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Baseball Swept By Western Carolina to Open 2012 Season

Fordham Drops First Three Games 9-8, 6-1 and 12-9; Ryan Maghini and Mike Mauri Provide Offense for R

SPORTS EDITOR

Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 00:02

Ram Archives

Sophomore Chris Pike was selected as the opening day starter for the Rams after a stellar freshman season.

Ram Archives

Brian Kownacki doubled inthree runs in the final game of the series.


The Rams opened their 152nd season of baseball in North Carolina as they faced the Western Carolina Catamounts in a three-game series.

This season marks the first  for Head Coach Kevin Leighton, who came from Manhattan College after a tenure that included several trips to the College World Series. Leighton left the program as the third winningest coach in Jasper's baseball history. Coming into this season, Leighton had a head coaching record of 200-119-1.

Despite plenty of offense, Fordham fell in all three games, opening the season 0-3. The Rams made two huge comebacks in games one and three of the series, but both efforts came up just short.

The Rams got into North Carolina at 5 a.m. on Friday following a 14-hour bus ride, and had to play a doubleheader the same day due to incoming weather that would have made a Sunday game hard to fit in.

Fordham opened the season by  turning to its ace, sophomore Chris Pike.

The righty enjoyed a brilliant freshman season filled with accolades, such as being  named a Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

Pike got off to a rocky start, giving up two runs in the first inning as Fordham fell behind early. Senior shortstop Ryan Maghini got the Rams back into it however, as he blasted a solo home run to cut the lead to one.

Maghini led the Rams with three hits in the game, and looks to be a crucial part of the offense this season.

"Maghini is a guy that we really need to continue to swing the bat well," Leighton said.

The Rams were denied a run in the second as well, when senior left fielder Stephen McSherry was gunned down at home.

"Stephen did not get a very good read on the ball," Leighton said. "He just kind of caught a flat tire as he rounded third, and the fielder made a great throw to home."

Western Carolina added onto its lead over the next couple of innings playing some small ball, stringing together walks and singles to plate four more runs against Pike, giving the Catamounts a 6-1 lead in the fourth.

The damage could have been worse if not for some perfect throws from McSherry and freshman center fielder Matt Cianci, both of whom nabbed runners at the plate.

Graduate student catcher Zach Small, who joins Fordham this season after completing his undergraduate work at Johns Hopkins, hit a home run in his first game as a Ram, cutting the deficit to four runs.  Small still had eligibility because he graduated in three years.

An RBI from junior first baseman Mike Mauri narrowed the gap to 6-3.

Pike was chased after the fifth, giving up six runs on 10 hits while striking out five. The sophomore was done in by some control issues, allowing Catamount batters to get good pitches to hit.

"He was up in the zone a lot," Leighton said. "When he is up there he is going to get hit. We need him to be down in the zone and ahead of the hitters."

Fordham turned to senior Daniel Munday coming out of the pen, who would pitch three scoreless innings for the team.

The Rams continued to cut into the lead, as senior right fielder Ryan Lee drove home Cianci to kick start the seventh. Western Carolina pitcher Jeremy Sluder then lost all of his control, walking two batters and hitting one to drive in a run for Fordham.

Mauri gave the Rams their first lead of the season by driving in two with a two-out double, putting the Rams ahead 7-6.  Fordham added an insurance run in the ninth off the bat of McSherry, giving the Rams a two-run advantage. They could have done more, but a runner was picked off from third, ending the late-inning rally.

The run would prove to be very costly, as Western Carolina freshman designated hitter Jacob Hoyle hit a game-tying two run home run off sophomore reliever Jonathan Reich. Hoyle would finish the game 4-for-5, including a pair of doubles to go with his home run.

The righty walked the lead-off batter in the ninth, and later advanced him to second following a wild pitch.

"Whenever you walk the lead-off guy, that is usually going to come back and bite you," Leighton said.

Reich would give up another single before junior reliever Rich Anastasi was brought in to preserve the tie. Anastasi loaded the bases on an intentional walk and a single, setting the stage for a walk off single off the bat of senior second basmeman Ross Heffley.

Fordham had to let the loss go in quick time, turning right around to play game two of the doubleheader.

Once again, the Rams secured a lead, scoring the game's first run in the fourth inning on a wild pitch. The lead could have been so much more, as the team loaded the bases in the first.

The threat was ended, however,  when Cianci was thrown out at home trying to score on a pop-up in foul ground along the first-base line.

"When you replay it, it makes you think maybe with two outs we get a hit," Leighton said. "But maybe we get a strike out. So, it was a gamble that we took early in the game that we took that didn't pay off."

Junior Joseph Charest got the start on the rubber for Fordham, and controlled the game until the sixth inning, when he gave up five runs, surrendering his first damage of the game.

Charest finished the game, going 6.2 innings, giving up four earned runs while setting down three on strikes.

"He was hitting his spots well staying low in the zone, but they got a couple pitches to hit and they didn't miss them," Leighton said. "Also there were a couple plays that we potentially could have made, they weren't easy plays, but if we make those it's a different line."

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