The Marist baseball team took two of three from Iona over the weekend to improve to 9-8 in MAAC play. Unfortunately for the Red Foxes, the rest of the league is keeping pace, and Marist sits in fifth place in the conference, percentage points behind St. Peters and Fairfield, who both have 8-7 records. The good news for Marist is that they have won eight of their last ten and are on one of their finest run of the season headed down the stretch.
The first game against Iona started off quickly as the Red Foxes gave senior starter Chad Gallagher a lead to work with, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. Sophomore Nick McQuail plated sophomore Jake Berry and junior Zach Shank with an RBI double down the left field line, putting Marist ahead.
Marist added another run in the fourth as sophomore Pat Welsh hit his team leading third homerun of the season, to put the Red Foxes ahead 3-0. That would be all the run support that Gallagher would need, as he did not let in his first run until the seventh, which was unearned. Junior Mike Orefice hit a two-run homerun in the eighth as insurance, and Welsh hit an RBI single which plated McQuail to stretch the lead to 6-1. Iona brought one run back but Marist seized victory in Game One, 6-2.
The Red Foxes got off to another quick start in the back half of the double header as Orefice hit his second homerun of the series, this one a two run shot to right which gave Marist an early 2-0 lead. The Red Foxes plated another run in the third, as freshman Alec Petrone singled home junior Eric Helmrich to stretch the advantage to 3-0.
The Red Fox offense blew the game open in the top of the fifth, exploding for three runs which effectively put the game out of reach for the Gaels. Orefice and Helmrich led off the inning with back to back doubles, plating one and McQuail beat out a bunt single, which eventually plated Helmrich on a throwing error from Iona. McQuail would come around to score on a RBI single from Welsh. Iona scored two in the bottom of the sixth, but Marist added another just for good measure in the seventh as freshman Mark Swertfager doubled home Welsh.
"We pitched played and played defense," Marist head coach Chris Tracz said. "Chad and Brett did a great job on Saturday and Mike hit two big homeruns."
Gallagher and junior Brett Houseal earned the victories in Games One and Two respectively. Gallagher went eight innings strong, surrendering just one earned run while striking out nine and sophomore Kevin McCarthy finished off the game with a perfect ninth. Houseal went the distance in the second game, giving up just two earned runs in his seven innings of work, while striking out two.
"Our pitching has given us a chance to win each game," Tracz said. "We know if we pitch and play defense we will be in a good chance to win the game. Our pitchers have been throwing strikes and controlling game which gives us confidence and a chance to win."
The Red Foxes went to close out the series the following day, but suffered a setback, dropping the finale by a score of 3-1. Marist opened the scoring in the top of the third inning, with Helmrich singling home Swertfager to gain a 1-0 lead. It was short lived, however, as just an inning and a half later, Iona would strike back for two runs off of Marist starter Chris Bielak. The Gaels added another in the bottom of the fifth and held on for the rest of the game, coming away with the 3-1 victory.
On the day, Bielak went five innings, giving up three earned runs while striking out six and walking three. McCarthy again looked impressive in relief, pitching three scoreless innings, striking out five and allowing just one runner to reach base which was on a walk.
The series win over Iona pushes the Red Foxes season record to 18-21 on the season, and 9-8 in the MAAC. Marist's season will be decided in the two remaining conference series taking place in the month of May. The Red Foxes host Canisius College on May 12th and 13th and travel to Fairfield on May 17th and 18th. Marist also plays six non-conference games sprinkled in between, but the important ones are the conference tilts, which will decide whether the team will advance to the MAAC Tournament in late May.
"If we continue to win each series I think we will be fine" Tracz said. "We're playing two teams at the top of league, but we're focused on us and how we win baseball games. I think we're in a position to win games and if we can fight through finals and do things the right way."