Manhattan Baseball Makes Big Statement With Three-Game Sweep Of Rival Iona

by PETE JANNYAsst. Sports Editor

Coming off of a 2-0 loss at Hofstra last Tuesday, the Jaspers swept their three game series with the Iona Gaels this past weekend at Dutchess Stadium. When it was all said and done, Manhattan stood at 4-2 in MAAC play and 11-19 overall.

Manhattan took both games of Saturday’s double-header by scores of 5-2 and 5-0, respectively.

Game one was highlighted by a strong showing on the mound from graduate student John Cain. Taking losses in each of his last four decisions, Cain went 8.1 innings and only allowed two runs on six hits to the Gaels. Cain’s brilliance gave rise to a stretch that saw the 6-10 left-hander retire 13 consecutive batters.

“I was just trying to stay down in the zone and let the defense work and they played great today,” said Cain in a post-game interview with Go Jaspers.

Manhattan tacked on all five of their runs in the fifth inning alone to cruise to victory.

Freshman Jonathan Barditch came across for the game’s first run after his lead-off double eventually translated into a run off of a Sam Franco sac-fly. After Shawn Blake and Nick Cimillo hit back-to-back singles, junior Dominic Palma drove Blake home with an RBI double that moved Cimillo to third. A batter later, junior Alex Cerda joined in on the hit party when he laced a double into the right center field gap that plated both Cimillo and Blake to increase Manhattan’s lead to 4-0. The last run of the frame came in the form of a Keury Abreu sac-fly that allowed Cerda to score.

It was not until the ninth inning that Iona got on the board when they brought home two runs to end Cain’s resounding performance. After being called on to replace Cain in the ninth, senior Joe Ditorrice induced the final two outs to earn his first career save.

Cimillo, Franco, and Padre each collected two hits in a game that saw Manhattan collect 10 base knocks. Cerda paced the team in RBIs with two thanks to his two-run double in the fifth.

Iona’s Stephen Hansen took home the loss conceding five runs over six innings of work.

“I remember going to Manhattan versus Iona basketball games as a little kid and it was always crazy then and it’s still crazy now,” said Cain when asked by Go Jaspers how it felt to play his first game in the heated rivalry between the two schools.

Manhattan’s pitching dominance was on full display in game 2 of the double-header as well.

T.J Stuart went the distance for the home team registering his first career complete game shutout in what as an abbreviated seven-inning game. Stuart’s promising performance was delivered on the strength of eight strikeouts.

Blake got Manhattan off to a fast start in game two when he drilled a homer to right field in the bottom of the first inning to make the score 1-0.

Manhattan found more offensive success in the second inning when they added two more runs. With Cerda on third and Padre on first with no outs, Abreu picked up an RBI single to up Manhattan’s lead to 2-0. Manhattan managed to get a second run across when Sam Franco’s sacrifice fly allowed Padre to score.

Now up 3-0, the Jaspers opted not to take their foot of the gas.

Padre and Abreu wreaked havoc again in the fourth by both collecting lead-off hits to open the door for more runs. Both would eventually score thanks to an Iona error to put the home team ahead 5-0.

Meanwhile, Stewart grew more lethal as the game progressed as he retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced, including a stretch in which he sat down nine straight batters. In fact, Stewart faced no more than four batters in any inning to help his team cruise to victory. Manhattan’s five runs proved to be more than enough to compliment Stewart’s prowess on the mound.

The Jaspers returned to the diamond on Sunday with a potential sweep of Iona on the horizon.

The team was able to get the job done registering a 7-4 win thanks in large to five first-inning scores. The win had heightened importance for Manhattan as it clinched their first sweep of the season.

The foundation of Manhattan’s first-inning scoring outburst was laid down by back-to-back singles from Blake and Cimillo with one out. After Blake scored on an Iona throwing error, Cerda smacked a two-run double in the next at-bat to bring home Cimillo and Palma. Manhattan’s three-run lead would quickly swell to four after a ground-rule double off the bat of Padre plated Cerda. Freshman Jake Knopp put the finishing touchings on Manhattan’s offensive eruption with an RBI single that scored Padre.

The Gaels would strike back with three runs in the top of the second to get the Gaels to within two at 5-3. Iona mustered all three of their runs by virtue of three RBI singles off the bats of Fran Kinsey, Joe DeMaio, and Daniel Palermo. Two of the three runs scored were the byproduct of two Manhattan errors.

On the offensive front, the Manhattan bats refused to go cold. The bottom of the second inning was characterized by a Blake home run to right field that stretched Manhattan’s lead to 6-3. The home run was Blake’s second of the series after going deep a day earlier in the first inning of game two.

Manhattan’s seventh and final run came when freshman David Moffet laced an RBI single on the first pitch of his pinch-hit at-bat in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Senior Ryan Takacs bounced back after a rough second-inning to finish with a line of five innings pitched, one earned run on six hits, and two strikeouts. Senior Joe DiTorrice took care of business in relief providing three shutout innings.

Manhattan’s offensive attack was a team effort as nine different Jaspers hit safely in game three. Blake led the charge at the plate going 3-for-3 with a solo homer, two runs scored, and two walks.

The Jaspers will play a double-header at Army West Point (17-14, 6-4 Patriot League) on Wednesday, March 10th before hosting the Siena Saints (8-19, 4-5 MAAC) for a three-game series this coming weekend at Dutchess Stadium.