WILMINGTON, N.C. – The Saint Joseph’s baseball team opened its 2019 season on Friday by splitting a pair of games at UNC Wilmington’s Brooks Field. The Hawks fell to VMI in the first contest of the day, but rebounded to snap UNCW’s 10-year opening day winning streak in the second game.
In the opener, VMI benefitted from some timely hitting in the middle innings to emerge with a 9-3 win in the season opener for both teams.
The Hawks had scoring chances early on against the Keydets, but it was VMI (1-0) that struck first, plating three in the bottom of the third. After an error to start the frame, an RBI groundout and a pair of hits gave VMI a 3-0 edge. The Keydets then tacked on another in the fourth on a groundout by Ryan Smoot.
Saint Joseph’s (1-1) got on the board in the fifth after a Charlie Concannon walk and stolen base led to an RBI double by Kadar Namey. The Keydets answered with a pair in the bottom of the inning to make it a 6-1 game.
The Hawks tallied two more in the sixth to cut the deficit to 6-3. Brendan Hueth and James McConnon hit consecutive two-out singles to bring up Andrew Cossetti, who drove in the first two runs of his career with a double down the right field line.
Unfortunately for the Crimson and Gray, the Keydets got both runs back in the bottom of the inning and tacked on one more in the eighth to set the final margin.
Cole Stetzar got the start for SJU, taking the loss after allowing six runs – three earned – on seven hits across five innings. Jonathan Clines was credited with the win for VMI after allowing three runs on five hits in four innings of relief. Jacob Menders allowed four hits in three innings as the starter, keeping the Hawks off the scoreboard while walking two and striking out a pair as well.
Jake Meyers was strong on the mound in the nightcap, turning in six shutout innings in his first career start, as the Hawks held on for a 4-2 victory over UNCW and ended what had been a 10-year winning streak in season openers for the Seahawks in the process.
UNC Wilmington (0-1) threatened early, loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the first, but Meyers induced a groundout to escape the jam.
The senior settled in after that, scattering two hits across the next five innings and retiring the final eight hitters he faced.
The Hawks provided some run support in the top half of the fourth. Concannon reached on an error and then advanced to second on a wild pitch before Dominic Cuoci singled up the middle to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Namey hit a sacrifice fly to bring home the first run of the game; two batters later, Liam Bendo ripped a double to right to score Cuoci and double the early margin.
SJU extended the lead in the fifth as Hueth reached on an error, stole second, and came in to score on a double by McConnon.
Luke Zimmerman came on in relief in his collegiate debut and worked around some trouble in the eighth. A hit batsman, a single, and a walk left the bases loaded with two outs, but the freshman was able to strike out Brooks Baldwin to retire the side.
It would prove to be an important insurance run as the Seahawks finally broke through in the last of the ninth. A walk and a single gave the hosts two on with one out and brought Ryan Devine on from the bullpen. Another walk and an infield pop up left the bases loaded for Cole Weiss, who singled in a pair to cut the lead in half. Devine finished the job, however, by getting the next hitter, cleanup man Kep Brown to pop up to Cuppari at short to end it.
Devine notched his first save of the season to preserve the win for Meyers, who struck out three and did not walk a batter. Luke Gesell took the loss for UNC Wilmington after allowing three unearned runs on six hits while fanning two in five innings.
Saint Joseph’s is set to meet the host Seahawks again on Saturday. Game time is currently set for 4:00 p.m., but is subject to change due to the potential for inclement weather.