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Baseball: Judges struggle in UAA play on Florida road trip

By Adam Rabinowitz
On March 20, 2012

With a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth inning in last Saturday's game against Case Western Reserve University and trailing 9-1 with two outs, pitcher Pat Nicholson '11, MA '12 had the opportunity to inject some life into the Judges' bats with a key hit. Instead, he weakly popped up the ball to second base, and just like that, the Brandeis bats were down swinging.

After a marathon stretch in which the Judges played eight games in seven days, Brandeis headed home. The at-bat by Nicholson ended a disappointing 1-7 road trip in Florida against University Athletic Association opponents, with the lone win coming against Case last Thursday.

Pitcher Alex Tynan '12 noted that the key difficulty for the team last week was to drive in runners and to better execute on offense.

"I think it is just a matter of the fundamentals," he said. "We need to get guys over, runners in scoring position and overall just play better and be more efficient on offense."

Brandeis looked to depart from Florida on a high note, striving for its second victory over the Case Spartans. In the first inning, that possibility did not seem too far-fetched. After outfielder Zach Bardwell '15 capitalized on a balk and defensive miscue, first baseman Kyle Brenner '15 brought him home with a well-placed RBI single. However, the lead would not last for long. Nicholson was battered by an explosive Case offense, surrendering seven runs, five of which were earned, in three innings of play. The Spartans cruised to a 9-1 victory in the Judges' last game in Florida.

Last Friday, Brandeis was flying high heading into a game against Rochester, looking to build upon its victory over Case. Center fielder Zach Malis '12 provided an RBI double to bring the Judges to within one. After giving up another two runs, Brandeis had some intervention from Lady Luck in the seventh inning. Outfielder Sean O'Hare '12 came up with the clutch hit, sending a screamer into left-center to drive third baseman Brian Ing '14 in at home. Catcher Kenny Destremps '12 drilled a ball right at the opposing shortstop, but it popped right out of the glove, allowing Dominic Schwartz '14 to cut the lead to 5-4. That was all Lady Luck had in store for the Judges, who lost 6-4.

Given that it was the Ides of March, Brandeis would have been expected to run into misfortune. Fortunately, it was a positive fate, as the Judges notched their first UAA victory over Case by a score of 4-3 last Thursday. Michael Swerdloff '13 scattered eight hits over eight and one third innings of work. In the eighth inning, Brandeis was down by a run and faced defeat, but Brenner ensured that would not be the case. He belted a line drive down the left field line, bringing in two runs and carrying the Judges to a win.

Looking to move past a blowout loss to Washington University in St. Louis earlier in the week, the Judges were ready to give the WashU Bears a run for their money last Wednesday. They certainly did. Malis put Brandeis on the scoreboard in the fourth inning with an RBI single. Colin Markel '14 lost control after that though, giving up five runs in the next three innings. The offense nearly bailed him out in the ninth inning, as O'Hare and Destremps knocked in back-to-back RBI singles, but it could not get the job done in a 5-3 defeat.

As if the long road trip was not bad enough, the Judges faced the ultimate test of endurance in a double-header last Tuesday against the University of Rochester and Emory University. Brandeis jumped right out of the gates in the first inning, piling on four runs against Rochester. Designated hitter Dan Gad '15 started the onslaught with a two-RBI single. Destremps and Ing also knocked in two runs. However, from there, the offensive firepower vanished. Britton coughed up six runs between the third and fifth innings, while Brandeis had nothing in the tank, ultimately leading to a 6-5 loss.

A similar fate beset Brandeis in the afternoon game against the Emory Eagles. This time, the Judges took a while to heat up, giving up five runs in the first inning. However, in the fifth inning, Brandeis made a statement. Loading up the bases, Malis clobbered a ball right over the left field fence for his first career grand slam to bring the Judges to a 6-5 lead. Again, Brandeis did not have much left to offer, only notching one additional run in an eventual 11-7 loss.

The Judges brought the Massachusetts chill to Florida to start off the tournament, at first unable to produce a single run in a 6-0 shutout loss to Emory. While the offense finally began to warm up the next day against the Bears, the pitchers were frozen in dismay. Surrendering seven runs in the seventh inning alone, the Judges fell to Washington University in a 14-2 rout.

While he was impressed with the team's effort last week, Tynan stated that he thinks the team will greatly benefit from playing back at home.

"We are a really great group," he said. "We played hard, put in all of our effort and greatly enjoyed this trip. It will be good to get back up to Massachusetts though and hopefully build up a streak."

Brandeis will not get much rest, squaring off against Bridgewater State University today at 3 p.m. at home.

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