ourselves."
"It was definitely out of control and we need to keep our composure."
After everyone cleared off the field, the Pride was able to end the game 12-5 and complete the sweep.
Junior Austin Nyman completed his best weekend as a member of the Pride tallying six hits and three RBI's. He also turned a pair of key double plays while playing second base in the final game of the series. He is second on the team in runs scored with 20 and is a perfect 9/9 on stolen bases on the year.
"It feels great, we knew we were in a tough battle and swung the battle really well," said head coach John Russo. "I thought every game we outplayed them and we are very deserving of what we got."
In the first game of the series sophomore starter David D'Errico lasted into the eighth inning and picked up his second win of the season.
"Early on they were hitting me all over the park but I just kept throwing strikes and let the defense do work. The defense really played great today," said D'Errico. "I started throwing a lot more breaking balls and just pitched smarter".
Verbitsky pitched 1.2 innings of hitless ball to secure the save and the win for the Pride.
After going down early, the Pride plated three runs in the seventh after junior Jared Hammer hit a go-ahead two-run single.
Nyman and junior Dalton Rouleau added to the lead by each knocking in a run.
CAA Player of the Week, senior outfielder Danny Poma, led the team with three hits including a pair of doubles.
"It was a good win, we had our backs against the wall and it turned out well," Poma said. "If you're going to feed me fastballs I'm going to jump on them."
The middle game of the series was one of the Pride's best all-around performances of the season. Poma got things rolling in the first inning blasting his second homerun of the year. He finished the game four-for-four with three doubles and that homerun.
Hammer and junior second baseman Matt Ford combined to go six for eight with four RBIs. Senior designated hitter Kevin Flynn had his best game of the year getting three hits and an RBI. Sophmore catcher Matt Reistetter controlled the game from behind the plate, as he was able to catch a runner stealing second and pick a runner off of second base.
"Flynn and Reistetter really worked on their swing this week," Russo said. "We're really happy with the way they worked today".
Junior John Tiedemann improved his record to two and two going 5.1 innings giving up three hits and four runs. Junior pitcher Joe Burg finished the game off tossing three scoreless innings to pick up his first save of the year.
"I figured we might as well go with the W and throw our best guy there," Russo said. "It was a great performance by Burg".
The final game of the series was one of the more interesting games in recent memory. The game saw a number of ejections, a bench clearing brawl, a couple of balks, and even pitchers playing in the infield.
The game itself was also a thriller. With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the seventh inning, the Pride went right back to Burg who promptly got them out of the jam by getting VCU to hit into a 6-4-3 double play. The Pride worked off of that momentum and plated two in the bottom of the seventh after some shoddy defense moved Verbitsky to third and ended up scoring on a balk. Nyman then doubled to score Reistetter, which gave the Pride a 4-2 lead. Burg gave those runs up in the top of the eighth, but clutch pitching from junior reliever Cody Normand and great defense from Ford and Nyman let the Pride head into the bottom of the eighth down just one run.
"Burg and Normand have been our guys all year," Russo said. "I have a lot of confidence in the two of them".
Poma drew a leadoff walk and after a Ford infield single, it was Hammer who belted his first homerun of the season and gave the Pride a 7-5 lead. Two batters later junior T.J. Thomas blasted a two-run homer of his own making it a 9-5 game. The Pride would add three more runs in the bottom of the eighth sending 12 men to the plate.
"I thought our guys really answered them really well with the homer from Hammer and homer from Thomas," Russo said. "We've got a lot of things going well for us and I'm really happy".
The Pride battled Manhattan College on Wednesday and was defeated 9-4. The loss snapped a four game winning streak for the Pride as Brett Schreiber picked up his first loss of the year.
The Pride's next matchup is against Old Dominion University this weekend in Norfolk, Virginia.