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The Elmira College baseball team picked up a pair of big wins on a cold and damp Saturday at historic Dunn Field, as the Soaring Eagles belted a combined 28 hits and opened Empire 8 Conference play with a doubleheader sweepof Utica College. The Purple and Goldbegan the day with a 10 4 victory,followed by a tightly contest nightcap, in which EC walked off on a two out base hit from Dennis Rudolph ’18.

The Elmira offense explodedin the first game of the twin bill, despite a month layoff since the team last took the field. The Soaring Eagles recorded season highs in runs (10), RBIs (10), and extra base hits (5), beginning with a monster five run first inning. Trailing 1 0, Tommy Fogarty ’20 doubled home Hayden Rothenberg ’17 to tie the game. In the next at bat, Dylan Bellinger ’17 crushed his first homer of the season over the wall in left field to put the Soaring Eagles ahead, 3 1. Rudolph extended the lead to three runs with an RBI double, and freshman Jansen Crossley ’20 made it 5 1 with a run scoring hit of his own.

Elmira added two more in the second inning on a Nate Hanner ’18 two run single and one more in the third on an RBI groundout by Fogarty, as the Soaring Eagles cruised out to an 8 1 advantage.

Starting pitcher Nick Sampogna ’18 settled in nicely after a shaky start in the first inning. A lead off walk, base hit, and another free pass had the bases juiced with nobody out, and it looked as though the Pioneers would tax the junior right hander heavily in the first. However, after giving up a sac fly, Sampogna fanned Utica designated hitter Mike Fancher, before inducing an inning ended groundout. He went on to hurl 5.0 strong innings and earned the win with a game high nine strikeouts.

The late game was much closer throughout, as neither team led by more than two runs. Elmira gained that advantage in the fifth inning on back to back two out doubles off the bats of Conor Bawiec ’18 and Hanner, respectively. Those two baggers broke a 1 1 stalemate and gave the Soaring Eagles a 3 1 cushion.

However, the Pioneers struck for three runs of their own in the top half of the sixth. Utica loaded the bases with consecutive singles, and Adam Nell touched home on a wild pitch from Bawiec to reduce the deficit to just one run, 3 2. In the next at bat, Utica’s Jake Ryan snuck a double down the right field line, which plated a pair of runs and turned the one run hole into a 4 3 lead.

Elmira responded to even the score at 4 all in the bottom of the sixth inning. Will Jenkins ’18 launched a one out double over the head of the UC center fielder and came around to record the tying run on a Bryce Plante ’19 single.

Southpaw Andy Reed ’19 relieved Bawiec to start off the seventh inning, and hurled two scoreless frames until the Pioneers got to him in the ninth. Tom Carrigan reached base to lead off the inning when after Crossley booted a grounder at second base. Carrigan was then sacrificed to second and scored on a hit by Jacob Gaboriault. Reed responded to pick off the pinch runner at first and strikeout Zachary Schellenger to limit the damage to just one run.

In the bottom of the ninth, Cameron Heggie ’18 led off with an infield single, and with one out, Bellinger blooped the ball into no man’s land between the pitcher and the second baseman for another hit. Bawiec followed with a perfectly placed bunt single down the third base line to load the bases. It appeared Utica reliever Kolbie Glionna got the double play ground ball he was looking for out of Hanner, who hit a first pitch grounder back up the middle, but the Pioneers were only able to record the out at second. Jack Thistle ’18 tallied the tying run on the fielder’s choice, leveling the score at 5 5. Rudolph then delivered a clutch two out hit, as the junior outfielder drove a liner into left field on a 0 1 count, scoring Sam Plaugher ’20 from third for the walk off game winner.

In Their Own Words

Head Coach Corey Paluga on his team’s attitude in Elmira’s first game in a month

“It really all started this week, wanting to get the field prepared to play. When you have such a significant layoff, the morale can be affected. The effort, the energy, embracing some of the tedious things like getting the field ready, that’s where it began. I don’t think I was really concerned about them being ready.”

Coach Paluga on the five run first inning the Soaring Eagles produced in the first game

“Nick and the defense did an outstanding job of minimizing that first inning for Utica. First innings of games in the past two years sometimes have been bigger innings than just one run. That gave us a lot of energy going into the bottom half. But I think the approach at the plate was really good in that first game. In the second game they kept us off balance at the plate. But the ability to approach the middle of the field was important, not getting pull happy or one dimensional.”

Coach Paluga on Sampogna’s ability to recover from a slow start and hurl a quality start

“This was a great bounce back game for him, thinking back to his last outing when we were down in North Carolina. That’s the type of pitcher we expect him to be. We want to continue to focus on that first inning, so that it’s not so much of an effort to get through it, but it was certainly a great performance by him on the mound.”

Coach Paluga when asked about Rudolph’s at bat in the bottom of the ninth in the late game

“I didn’t say anything to him. As a junior, I don’t think there’s any need to say anything to him. He had a breakout season last year, and is one of our quiet leaders. He approaches the game the right way and was patient at the plate. He didn’t necessarily square the ball up there pitcher did a great job of keeping our hitters off balance but that’s sometimes what happens, you have to find a hole and things bounce the right way.”

Inside the Box Score (Game One)

Elmira score 10 runs on 12 hits and committed one error.

Utica tallied four runs on five hits and had two errors.

Eight different Soaring Eagles had a hit.

Hanner paced EC at the plate with three hits and three RBIs.

Rudolph went 2 for 4 with two RBIs and one run.

Rothenberg was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and one stolen base.

Fogarty and Bellinger each had one hit with two RBIs, with Bellinger’s hit coming on a first inning homer.
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