It has been a bit of a long season for the University of Mary Marauders, who entered Saturday’s doubleheader at Municipal Ballpark with a record of 5-21 conference record. Their opponent, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, on the other hand, currently rank third in the Northern Sun standings with a record of 19-7.
On paper, the Marauders appeared overmatched by their interstate opponent, but you wouldn’t have guessed that based on Game 1. Behind starting pitcher Jake Johnson, the Marauders earned a 2-1 victory over the big bats of the Bulldogs.
Johnson, a freshman from Cambridge, Minn., was dominant for the Mauraders. He pitched a complete seven-inning game with eight strikeouts while only allowing two hits.
The only run Johnson allowed came in the fifth inning. With the Mauraders up 1-0, Bulldog catcher Beau Goff laced a double to the outfield, which was immediately followed by a Grant Farley run-scoring single.
The tie didn’t last very long, however. In the bottom half of the fifth, shortstop Mason Schiff pounded a double with third basemen, who was previously standing on first base, stealing on the pitch. The hit-and-run worked to perfection, as the Marauders scored once again to take a 2-1 advantage that Johnson held onto for the remainder of the game.
Game 2, however, didn’t go as well for Mary. Starting pitcher Nicholas Stobbe found himself in trouble early against the meat of the Bulldog batting order. No. 3 hitter Alex Wojcichowski launched a first-inning two-run homer over the left field wall, giving the Bulldogs an early advantage.
It was more of the same for the Bulldogs in the third inning. Already up 3-0, designated hitter Josh Denisen hit a mammoth solo home run to center field.
“Nick (Stobbe) hurt himself because he gave up some stuff when he was way ahead in the count,” head coach Joel Barta said. “He’s better than that and he knows that.”
Stobbe would be removed from the game midway through the sixth inning after allowing nine hits and five runs.
The Marauder relievers weren’t exactly dominant either. Austin Ell gave up two runs in just 1/3 of an inning pitched, but both Kenny Slominski and Travis Famias faced only three men in each of their one inning of work.
The Marauders ultimately lost the game 7-0, recording a total of just six hits.
“When you put yourself behind the 8-ball like that…there were a couple of plays we didn’t make,” Barta said. “We had runners in scoring position, and we didn’t cash them in, there were multiple times we went down looking with runners on base, and that is just something where we have to change our mentality.”
Game 2 may not have turned out as planned, but the Mauraders have looked like a completely different team over the past couple of weeks. U-Mary opened the season with a record of 3-31.
Since April 18, however, the Mauraders have a record of 5-3.
“The biggest thing we’ve done better is we’re not trying to do too much,” Barta noted. “We’re not trying (too hard) to get a hit when we just need to move a runner over. We have just been doing a better job of ‘playing the game’ whereas earlier, we were squeezing the bats so much, if they were made of wood, there would have been shavings on the ground; we were just pressing so hard.”
The Mauraders will have a chance to continue their winning ways today against the Bulldogs.
“If you get ahead of hitters, you don’t walk guys and you take care of the baseball, you’re going to give yourself a chance to win every game,” Barta concluded. “We talked about eliminating free baserunners and playing better defensively (after the game), and those are two things we try to preach on a daily basis.”