By ZACH GILLELAND
Two more wins.
The No. 16 Salisbury University baseball team is now two wins away from capturing its second consecutive Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) crown after a 15-1 win over York College of Pennsylvania on Thursday.
Following a 21-run outburst against Mary Washington in the first round of the tournament on Tuesday, the Sea Gulls (28-8) continued their hot stretch at the plate. Facing the three-seed Spartans (15-17) for the third time in a week, the SU offense mashed 17 hits and hit four homeruns.
Senior right-hander Jeff Oster was on the mound for the maroon and gold. Allowing seven runs in his last start against York on senior day, Oster’s last start was still on his mind.
“Coming off of Saturday I wanted to come back strong because they hit me around pretty good,” Oster said. “I wanted to go out there for the team, do the best I can and keep moving forward in this tournament.”
On the mound against the Spartans for the second time in a week, Oster’s familiarity with the York lineup helped him in his start. He said he keeps a notebook that keeps track of every batter he has faced.
“I saw their tendencies so I decided to mix it up more, keeping them off-balanced,” Oster said. “Playing them Saturday helped and it kept me fired up.”
The senior delivered eight innings of three-hit ball, allowing one run and striking out four.
“We said yesterday that York has not seen the best Jeff Oster yet,” SU head coach Troy Brohawn said. “He came out and battled and I thought he did a hell of a job.”
The Sea Gull bats started things off early, scoring three runs in the first. With two runners on and two away, a double to center by senior catcher Tom LaBriola scored two. Sophomore first baseman Jay Perry followed with a grounder to left to score LaBriola.
Salisbury displayed its power in the second inning with back-to-back homeruns by junior shortstop Scott Ardoin and senior second baseman Pete Grasso extending the lead to six. Doing a little property damage, the homerun by Ardoin nailed the scoreboard in left and Grasso’s shot hit the screen in right.
After not hitting a single homerun through his first 32 games, Ardoin has hit three homeruns in the past four games—all against the Spartans.
“I’ve had a better approach up the middle, seeing good pitches and attacking the fastball,” Ardoin said. “We saw a lot of the same pitches on Saturday and we were being aggressive at the plate.”
The big second inning for the Sea Gulls knocked York starter Elliot Mortimer out of the game after surrendering six runs off six hits.
SU continued its scoring in the bottom of the fourth, with a two-run shot from sophomore third baseman Jack Barry clearing the trees in left. The fifth inning produced another big inning for Salisbury, who sent nine batters to plate in route to three more runs.
The Sea Gull offense produced a run in six of their eight innings at the plate. The offense has now scored 10 or more runs in four consecutive games.
“Our hitting has really struggled up until the last seven to eight days,” coach Brohawn said. “You get two or three [hits] and they get hot. It’s contagious down the lineup.”
With the win, Salisbury has won 19 of its 20 conference games this season. The maroon and gold are currently on a 26-4 stretch after a 2-4 start.
“We are together every day, we love each other and we have come so far,” Oster said. “The camaraderie and bonding—we have so much fun and I think that has a big thing to do with it.”
With the loss, the third-seed Spartans are now eliminated from the tournament. They join second-seed Christopher Newport as the only teams to be eliminated through the first two rounds.
The Sea Gulls continue in day three of the CAC Tournament, facing Wesley College at 9 a.m. on Friday. SU currently holds a 2-0 series lead over the Wolverines this season.
“This is huge,” Ardoin said. “Jeff [Oster] going out eight innings, it gives us a lot of confidence and we are playing well right now.”