tied his own school record with four stolen bases in a single game as the Drew University baseball team topped Juniata College, 6-5, on Sunday afternoon to sweep a Landmark Conference series on the road.
In a game that saw five lead changes, the Rangers came out on top in the end to improve to 12-13 overall and 6-5 in the Landmark Conference. However, the Eagles were mere inches away from tying the game or possibly walking off with a two-run home run.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Juniata got a runner on via walk and brought a pinch hitter to the plate. A game-winning home run was 340 feet away down the left field line, and the Eagles' Joe Klusman soared a ball toward that mark.
Freshman left fielder Mike Di Donato
ran a perfect route to the ball and made a leaping grab before crashing into the fence to the end the game and help the Rangers break out the brooms.
"It was hands down the most exciting play this year," said head coach Brian Hirschberg
. "Everyone exploded. I usually just shake my assistants hands after a win, but we all went running out for high fives. It was crazy."
In a game with big playoff implications, Drew prevailed by executing the small ball approach on Sunday. Kowalski stole two bases in the top of the first inning, and swiped a bag in each the third and sixth innings to tie his own school record that he first set on April 18, 2013 against the City College of New York.
"Stevie forces the defense to pay attention to him," Hirschberg said. "It may not reflect in the box score all the time, but what it does is make the pitcher a little less crisp on a fastball and give us a better pitch to hit. It also opens holes for our hitters. It's invaluable."
The Rangers notched two sacrifice flies and three sacrifice bunts in the victory on Sunday. While Drew did hammer out 10 hits in the club's fifth game in three days, it was the focus on the fundamentals that made the difference in the sweep-clinching win.
"What's really starting to happen is the guys are buying into the system and executing," Hirschberg said. "When guys believe in it, it works. This was a good weekend for that to work."
Sophomore relief pitcher Nate Brown
earned the victory on the mound to improve to 2-1 this season. Brown fired the final 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing one hits and one walk with one strikeout.
"Nate was excellent today," Hirschberh said. "He was cruising once we called on him to get some big outs. He got us out of a jam in the seventh, pitched a clean eighth and shut the door in the ninth."
For the third game in a row in the series, Juniata jumped out to a lead in their first time through the top of the order. The Rangers, as they have the previous two games against the Eagles, promptly erased the lead.
Sophomore first baseman Bobby Miskura
singled with one out in the top of the second, and later scored on one of Juniata's six Sunday errors to draw the game even at 1-1. Miskura's bat continues to burn red hot after a 2-for-4 day. The sophomore is now hitting .556 (10-for-18) in his last five games.
The Eagles flew back in front with a two-run home run by Joe Sforza, the first of two long balls off the bat of the Juniata senior.
The Rangers tilted the see-saw back toward their end in the fourth with three runs off a Di Donato sac fly, and back-to-back RBI singles by senior center fielder Dominic Reyes
and freshman designated hitter Jonathan Rodrigues
for the 4-3 lead. Rodrigues went 2-for-4 for his sixth multi-hit game of 2014.
Sforza's second dinger of the game in the seventh tied the contest at 4-4, and Juniata took the 5-4 lead before the frame was through.
Di Donato led off the eighth inning with a base hit, and was moved to scoring position on Reyes' sac bunt. Rodrigues doubled home Di Donato to tie the game at 5-5 before Krause recorded the sacrifice fly to plate Di Donato for the game-winning run.
Ironically, the last person to cross the plate on Sunday was the same person to make a spectacular play in left field to end the game. Di Donato's defensive heroics in the ninth sealed Drew's first sweep of a Landmark foe this season.
The Rangers return to the diamond with two non-conference road matches early this week. Drew visits Ramapo College on Tuesday, April 15 at 3:30 p.m. before traveling to The City College of New York on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
HUNTINGDON, Pa. (April 13, 2014) – Junior shortstop