The Royals honored eight seniors before the sweep over Roanoke: (l-r) Ryan Henschel, Tyler McCullock, Austin Marzullo, Andrew Romano, Justin Rodriguez, Brad Matthias, Ryan Sanders and Brandon Carroll. (Photo by Rachel Lindsay)

Senior day sweep jumps EMU into fifth in ODAC

Showing they could play two very different games, EMU’s baseball team picked up a clutch ODAC sweep of Roanoke on Senior Day.  On the backs of defense and pitching, the Royals won the opener before out-scoring the Maroons in a wild nightcap.

With the wins, Eastern Mennonite jumps from seventh in the conference standings into a tie for fifth. The top six teams will make the ODAC Tournament, a feat EMU last accomplished in 2002.

The Royals are 9-9 in league play, tied with Roanoke at 8-8, although the men now hold the head-to-head tie-breaker between the two. Lynchburg sits just behind them at 7-8. EMU plays two more conference games, ending the season with a twin bill at second-place Virginia Wesleyan on Saturday. Roanoke has four games left, including a game at Lynchburg, while LC still has five league games to play, with the final one next Sunday.

EMU 5, Roanoke 2
After pre-game Senior Recognition ceremonies, the day’s high spirits were dampened by an early confusing play. Just three batters in, Roanoke’s Craig Kiley lofted a ball deep to left, and Kyle Armstrong (Greenville, Va./Riverheads) crashed into the outfield fence trying to make the catch. Despite the great effort by Armstrong, he couldn’t make the play and it was discovered the ball somehow got over the fence.  After some discussion, the umpires ruled it a homerun, giving the Maroons a 2-0 lead.

But the Royals quickly took the momentum back, starting their first inning with a walk and back-to-back singles to score a run.  A sacrifice fly tied it at 2-2, and Kyle Mathews (Chesapeake, Va./Great Bridge) knocked a clutch two-out, two-RBI single to left, flipping EMU in front, 4-2.

Starting pitcher Jake Brown (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester) settled down on the mound and proceeded to allow just four more hits through 7.0 innings of work.

A Roanoke error in the fourth helped the men score, as Armstrong hit an RBI groundout to bump the lead to 5-2.

Brown handed the ball over to Austin Marzullo (Shippensburg, Pa./Shippensburg) in the eighth, and the big righthander allowed just one baserunner as he struck out three to earn a two-inning save. The game fittingly ended on a great play in the outfield, as a diving catch by Armstrong in the left-center gap closed a 1-2-3 ninth.

Along with a couple of airborne catches in the outfield, Armstrong led at the plate as well, batting 2-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. Justin Rodriguez (Miramar, Fla./Monsignor Edward Pace) was 2-3 with a walk and run, while Mathews and Patrick Love (Bedford, Va./Staunton River) each had a pair of hits as well.

Brown struck out five and improved to 3-4 with the win, while Marzullo tied for the ODAC lead with his fourth save of the season.

EMU 11, Roanoke 9
The Royals looked destined for a sweep with a quick start in the second game. Rodriguez had three RBIs and Love sent a two-run bomb over the scoreboard in left field for the men’s first homerun of the season, as EMU led 5-0 after two.

Roanoke quickly tied it with a five spot in the third, however, doing the final damage with a three-run homer to left, chasing starter Ryan Henschel (New Market, Va./Stonewall Jackson).

EMU went back ahead thanks to a two-out error in the bottom of the frame, but the Maroons got a pair of two-out RBIs in the fourth to get in front.  The teams traded single runs in the fifth, leaving the visitors on top 8-7.

Reliever Aaron Weaver (Sugar Creek, Ohio/Hiland) finally provided some stability on the mound, entering in the sixth and retiring six straight batters.  Meanwhile RC’s reliever broke down in the bottom of the sixth, issuing back-to-back walks to start the inning.  The Maroons botched a sacrifice play from the Royals, loading the bases with nobody out.  One run scored on a wild pitch, another on a single from Mathews and a third on a sacrifice fly from Brandon Carroll (Fredericksburg, Va./Stafford), as EMU regained control, 10-8.

Rodriguez ripped an RBI double in the seventh, making it 11-8.

Marzullo returned to the hill in the eighth, and allowed one run in his second appearance of the day. Joe Hall (Gladys, Va./Rustburg) then entered in the ninth, and after a leadoff walk he got three straight outs to lock up the win and earn his second save.

Weaver picked up his first win in an EMU uniform with his big-time performance in the sixth and seventh innings.

The offense had 12 hits and six walks, with each position player either scoring or driving in a run. Rodriguez had a big game, going 3-4 with a walk and four RBIs. Carroll was 2-3 with a walk, scoring time times and knocking in another. Hall reached base three times with a pair of singles and a walk while Love had two RBIs on his big homerun.

At 15-14 overall, the Royals step out of conference play for two games during the week. The men host The Apprentice School Tuesday at 4 p.m. in their final home game before playing at Messiah College at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.