Photo By: Jonah Dayton
Brock’s men’s baseball team made their much-anticipated return to the familiar grounds of George Taylor Field this past Saturday, after playing their first four home games of the season at nearby Welland Sports Complex due to poor field conditions.
Brock took on the Waterloo Warriors for a doubleheader on what was a rare hot and sunny October day. Sunday’s forecast was quite the opposite though, as rain cancelled virtually every game across the OUA, so it was a bit of a lighter weekend for Brock with just the pair of games.
Nevertheless, the Badgers set themselves up well for success — perhaps knowing the forecast was suspect at best for Sunday — by lining up their two aces, Brandon Underhill and Connor Ambrogio, for Saturday’s doubleheader.
Game 1 saw another stellar outing from Underhill, who threw seven innings of one-run ball, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out nine en route to another win.
“Brandon did really well today,” said catcher Jacob Underwood, who has caught all of Underhill’s starts this season. “All of his offspeed [pitches] were working today, he was spotting up his fastball, he made it really easy for me to call the game. His slider was just painting the corners, curveballs were painting the corners, it was all working today.”
The offence gave Underhill an early cushion, scoring three in the first after three straight hits from Ashton Feijo, Bryn Sanford, and Cole Carpenter, before tacking on another run in the second off of Sanford’s second RBI double in as many innings.
The Badgers added another run in the seventh after a bit of small ball cashed in shortstop Reid Lunney, who walked, stole second, advanced to third on a grounder to the right side, before scoring on another ground ball, before they got a big assist from Warriors’ reliever Trevor Smith. After Jake English loaded the bases, Smith entered the game with one out in the eighth, with his team down 5-1, and struck out the first batter he faced. Two outs. Lunney came back to the plate and hit a weak grounder right back to the mound, which was fielded cleanly by Smith, but the throw to first sailed way over the head of the first baseman and allowed all three Badger runners to score.
The Badgers went into the ‘pen to wrap things up, now up 8-1, bringing in lefty Dan Howat to make his first appearance of the season. Howat picked up right where Underhill left off, striking out the side in the eighth before stranding a leadoff double in the ninth by retiring the next three batters to secure the win in his OUA debut.
“Really good stuff from [Howat],” said Underwood. “That was actually the first time I’ve ever caught him. His offspeed worked really well, he was throwing his fastball effectively. Overall he did really well and that’s great to see coming out of the ‘pen.”
It was a tough afternoon for Underwood behind the plate, who, in traditional catcher fashion, took quite a beating in Game 1. He was a bit of a foul ball magnet, which most likely led to backup catcher Adrian Butrimas getting the start in Game 2.
“Yeah the first one was a foul tip bunt that hit me in a little bit of a sensitive area,” said Underwood. “I did take a little bit of a beating just off of foul balls, but it is what it is, we got the win and that’s all that matters.”
Game 2 saw Connor Ambrogio back on the mound. However, this time it was the Warriors’ turn to take an early lead thanks to some shaky infield defense from the Badgers. The Warriors scored three runs in the first — all unearned — before Ambrogio settled into a really nice groove, retiring 13 out of his next 14 batters, five via the strikeout and seven via ground balls. The final line for Ambrogio was still strong: five innings, four hits, one earned run, zero walks, and five K’s, bringing his ERA down to 1.89 on the season over a team-leading 19 innings.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, the opposing starter, lefthander Jake Roberts, was dominant through his four shutout innings of work, striking out seven through his first three innings before getting three weakly hit balls in the fourth. The Badgers stacked their Game 2 lineup with righties — Sanford, Feijo, and David Polson were the lone left-handed hitters — to matchup against Roberts, but ultimately it didn’t do much.
Luckily for Brock, he was pulled after four, and the Badgers immediately scored two in the fifth off reliever Jorden Carthy thanks to a two-run single from Sanford, who now sits tied for second among the league leaders in RBIs with 12.
The Badgers turned to a pair of lefties to pitch the sixth and seventh, Hayden Stam and Nick Davies, respectively, and each gave up a run to extend the Warriors’ lead. Stam hit the leadoff man in his inning before some small ball allowed him to score, while Davies gave up a solo home run to Liam Sutherland to take Game 2 by a final score of 6-2.
With that, Brock’s regular season has concluded. At 6-4, they sit third in the OUA behind the 8-3 Carleton Ravens and the 10-0 Toronto Varsity Blues. Brock will compete in a regional qualifier this upcoming weekend in the hopes to qualify for the OUA championships, which will take place the following weekend.
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