Photo By: Jonah Dayton
Coming off a split against Western last weekend, the Badgers men’s baseball team headed into a four-game series against a Laurier Golden Hawks team that has won the two most recent OUA championships in 2018 and 2019.
While rosters have seen loads of change in the two years since, it was still a good test against a very good program with a history of success. The Badgers responded well, taking three out of four from the Golden Hawks behind an offense that put up 45 runs across the first three games, before dropping the final game 7-0.
Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader saw Connor Ambrogio back on the mound for his second start of the season, and the righthander backed up his previous complete game win by going the distance yet again, allowing six hits and two earned runs over seven innings while recording 10 K’s, seven of which were of the backwards variety.
“Honestly I was just trying to mix up my pitches,” said Ambrogio, when asked why he was able to freeze so many batters. “I tried to get guys out mostly with breaking balls — sliders and curveballs — trying to work them away and then kind of bust them in with the fastball. Hopefully they’d either roll over, or I’d jam them.”
He says the slider was the primary putaway pitch to righties, while the curveball was used more against lefties.
“I can kind of work away to a righty, and I don’t want to come that far inside with my slider to a lefty, so I tend to go with the curveball either middle or middle-away,” said Ambrogio.
Ambrogio has now allowed just three earned runs over 14 innings of work, and has struck out 18 batters while walking just four. He has also enjoyed massive leads in both of his starts this season, with the offensive providing double-digit run support in each of his outings. Despite the long wait-times in between innings (something no pitcher will ever complain about), Ambrogio says he tries to keep it simple once his half comes up.
“Good on the guys, first of all, for all those runs whenever I pitch, that’s always great,” he said. “I mainly just try to keep throwing strikes, don’t try to get behind guys, minimal pitches per inning and that’s pretty much it.”
Game 2 was, quite simply, a massacre. Brock put up eight runs in the first, seven in the second, and then relaxed for a bit and only scored three in the third to jump out to an 18-1 lead after three innings during what quickly turned into a cold, windy and rainy affair which mirrored the metaphorical Eeyore-esque cloud that hung over the Laurier dugout. They would go on to win 19-3.
Brandon Underhill had both leadoff and starting pitching duties in this one, pitching all five innings while allowing three runs on the mound, and for good measure went 3-3 with a walk and two doubles at the plate.
The Badgers got offensive contributions from the entire lineup all weekend — eight players recorded hits in Game 1 on Saturday, seven in Game 1 on Sunday, and all nine in Game 2 on Saturday — but the standout of the bunch was centerfielder Bryn Sanford.
In total, Sanford went 7-9 on Saturday with a homer, triple, and double, driving in eight runs while scoring five of his own. He’s currently slugging nearly .800 on the season and sits tied for fifth amongst the league leaders in RBIs.
Sunday’s doubleheader in Waterloo saw the offence pick up right where they left off, beating the Golden Hawks by a score of 14-6 in Game 1. After another shaky start from lefty Adam Robertson, who gave up five runs and walked four in 1.2 innings, the Badgers got 5.1 innings of solid relief; Dante Cifala worked around the four walks he issued to escape without surrendering a run over his 1.1 innings, before Justin Momborquette gave up just a single run over four good innings of work while striking out six.
The Golden Hawks did manage to salvage the series by finally cooling off the Badger offence in Game 2, shutting them out 7-0 behind five scoreless innings from starter Ryan Douglas.
The Badgers, who now sit at 5-3, have the second highest team OPS in the league at .866, trailing only the 8-0 Toronto Varsity Blues. With a pair of horses in Ambrogio and Underhill leading the rotation, and a balanced offense capable of scoring in bunches, the Badgers look to be in good shape heading into October.
The Badgers will face the 4-2 Waterloo Warriors for another pair of doubleheaders this weekend, with Saturday’s games coming from either George Taylor Field in St. Catharines or the Welland Sports Complex, at noon and 3 p.m., before heading to Jack Couch Park in Waterloo on Sunday. Follow @brockbaseball on Twitter for more details.