By Zach MongilloStaff Writer
The Hofstra baseball team recently improved their record to 3-4 this past weekend with two wins over Penn State University in a three-game series held at McCrary Park in Asheboro, North Carolina.
The Pride swept Saturday’s double-header, defeating Penn State 5-0 in the first game and then 5-2 later that night. The squad was ecstatic to get the sweep after a tough first series against Grand Canyon University the weekend before.
“It was great to win against Penn State as they’re such a well-known opponent. I think it’s good to win two games on any given day against any Division 1 team in the country. It’s hard to beat somebody twice,” head coach John Russo said. “I know the team was happy, but more importantly, I was real happy with the two pitching performances we got.”
The pitching staff certainly made some major improvements since the team’s first series of the season. Starting pitcher Nick Kozlowski and reliever Brett Schreiber combined for a shutout performance in game one. Despite allowing 14 total base runners in nine innings, they were able to make it out without allowing a single run.
“I think that really speaks to the experience that Kozlowski and Schreiber have, being a red-shirt junior and a senior. They’ve been in pressure situations, so they were able to get out of a lot of trouble. I don’t think that’s the best way to go about pitching, putting guys on that much and getting out of it, but they were able to do that on Saturday and I’m super proud of them,” Russo said.
Junior pitcher David Jesch was even more dominant, allowing just one run throughout 7 innings in game two. With an excellent ability to locate his pitches, he was able to tame the Nittany Lions.
“I thought Jesch’s performance was really good. He had a good location of his fastball, he had a breaking ball in play, and he was able to strikeout 7 batters,” Russo said. “He had really good stuff the whole game and went 100 pitches through 7 innings. He probably could have gone more as well, as he was cruising.”
While great pitching certainly helped the Pride in the sweep, there were some notable offensive performances as well. Senior Kenny Jackson was the driving force of the double-header, recording 2 home runs, 2 stolen bases, and 5 RBIs. This was enough to name him GoHofstra Student Athlete of the Week.
“It was nice to see Kenny hit the home run to get us the lead really quickly, then he got another pitch to handle and gave us a 4-1 lead with just 2 swings of the bat. He’s always able to do those things; he had 9 home runs for us last year. I was real excited for him to be able to do that,” Russo said.
Though Hofstra enjoyed a successful doubleheader on Saturday, they weren’t able to carry that momentum into Sunday. The Pride lost 4-10 to Penn State in the series finale, as their pitching woes re-emerged.
Sophomore Alec Eisenberg made some early mistakes that made it tough for the Pride to win the game. The right-hander gave up four runs in the first 3.2 innings of the game, and the team’s relief pitching struggled afterward.
“Alec put the leadoff batter on four times in four innings. That’s a big point of emphasis for our team,” Russo said. “You can’t go out there and successfully win games doing that, and we couldn’t win on Sunday. He has to pitch better.”
Russo and his coaching staff will need to make some tough decisions in terms of the team’s pitching if they expect to continue winning games. There will be a need to have four capable starting pitchers for series in coming weeks.
“We have to figure out who our four starters are going to be in those series, and right now I don’t feel like anybody’s really stepped up after Kozlowski or Jesch. I don’t know who it is just yet, but in the next two weekends we need to find another starter for sure with David D’Errico being injured.”
Hofstra will head out to San Antonio, Texas next weekend to face the University of the Incarnate Word in a four-game series. While this last weekend was successful for the Pride, there is still more work to be done before conference play starts in just a few weeks.
“I know we won two of three, and don’t get me wrong I’m happy about winning, but now that the weekend’s over we need to focus on doing stuff better and winning little battles,” Russo said. “We need to get more quality at bats and we need to get better results from the bullpen. There’s not a ton of guys that I know that I can go to late in the game that I’m real confident in right now.”
Hofstra’s first home game is now scheduled for March 19 against Fordham University. The game will be held at 3 p.m. on University Field.