The defending Landmark Conference Champion Moravian College baseball team opened defense of its title with a doubleheader sweep of Juniata College Saturday afternoon, winning the first game 3-0 behind a three-hitter by junior Brendan Close and taking the nightcap, 17-2, at Gillespie Field. The doubleheader was Moravian's home opener as well.
The Greyhounds have won 11 straight games against Landmark Conference opponents including three straight over Juniata including last year's conference title game and all 11 games have been played at Gillespie Field.
In the opening game, Moravian scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Senior outfielder Mike Zubia led off with an infield single and would scored on a one-out RBI single from sophomore outfielder Rocco Del Priore. Senior outfielder Jason Huber drew a bases loaded RBI walk to score junior designated hitter Gregg Steinman, who had also walked. An error on a ground ball by senior third baseman Jon Baltz would allow junior catcher Blake Shortall to score.
The Greyhounds had a 7-3 edge in hits in the opening contest with Del Priore going two-for-three.
Close improved to 4-0 on the mound for Moravian, and tied the school record with his 16th career win. Close allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out 11 batters. John Love took the loss for the Eagles.
In the second contest, Moravian jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first without a hit. Huber led off with a walk, stole second base and moved to third on a passed ball. Huber would score his school record 119th career run on an RBI sacrifice fly by junior first baseman Kevin O'Keefe.
The Greyhounds added three runs in the bottom half of the second for a 4-0 lead. Del Priore was hit by a pitch to start the inning and scored on an RBI fielder's choice from junior shortstop Dave Zubia. Huber pushed junior catcher Austin Rock across the plate with an RBI single while O'Keefe drew an RBI bases loaded walk to score Dave Zubia.
Moravian scored eight runs in the bottom of the fourth, pushing its lead to 12-0. Huber had an RBI double to start the scoring in inning, and he scored on an RBI single from Mike Zubia. Senior second baseman Jake Schweitzer hit an RBI ground out while senior designated hitter Matt Kensecki had an RBI single. Rock added a two-RBI single for the Greyhounds while Huber finished the inning with a two-RBI single.
Juniata would get on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth inning with two runs. First baseman Johnny Martinez hit a leadoff double in the inning and scored on an RBI bases loaded walk from shortstop Bradley Medellin. Second baseman Ian Thorne crossed the plate when pinch hitter Chris Beall was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
The Greyhounds finished the scoring with five runs in the bottom of the sixth. Freshman pinch hitter Dan Seitzinger reached on an error to lead off the inning, and Baltz followed with a single, which was the 100th hit of his career, the 18th Greyhound to reach the milestone. O'Keefe was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Mike Zubia hit a two-RBI double. With the bases loaded again, freshman outfielder Joseph Connell hit an RBI sacrifice fly to score O'Keefe while senior designated hitter Jacob Millen had an RBI single to score Mike Zubia. The final run of the game came home on an RBI single from freshman catcher Matthew Gutkes.
Moravian had a 14-3 advantage in hits in the second game with Huber leading the way with a three-for-three performance to go with four RBIs and a pair of runs. Dave Zubia was two-for-three with three runs while Rock was two-for-three with two runs and two RBIs. Mike Zubia was two-for-five in the game with three RBIs and two runs while Millen was two-for-two with a pair of RBIs. O'Keefe was held without a hit in the game but scored twice and drove in two runs.
The Greyhounds used four pitchers in the game with freshman Robert Solano improving to 2-0 on the season after tossing the first five innings and allowing a hit and two walks while striking out three batters. Freshman Anthony Perez-Florido gave up two runs on a hit, two talks and a strikeout in 2/3 of an inning while freshman Benjamin Hammel struck out the only batter he faced. Freshman Chris Soltys tossed the final inning for Moravian with a hit, a walk and three strikeouts.
Juniata also used four pitchers in the game with Joe Sforza taking the loss after allowing nine runs, just four earned, on five hits and three walks with a strikeout in 3 2/3 innings of action.