Fordham’s Rabinowitz Shines in First Start of the Season


Published: April 9, 2009

For six innings on March 28, UMass’s Mitchell Clegg and Fordham’s Jake Rabinowitz, FCRH ’09, traded jabs—fist pumps while walking off the mound, curses screamed into their mitts, heads hung low after a walk—and the hurlers seemed to be locked in an unacknowledged duel. For a while, Clegg seemed to have the upper hand, no-hitting the Rams through six. But Rabinowitz more than held his own, quietly stitching together his best outing in a Rams jersey. When the dust cleared, the zeroes Clegg strung together on the scoreboard fell short of Rabinowitz’s durability, and Fordham’s speed and execution paid off in a 2-1 small ball victory to take a 2-0 lead in what would turn into a 3-0 sweep of the weekend series.

“When the other guy’s pitching like that, it makes it more fun,” said Rabinowitz, who allowed one run and five hits and struck out seven over eight plus innings of work. “Without talking to him, you know it’s a contest—shut the other team down, and keep the guys on the other team silent. It’s great to get a win like this.”

Rabinowitz’s only blemish on the afternoon came in the second, when UMass’s Mike Donato and Jim Macdonald tagged him for consecutive doubles, the first finding the gap in right-center, the second scorched down the third base line. The back-to-back hits resulted in the Minutemen’s only runs of the contest.

Fordham didn’t even need to record a hit to tie the game, playing small ball in the sixth. Second baseman Danny Leach worked a leadoff walk and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by centerfielder Mike Mobbs. Leach promptly stole third, and first baseman Ryan McCrann did the rest of the work, grounding a pitch to the UMass first baseman for an RBI fielder’s choice.

The tying run was a breakthrough for the Rams offense, which had been stymied by the lanky UMass lefty for much of the afternoon.

“He was just a tricky pitcher that utilized the outside corners both high and low all game,” said right fielder Alex Kenny. “His stuff wasn’t overpowering, and our hitters put many balls in play hard but had a hard time getting anything through. But that’s baseball, and sometimes you need to tip your cap to the pitcher on throwing good pitches.”

Kenny might have tipped his cap to Clegg after grounding out and popping out to the infield in his first two at bats, but in the seventh, he tagged UMass reliever Bryan Leigh for what would be the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly to centerfield.

Leftfielder Shane Fox started the inning by recording Fordham’s first hit of the game on a hard grounder deep in the hole that UMass shortstop Matt Gedman could only knock down. The no-hitter gone, Clegg promptly got the hook, though Leigh faired no better, immediately giving up a single to third baseman Ryan Maghini. John Kahn, pinch-running for Fox, advanced to second on the single, then moved within 90 feet of scoring on a bunt by shortstop Brian Kownacki. Kenny, the next hitter, drove him in.

While Fordham’s offense may not have been overpowering, it was effective.

“[Fordham manager Nick] Restaino is not against small ball,” Kenny said. “[And] when we’re hitting well he lets us swing away, but obviously we were pressed to get runs late in the game and needed to use small ball here.”

The small ball option was really the result of Rabinowitz’s pitching, as he quietly kept pace with Clegg’s budding no-hitter.

“Jake threw an amazing game, and we couldn’t have asked for anything more from him,” Kenny said. “As a hitter, it pushes you to not let his game be put to waste. So as we struggled at the plate, Jake kept us in the game and made us not press too much.”

Rabinowitz battled the UMass hitters all game long, just as the 6’4” senior has battled his way into the starting rotation this season.

The righty admits that erratic control forced him to the bullpen at the start of the year, though his 38 strikeouts in 43.2 innings in 2008 revealed his potential. After eight appearances out of the bullpen in ’09, Rabinowitz garnered an underwhelming 12.38 ERA. To say that his first start in the game against UMass went significantly better is an understatement.

“I feel great,” Rabinowitz said after the game. “I’ve worked hard every inning of every game to get here.”

With every third out sending Rabinowitz fist-pumping and hollering back to the dugout, the pitcher’s desire to keep fighting was evident when Restaino ended his afternoon after walking the leadoff hitter in the ninth. Jordan Gangard was called in and quickly retired the side.

“I would’ve liked to have gone all the way, but it’s nice to have a back-up like him,” Rabinowitz said. “He’s done a great job closing the door all season.”

After the performance he turned in against UMass, its likely Rabinowitz will get another crack at going the distance.