Baseball: SU pushes win streak to five with two-game sweep of Dickinson

By CHASE GORSKI

Staff Writer

@cgorski12

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SU junior infielder Simon Palenchar takes a pitch vs. Washington College. Hannah Wichrowski photo

Salisbury’s baseball team (7-4) added two more wins to their record on Sunday after dominant starting pitching helped them edge Dickinson College (3-2) during their double-header.

Game One: Salisbury 7, Dickinson 4

Game one started with Dickinson jumping out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning after a sac-bunt and a fielder’s choice scored sophomore center fielder Stephen Sakowicz, who reached base on a lead-off double. Salisbury’s senior starting pitcher Jeff Oster limited the damage with a strike out to end the inning, leaving two Red Devils on base.

The Devils’ sole lead of the day did not last long, though, as the Sea Gulls’ offense tacked on two runs in the bottom half of the first due to a throwing error, which allowed sophomore first baseman Jack Barry and senior catcher Tom Labriola to score on a groundball by junior designated-hitter Simon Palenchar. While the Sea Gulls’ offense continued to tally runs throughout the game, their advantage came on the mound with Oster settling in after a shaky first.

Oster, in six and two-thirds innings pitched, scattered four hits and four runs while reaching a season-high strikeout total of 10 on the day. The right-hander attributed most of his outs to his use of breaking balls throughout the game.

“My slider and curveball were probably the pitches I got the most outs with,” Oster said.  “I noticed they were pretty aggressive early, so I changed it up after the first inning to throw some more sliders and curveballs to keep them off-balance.”

The Red Devils stuck around to keep the game close, eventually cutting the lead to 5-4 in the top of the seventh which ended Oster’s day. However, Dickinson ran into a brick wall offensively in the form of Salisbury’s junior righty Andrew Kramer.

Kramer turned in a dominant relief performance, finishing the game out without giving up a hit. He tallied four strikeouts over his two and one-third innings, three of which came while striking out the side to end the game in the ninth. Oster explained the confidence he has in giving the ball to Kramer and other members of the bullpen in close games.

“I trust every single guy out there,” Oster said.  “In my years here, this is probably the hardest working staff we’ve ever had.”

The hard work has started to show in the Gulls’ five-game winning streak as both starting pitchers and relievers have shown improvements after struggling in the beginning of the season.

The Gulls’ offense also performed when it mattered, giving Kramer a couple of insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh thanks to a wild pitch which scored Labriola followed by a homerun by Barry—his third of the season.

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SU senior pitcher Jeff Oster ends his pitch off the mound. Amy Wojtowicz photo

Game Two: Salisbury 8, Dickinson 1

Salisbury’s starting pitching continued to dominate in game two, with senior pitcher Pete Grasso going six shutout innings while giving up only two hits and recording a season-high eight strikeouts in the 8-1 victory.

Dickinson’s defense did most of the heavy lifting for the Gulls, providing four errors in the bottom of the first to help Salisbury take the early 4-0 lead.  The Red Devils totaled seven errors in game two which proved to be their downfall, as seven of the eight runs given up to the Sea Gulls went unearned.

The Devils’ best chance against Grasso came in the top of the third inning with the bases loaded and one out. Grasso stepped up to the challenge, striking out the next two Red Devils that stepped to the plate, and then he proceeded to retire the next nine Dickinson batters.

Grasso said his focus going into what was just his second start of the season was to try to eliminate walks and force Dickinson’s offense to put the ball in play.

“I just wanted to throw strikes and let the defense work,” Grasso said. “I wanted to minimize the hits and minimize the walks.”

Grasso, who threw more than 60 percent of his pitches for strikes, had confidence in his command of all of his pitches and used that confidence to get ahead in the count and force the opposing team into a hole.

“They were early swingers so we would get ahead with the fastball. . .and every pitch was being commanded well, so we could go to any pitch,” Grasso said.

Salisbury used three different relievers to close out game two, including junior Connor Reeves, junior Ryan Gough and freshman Dillon Waters, who finished out the ninth. SU head coach Troy Brohawn explained how important it was to give different relievers some much needed experience.

“They have to build confidence at some point,” Brohawn said.  “We were trying to get them a shutdown inning and get them out of there so they would have confidence going forward, and we were able to do that.”

After a four-game skid earlier on this season, the Gulls have turned it around with a five-game win streak going into their next game at Neumann University on Tuesday.  Coach Brohawn feels this turnaround comes down to two simple things.

“It’s easy—pitching and defense,” Brohawn said. “We’re getting some good performances out of our starting pitchers; today some relievers came in and shut it down as well, and we are playing really solid defense behind them.”

Coach Brohawn also added that recent changes in the lineup have been made, sacrificing offense in order to improve defensive play.

Salisbury looks to continue this win streak and momentum into conference play, beginning this upcoming Saturday with a home series against St. Mary’s College (Md.).  The Sea Gulls defeated the Seahawks twice in the 2016 regular season and look to begin their Capital Athletic Conference Championship repeat campaign with another sweep of the Seahawks on Saturday.

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