The baseball team got on track with its first win of the season this week to put its record at 1-4 overall.

Judges 3, UMass Boston 1

 The Judges impressed on Monday as they defeated the University of Massachusetts Boston on the road in a close game, 3-1.  The team boasted dominant performances on the hill and excellent supporting work in the field, as they held their opponents to an abysmal .107 team batting average on the day with a mere three hits. 

Brandeis appeared to be in danger of surrendering its fifth straight loss to open the season after going down 1-0 in the first and upholding that deficit through the third inning.  However, right fielder Dan O’Leary ’20 scored on a wild pitch in the top of the fourth to even up the game 1-1 — a score that would remain all the way through the sixth inning. 

In the top of the seventh, third baseman Kyle Lussier ’19 broke the game open with a solo shot to put the Judges up 2-1.  The squad tacked on another run off a sacrifice fly from center fielder Ryan Tettemer ’17 and did not let that lead go; pitchers Tim Lopez ’20 and Liam Coughlin ’17 combined for two scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth innings as the team picked up the hard-fought victory. 

Starting pitcher Sean O’Neill ’18 showed impressive leadership on the mound through seven innings of work.  Laboring through 106 pitches, the right-hander only allowed one run off three hits and three walks, and recorded five punch-outs as well.  After only appearing in two games last season, the veteran is starting to show signs of his first season of dominance.  (As a first-year, the pitcher posted a 5-2 record, including four complete games, for an outstanding 2.18 ERA and 34 strikeouts.)  With a 0.77 ERA and 13 strikeouts through his first two games of the 2017 season, it will be exciting to watch if he can surpass his outstanding results from two years ago.

At the plate, in addition to Lussier’s game-changing home run, O’Leary and second baseman Victor Oppenheimer ’20 helped lead the Judges to victory.  O’Leary went 2-2 with a double and two walks and the game tying run in the fourth.  Oppenheimer displayed his pop with a pair of doubles, a walk and a run.  The team had valuable, much-needed contributions from all across the lineup en route to the pivotal win.

The Judges posted a 19-17-1 record last season and lost important graduating members going into this campaign.  Recent graduates Liam O’Connor ’16 and Ryan Healy ’16 led the team with .426 and .390 batting averages for the year, leading to the squad’s admirable .308 team average, and combined for nearly a quarter of the team’s RBIs.   Brandeis also lost its leading innings-eater on the mound, Sam Miller ’16, who started 13 games last season and racked up a team-high 75 innings of work.

However, while earning an impressive 10-2 record at home last year, the team was 4-9-1 at away locations.  While unable to pick up a win in Florida over February break, the Judges’ first win of the season came on the road, which is a sign of good things to come despite losing key, graduated contributors from the roster.  The team is already showing an immense amount of potential and seems to have a plan in place to keep up production with its new lineup and rotation.  Furthermore, O’Leary and Oppenheimer are only first-years.  They have already made a noticeable impact for the Judges, and it appears the team will be in good hands for years to come as these young players gain more experience throughout their promising collegiate careers.  

The season has just begun, and there is a lot of time left for players, new and old, to prove themselves out on the field.  It will be interesting to see how the team dyanmics unfold as the season progresses and who will step up when it matters the most.

Brandeis will look to keep up its newfound momentum on the road and pick up its second win of the season at Bridgewater State University on Tuesday.