Matt Mongiardini finally put it all together.
After a steady string of starts which fell
apart in the middle innings, the sophomore
right-hander notched the first shutout of his collegiate career, as the baseball team downed Saint Louis, 7-0, Sunday at Skip Wilson Field.
Mongiardini scattered eight hits and five
strikeouts over his nine innings of work, as he notched the Owls’ first shutout this season.
“I had a lot of first-pitch strikes, so I
didn’t get behind batters,” he said. “[I] threw my changeup for a majority of strikes; I had [St. Louis] all out in front. Throwing firstpitch strikes really saved me.”
With two early runs coming off errors,
the Owls held a steady 2-0 lead through the
first six innings.
But with two outs and nobody on in the
bottom of the seventh, shortstop Ryan Weber
and outfielder Tom Dolan both singled.
Third baseman Dan Brady promptly
doubled home both runners, giving the Owls
some breathing room.
Infielder Mike Kelch doubled Brady home.
Centerfielder Stan Orzechowski hit a
two-run homer in the eighth to cap off the
Though the runs weren’t game-winning
runs, it was a simple case of a team picking up its pitcher and giving him a little bit of help.
“[Mongiardini] was throwing a great
game today. [We were] just trying to get
some extra runs for him,” Weber said. “The
way he was throwing today, we had enough
runs as it is. But it’s always good to get a few more runs.”
With close to half of Mongiardini’s outs
coming from fly balls and pop ups, the pitcher realized he was doing something right. By pitching hitters inside, he made the work easy for his fielders.
“A lot of [the Billikens], I had them
jamming so they couldn’t really get a good
[swing] on it,” Mongiardini said. “I should be doing more of that, huh?”
With the victory, which gave the Owls just their second conference series win of the season, the team is within striking distance of sixth-place George Washington in the Atlantic Ten Conference standings.
However, five teams stand between the Owls (15-26 overall, 7-11 A-10) and the Colonials, a significant task for these young Owls to accomplish. Coach Rob Valli said he believes his team is good enough to make the conference tournament. But at the same time, he understands that this season is more about progression and development than simply winning.
“We’re just trying to play a little better each time out,” the second-year coach said. “And that was going to be what we were trying to do from the beginning. Knowing our personal and our maturity level and our experience, we’re just trying to be better every game. Hopefully our 56th game will be better than our first game.”
For the players, it was all about the win. “We’re not trying to go out without a fight,” Mongiardini said.
“This weekend was big, winning the series,” Weber added. “We’re still in it. Next weekend, we’re going to have to go Fordham and be ready to play.”
Before they head to Bronx, N.Y., to battle the Rams this weekend, the Owls have two midweek games at home: Tuesday against Lafayette and Wednesday against George Mason. They return home only two more times this season, for games against Delaware and Villanova.All of their remaining conference games are on the road.
Rightfielder Sean Barksdale strained a muscle and was taken out of the game in the top of the sixth inning
. . . . The Owls’ home field was officially named after longtime manager Skip Wilson in a ceremony on Saturday
. . . . Dolan will now pitch the first game of any conference series with starter Arshwin Asjes pitching the second contest, as Valli said he is “trying to mix it up.”
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.