Goshen Opens Season With Win At Metrodome
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - What would be a better way to start off a season then playing at a Major League Baseball stadium?
How about a win? The Maple Leafs made good on both counts as they picked up a thrilling 3-2 victory over Robert Morris College in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Twins.
The victory is Goshen College's earliest win in the 51-year history of the program. The only time the Leafs have even opened the season as early as February 8 was in 1990 when head coach Devon Hoffman took his team to the University of Notre Dame and fell by a close 3-0 count.
While the excitement of opening day baseball is always high, the extra incentive of playing indoors at the Metrodome had the Maple Leaf players literally jumping out of their cleats to get on the field. After weeks of indoor practice and a long bus ride, the time had finally come.
Early on, it was a much improved Goshen defense that flashed some leather and gained momentum. After the leadoff hitter reached base for Robert Morris, junior catcher Sean Sears promptly mowed him down attempting to steal second base. An inning later, freshman Andy Swisher ran down a ball in deep right to save a run.
The Eagles did break through with a single run in the third and another in the fourth, but again the Maple Leafs defense limited the damage as junior shortstop Kraig Miller made a diving stop up the middle before flipping to second for a force out to end the inning.
The fourth inning was the end of starting pitcher Shane Kurtz's day, but the Maple Leafs bullpen came on and had a fantastic outing. After senior Brad Elam got the final out of the fourth inning, junior Aaron Coy came on to strike out eight of the 11 batters he faced and ultimately pick up the win.
Behind a strong bullpen and defense, the comeback was on. Sophomore Zach Reed led off the bottom of the fourth with a double that one-hopped the right field wall. After moving over to third base on a ground ball, Reed scored Goshen's first run of the season on a Tom McDowell single to left field.
Reed also scored the Leaf's second run in the bottom of the sixth. After reaching base on a walk, Reed was knocked in with a double by freshman Garrett Cannizzo. Now tied 2-2, the game headed into the bottom of the seventh and final inning knotted up.
One of the biggest differences in this year's Maple Leaf squad figures to be team speed and bat control. In baseball terms, small ball. Sophomore Sean Doering led off the inning by fouling off a pair of pitches before ultimately drawing a walk. He then moved to second on a wild pitch.
With no outs and a man in scoring position, Swisher laid down a perfect bunt. Robert Morris' only chance was to try and cut down Doering at third. Doering's speed, however, forced the Eagles into a bad throw which sailed down the left field line and allowed Doering to cruise into home for the winning run.
Six different Maple Leafs tallied hits in a solidly played game all around. Reed finished 1-for-2 with two runs scored, while Coy got the win out of the bullpen with eight strike outs.
Robert Morris 3, Goshen 0 (Game 2 Box)
Riding high off the emotion of the season-opening win, the Maple Leafs struggled offensively in game two of the double header. In fact, Goshen finished with just one hit as Kraig Miller drilled a single up the middle in the sixth inning.
On the mound, freshman Jason Crocker had a solid collegiate debut, going six innings. Crocker gave up just three runs on six hits before classmate Shane Davis pitched a scoreless seventh inning.
Robert Morris 8, Goshen 3 (Game 3 Box)
After not leaving the Metrodome until midnight Sunday night, the Maple Leafs were back at the stadium just over eight hours later. The quick turnaround may have been too much for Goshen as they came out flat in the third game of the four-game set against Robert Morris.
In his first start in nearly two years - sat out 2008 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery - junior Aaron Keister went five innings, giving up eight hits and five earned runs. He had little help, though, as Goshen committed a pair of errors and did not score until the sixth.
Junior Matt Fyfe and freshman Andy Swisher tallied two hits a piece as the Leafs tallied 10 hits, but could not string enough together for a late comeback.
Robert Morris 7, Goshen 6 (Game 4 Box)
The fourth and final game of the trip turned out to be the wildest. Goshen got on the board first as Adam Zehr walked, was sacrificed to second, and ultimately scored on a Zach Reed single. Robert Morris, however, responded with three in the bottom half to take a 3-1 lead just one inning into the game.
In another twist, the Maple Leafs took advantage of two Robert Morris errors and three walks to score four runs in the top of the second and take a 5-3 lead. The Eagles scored once in the third and one more in the fifth to set up a 5-5 tie.
With two outs in the seventh, Zac Miller singled to right. The next batter, Matt Fyfe nailed a ball to the right-center gap for a triple. While he was thrown out at home trying to stretch it into an inside-the-park home run, the triple put Goshen ahead 6-5.
Unfortunately, the final turn went against the Leafs. Robert Morris rallied with two outs and took advantage of two Goshen miscues to pull out the win in the bottom of the final inning.