Hofstra’s luck refused to run out on St. Patrick’s Day, as the Pride split a doubleheader with the University at Albany on Saturday at University Field. Hofstra bested Albany 9-8 in extra innings in the first game but fell to the Great Danes 4-1 in the second.
In a game where John Rooney became Hofstra’s all-time career strikeouts leader surpassing the previous record of 196, punching out 10 in just six innings - it was the Pride’s designated hitter who left his mark on the game. Vito Friscia’s late-game heroics in game one came in the form of a 10th-inning walk-off home run over the center field fence to cap off a game that started as a pitcher’s duel and ended in a slug fest.
“Vito’s been clutch for us all year. Every big at-bat, he’s deposited so far. I can’t be more impressed with him, and I think he really helps our lineup right now,” said head coach John Russo.
Friscia finished his day with three hits and three RBI, all of which came in game one – a game where Hofstra trailed 7-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh. The 6’3” junior’s bat is white hot, as he is leading Hofstra in batting average (.419), home runs (3) and on-base percentage (.534).
With Hofstra down 7-1 in the bottom of the seventh, freshman shortstop Austin Gauthier ignited a four-run rally with a deep two-RBI double to the warning track in right field. Gauthier’s efforts left him with a run scored and three RBI on three hits; game one of the twinbill was Gauthier’s second three-hit game of the season.
“More than anything [Gauthier] has really seized his opportunities, and I think being around Steven, being around Vito and the guys taking care of it, Austin’s confidence is really high,” said Russo.
Down 7-5 in the bottom of the eighth, another young Hofstra player would seize his opportunity. The backup to the backup catcher, Justin Smith, who was brought in to pinch-hit for Matt Siedem in the seventh, cracked a single up the middle, driving in Daniel Page and recording his first base hit of the season.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Smith singled home Rob Weissheier to tie the game 8-8 and set the Pride up to win. The sophomore catcher went home with one run scored and two RBI on three hits in his first at-bats since February 24th against Lamar University.
“We made a nice little run there. I thought Justin Smith had two really huge at-bats and he hadn’t had an at-bat in a couple weeks, and for him to come up and have big at-bats, there, I thought was really nice,” Russo said.
Rooney and Matt Weissheier were the respective starters for game one and game two. Rooney gave up five runs (four earned) on five hits and three walks over six innings of work. The 6’5” southpaw was dominant for five innings until a botched pickoff attempt allowed a run to score and opened the proverbial floodgates for Albany. The Great Danes scored four runs in the top of the sixth to increase their lead to 5-0. Despite Rooney’s now imperfect earned run average, Coach Russo is still impressed with his stuff.
“He’s exceeding expectations, and he’s worked really hard for everything that he’s gotten here at Hofstra,” Russo said.
Under Weissheier’s command in game two, three unearned runs crossed the plate over a five-inning outing. The redshirt senior surrendered five hits and three walks, striking out six.
Hofstra’s bats were uninspired in game two. Only four batters recorded base hits, and Page was the only member of the Pride to drive in a run. Page reached base in every plate appearance on Saturday before exiting game two with a dislocated finger. On the whole, he finished 3-3 with three walks and two runs scored.