The beginning of conference play is always an exciting time in the realm of college athletics. Non-conference games can be fun and, for teams like Fordham, they can provide tougher competition than they would see in their normal schedule. But, conference play is the source of rivalries between schools and important matchups as the regular season winds down in late April. Fordham played their first conference series last week against St. Bonaventure University and started their season forcefully.
Going into the weekend series against St. Bonaventure, Fordham had only one prep game, a non-conference matchup on Wednesday, March 20 against Manhattan College. The Rams dominated every step of the way, delivering a tour de force on both offense and defense in a 9–0 victory over their crosstown rivals.
On Friday, March 22, Fordham faced the Bonnies for the first time, and the offense did not need to perform well in order to score runs. In the bottom of the first inning, a leadoff triple by Alvin Menendez, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’20, and a costly St. Bonaventure throwing error by the pitcher led to two early runs and a man on second base for Fordham. The Rams’ third and fourth runs came on pitching miscommunications as well, as a wild pitch and passed ball led to two more runs and a 4–0 score after one inning of play.
After two wild pitches and an error, one might consider removing their pitcher, but St. Bonaventure felt confident in their starter and left him in. He eventually settled down and pitched six and two-thirds innings, yet another wild pitch in the second inning led to another Fordham run, making the score 5–0.
Having already scored five runs, Fordham’s bats quieted down as the opposing pitcher prepared himself, but in response, starting pitcher Matt Mikulski, FCRH ’21, performed immaculately. In six innings, Matt gave up only two runs and walked two batters while striking out 10. It was a strong performance from the sophomore, and Fordham’s offense re-emerged, scoring one run in the fifth and two in the seventh to put the game out of reach down the stretch.
In any sport, defeating a single team three games in a row is notoriously difficult. As a result, winning two out of three games in a series is considered a success, with a three-game sweep remaining an exceptional accomplishment. With one win under their belt, Fordham was one game away from winning the series and looked to ride their hot streak into Saturday.
On Friday, Fordham scored early and often and cruised to victory. Saturday’s game developed in much the same way, with Fordham’s offense working efficiently from the start. After a one-two-three inning on the defensive side, the Rams scored seven runs on five hits, all of them singles, and a wild pitch to take a prohibitive 7–0 lead in the bottom of the first.
After that explosive bottom frame, St. Bonaventure had considerable trouble against John Stankiewicz, FCRH ’21. In a dominant performance, the sophomore pitched six scoreless innings, striking out 10 batters while allowing only one hit. Each team would score one run more in later innings, and Fordham recorded their second victory of the regular season by a score of 8–1.
In their second game on Saturday, Fordham’s bats went dormant. Recording only two hits, both by Jake MacKenzie, FCRH ’21, Fordham’s offense could not muster anything against the Bonnies’ pitching. Fordham’s pitching staff performed phenomenally, but allowed one run in the first inning that would remain the lone score in a 1–0 loss.
Despite losing their last game, and generally displaying a deceptively low-powered offense, Fordham secured two victories over St. Bonaventure, and they improved their overall record to 14–10 and began conference play with two wins to only one loss.
The bright spot of this series came in the form of Fordham’s pitching staff. At the start of the season, there were several questions as to whether the Rams’ younger players could fill in for their impressive predecessors on the mound. In this series, two sophomores, Mikulski and Stankiewicz, dominated the St. Bonaventure batters, establishing that there would be no dip in quality in that area.
Even in impressive performances, questions remain for this Fordham team. St. Bonaventure is a 3–11 team that made numerous mistakes in the first two games to aid the Rams in their efforts, and it’s still unclear if Fordham can compete with stiffer opponents in the Atlantic 10 conference. Regardless, this week has been a strong one for Fordham baseball, and fans can expect Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” to blare over the loudspeakers in victory many more times over the course of the season.