ARLINGTON, Va. – In just three seasons, the Marymount (Va.) University baseball has built up a program that has reached at least 20 wins so far this year and earned a spot into the Capital Athletic Conference tournament for the second-straight year. The Saints entered the postseason in 2015 as the four seed, dropping the first two games of the double-elimination setup.
This season, Marymount enters as the two seed and showed exactly why it earned that high of a ranking on Tuesday afternoon at Bishop O'Connell High School, cruising to a convincing 11-3 victory to open up the tournament over fifth-seeded and No. 20 Christopher Newport University. It is the sixth win this season over a ranked squad, as the Saints head to top-seeded and host Frostburg State University on Thursday for championship weekend looking for the program's first CAC title.
Marymount built up some energy early in the matchup on Tuesday, as sophomore Sean O'Connellcommanded the mound in his seventh start of the season. Working through a three up-three down top of the first, the Saints followed on the offensive end for their pitcher with the first run of the game. Junior Brandon Savage reached base on a hard grounder up the middle before stealing second and advancing to third on the poor throw to second by the Captain catcher. Senior Ryan Blake stepped in, smacking a hard-hit ball to the shortstop who mishandled the grounder to allow Blake to reach first and bring Savage home.
O'Connell continued to impress in the second, working two groundouts and walking one batter which he would ultimately pick off at first base. The Captains, however, would bring one run in on the sophomore in the third to draw up the score at 1-1, and looked to score more in the top of the fourth to take a lead with a one-out bases-loaded situation for O'Connell. With one out on a sacrifice bunt, O'Connell hung in strong on the mound with the bases juiced, working CNU's Brandon Walker into a grounder back to the hill where O'Connell slid in for the ball, slung it to second base, and sophomore second baseman Stephen Berczek quickly moved it to Savage at first for the inning-ending double play to keep the score knotted at 1-1.
The play amplified the Saints offense headed to the bottom half of the inning, as they brought around four more runs to push a comfortable 5-1 advantage. Freshman Nick Smutko kicked off the scoring with a lined ball up the first-base line for a RBI double that scored junior Ben Berczek. Two batters later after freshman Conner Hall was walked, freshman Luke Tyree, who is fresh off his second CAC Player of the Week, stepped in to crack a double of his own to bring around Stephen Berczek and Smutko to keep the inning rolling. Junior Lorenzo Calderon put the final touch on the fourth with a sacrifice fly to deep left field to score Hall for the 5-1 lead.
O'Connell remained in the contest through a one-hit fifth inning and into the first out of the sixth before junior John LaMotta came in for 2.2 innings of relief.
In the sixth, the Captains scored another run but that's all LaMotta would allow to touch home plate, as the next two batters popped out and were thrown out to end the scoring threat. In the bottom half, the Saints couldn't be slowed down, crossing another four runs to increase the lead to seven, 9-2. With Stephen Berczek and Hall on the corners, Calderon struck a ball to left field for the RBI single. The final three runs of the inning came off the bat of Savage, who launched a deep fly ball over the right-centerfield fence for his first home run of the season to give Marymount just the momentum it needed to push through the final three innings.
The Captains brought around their final run of the game in the eighth before MU answered with two more in the bottom half off two RBI singles by Calderon and Blake.
Hall came off his shortstop duties to take over on the mound for the final three outs of the game, grounding out the first batter and ending the game on two strikeouts to send the Saints into championship weekend with a hefty 11-3 victory.
Calderon and Savage paced a Saints' offense that registered 13 hits, with three and two hits, respectively, while each recording three RBI and two runs. Smutko and Tyree also notched two RBI and Blake brought home one.
O'Connell earned his third win on the mound this season, striking out one and giving up just five hits and two runs in 5.1 innings of work. LaMotta relieved for 2.2 innings to allow just three hits and one run, while Hall capped off the game with just one hit in his ninth-inning duties.
With the win, the Saints will now take on No. 17 Salisbury University at Frostburg on Thursday, April 21 at 4 p.m. In the regular season, Marymount split the series against the Sea Gulls, winning the home matchup, 14-11, before falling on the road, 4-1.