Southern Vermont bests Lions in error-filled battle

by Chris Eyer / Beacon Staff • March 23, 2011

, Beacon staff 

For sports fans, baseball can be synonymous with warm weather, sunny skies, and an ice-cold beer.

In New England, however, early season games played in blustery, 30-degree weather can be tough for both fans and players alike. And, it’s this type of weather that Emerson pitcher Conor McDonough prefers.

“It’s a tough adjustment, but personally I love pitching in the cold,” McDonough said, having come back from the team’s pre-season spring break trip to Florida. “I’m from

New England, so it’s much easier for me to deal with the cold than the hot.”

The sophomore hails from Hanson, Mass. and entered a weekend doubleheader versus Southern Vermont College with an ERA of 2.63 over 13 and two-thirds innings pitched so far.

“I pitch to contact, meaning I want batters to hit the ball,” McDonough elaborated in an email with the Beacon. “Hopefully, they are hitting it in on their hands or off the end of the bat and in the cold that is painful. It gives them less incentive to swing at some of my pitches.”

But despite being back in their comfort zone in chilly Malden on Saturday, the Lions weren’t able to produce and it was Southern Vermont College who wasn’t deterred by the cold and wind. Southern Vermont laid off pitches outside the zone and frequently fought off McDonough’s tougher deliveries, forcing the sophomore to labor, eventually coming away with a 5-4 victory over the Lions.

“They were right on me the whole game, fouling off pitches the whole time,” said McDonough, a marketing and communication major. “I had to throw 16 pitches to the second batter I faced.”

[caption id="attachment_524" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Courtesy of Barbara Platts"][/caption]

In addition to the high pitch count, McDonough was taking antibiotics for an ear infection. Several other members of the team were recovering from the sickness as well, which spread while the team was in Florida.

McDonough could only hold on for so long in the cold.

The sophomore allowed two Mountaineers to reach base in the sixth. With runners on the corners and one out, McDonough was pulled for Brandon Topp.

Two throwing errors later, Southern Vermont had capitalized on Emerson’s sloppy play, scoring three runs in the sixth inning.

When it was their turn to bat, Emerson tried to put pressure on the Mountaineers, running the base paths aggressively and playing small ball to squeeze out a few runs.

“We always want to be aggressive. We have stolen more bases than our opponents all year,” said head coach Dave Hanley.

Hanley cited player Cal Ciarcia as a big component of that as the freshman has stolen 10 bases already this season.

“He could go on to set school records,” Hanley said.

The gameplan was especially evident in the sixth inning as the Lions tried to heat things up on the basepaths. Left fielder Peter Maltzan began the inning hitting a grounder shortstop, but hustled down to first and forced a hurried throw, putting Maltzan on second.

Later that inning Geoff Lopes reached base and advanced on a pitch that got away from the Southern Vermont catcher. Capitalizing on miscues resulted in two runs for  Emerson, but the Lions’ success was short-lived as more errors ultimately did them in.

Southern Vermont’s Devin Rhodes out-dueled McDonough in the cold, allowing only two earned runs and striking out five. It was his second complete game of the season.

The Mountaineers’ pitching picked up where it left off in the second game of the doubleheader. This time, Emerson did not get much of a chance to run the bases, as Southern Vermont starting pitcher Ben Naaktgeboren went the full seven innings, striking out nine and allowing only five base runners.

Emerson (5-10) fell into a hole early. Jeff Kolb allowed seven runs and was chased from the game in the second inning. Naaktgeboren ended the double-header by striking out the last two batters, wrapping up the second game with a final score of 9-0.