Baseball falls to Rutgers-Newark in annual matchup

Freshman infielder Konnor Zickefoose bats against Rutgers-Newark on March 13. Photo by Allie Camp

Freshman infielder Konnor Zickefoose bats against Rutgers-Newark on March 13. Photo by Allie Camp

The Chapman baseball team lost to Rutgers University-Newark March 13, succumbing to many of the same pitching problems that have persisted all year. The Panthers (7-9, 3-3) failed to take advantage of their advantage in the hits’0 department, losing 10-7 in their annual meeting with the visiting Scarlet Raiders (4-4).

The Panthers set an erratic tone early on the mound, allowing Rutgers-Newark to score three runs in the third inning, despite not getting a single hit. Senior pitcher Matt Smith hit his first batter, and threw a pitch that resulted in a passed ball two batters later. He then walked two straight batters, and a run scored from another passed ball with the bases loaded. Smith walked another batter before being pulled, but a sacrifice fly and a double steal gave the Scarlet Raiders another two runs.

“We’re killing ourselves with freebies,” said Head Coach Scott Laverty. “I mean 10 runs on four hits. That’s the second time in two weeks that we’ve given up 10 runs on four or five hits (against Webster) because of errors and walks and hit-by-pitches, and we really just need to clean that up.”

Chapman was able to turn the momentum around in the middle of the game, putting up a run in the fourth inning, two runs in the fifth inning and one run in the seventh inning. Infielder Konnor Zickefoose was a huge part of the Panthers’ offensive success, going 3-for-3 on the day with two doubles, scoring two runs as a runner and driving in one run at the plate.

Chapman took a brief 5-4 lead over the visitors in the seventh inning, but the lead was short-lived. After removing junior pitcher Ben Vietze in the eighth inning, freshman pitcher Matt Mogollon walked three batters. Sophomore first baseman Ross Halkias then punished Chapman with a grand-slam for the Scarlet Raiders, giving them an 8-5 lead.

Sophomore third baseman for Rutgers-Newark, Brian Boulineau, said the Scarlet Raiders performed at key times.

“Timely hitting – a timely grand-slam really helped us out, and then just good baserunning,” Boulineau said.

Boulineau said that the result was an added bonus to the Scarlet Raiders’ spring break trip to California.

“Coming out here with the weather, it’s fantastic,” he said. “And it’s different competition out here. It’s different playing baseball in this weather and all these teams are a lot different than New Jersey teams.”

Laverty said the removal of Vietze in the eighth inning was as a precaution.

“It’s the first time he’s coming back from an injury and it’s the first time that he’s now gone into a second inning. He’s only been in one inning, so we wanted to extend him, but still keep him cautious,” Laverty said. “He’s going to be a valuable piece as we continue to move forward. Matt Mogollon had been starting for us, but struggled there today. His last two outings were great out of the bullpen, but unfortunately he didn’t get it done today.”

The Panthers did themselves no favors in the top of the ninth inning, allowing two hits, but also committing a throwing error that allowed runners to advance to second and third base. This allowed a run to score from a fielder’s choice, and set up a following run from another fielder’s choice.

Laverty said that solving these problems would not be easy, but that the issues have been magnified by a number of injuries.

“Unfortunately, some of it is finding the right people to be in there,” Laverty said. “We’re giving people opportunities to continue to show what they can do. We’ve had some injuries and we’re trying to get everybody back. So you find it by, now that these guys are coming back, some other guys are just going to get pushed out.”

The Panthers have two more nonconference games on their schedule, one of which comes next week. Laverty said it is vital for Chapman to clean up its mistakes before heading into the biggest part of its conference schedule.

“This team’s way too talented to be doing the things that it’s doing. It’s crucial that we start fixing those things up.”

The Panthers will face Ithaca College at home at 5 p.m. on March 17.

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