By Sean Addis
Ryerson Rams Athletics
On Saturday, the Ryerson Rams baseball team accomplished something for the first time in their five-year existence, they finally beat the Western Mustangs.
They defeated the two-time defending OUA champions in both games of the doubleheader at Stan Wadlow Park. The Rams followed the textbook recipe for winning baseball games. Begin with quality starting pitching, mix in timely hitting and sprinkle in excellent defence and the result is a sweep of the best team in the OUA.
Ryerson 9 - Western 1
Right-hander Quinn Cumming pitched seven dominant innings against the top offenCe in the league, who was averaging over seven runs a game. The Rams lineup would take advantage of Western starter Alex Lamont’s lack of command early in the game, and the offence lead by designated hitter Jesse Fishbaum would beat the Mustangs 9-1.
Cumming would have his second consecutive dominant start pitching seven innings allowing one run on six hits, three walks and striking out a season-high nine batters. He would have to grind through most of the game against the Mustangs patient hitters. Western would have runners on base every inning, stranding 13 in the game. Cumming was able to use his excellent fastball and mix in other pitches to keep Western to one run.
“It was getting ahead of batters with my fastball,” said Cumming, “and then working in my off-speed and keeping the hitters off balance.”
Cumming’s toughest inning was in the second. Western had just scored on a double by Jordan Camara and had the bases loaded following an error by Rams second baseman Sam Munro. But Cumming came back and struck out leadoff hitter Jake Sakon and second baseman Matt Bowden to end the threat by the Mustangs.
The Rams' bullpen, which has struggled most of the season would pitch two shutout innings to end the game. This included the only three up and three down inning of the game by rookie left-hander Matt MacDowell in the ninth.
Ryerson’s first hitter of the game, designated hitter Jesse Fishbaum, hammered a Lamont fastball that had too much of the plate over the right field fence for his first OUA home run. Fishbaum would lead the offence going three for four with a home run, two runs and two stolen bases. The offence would score seven runs off the starter Lamont and would take advantage of 10 walks by Western pitching. The key to success for the offence was the patient approach of hitters one through nine, and their ability to grind through at bats the entire game.
“All of our approaches were aligned with each other, we weren’t swinging out of our shoes we were going up to the plate with a plan,” said Fishbaum. “We would carry on the at bats one guy would do it and the next guy would do it and so on.”
Ryerson outfielder, Andrew Ciuffreda, would score in the three-run first and drive in a run in the second with a two-out single. The Rams would blow open the game with four in the fourth, taking advantage of four walks, add another run in the fifth.
Ryerson 2 – Western 1
Ryerson starter Kevin MacDonald and Western starter Ben Smith both entered this game coming off poor starts the previous week. MacDonald would only pitch three innings against Queens and Smith would surrender six runs in 3 2/3 innings against McMaster. However, on Saturday they each went the distance in a game the Rams would edge the Mustangs 2-1.
MacDonald, who left last week's start visibly upset with his performance, would throw his best outing in his four years on the team. Pitching seven innings, allowing one (unearned) run on seven hits and four strikeouts. MacDonald doesn’t throw as hard as many pitchers in the league and relies on hitting his spots and pitching ahead. He did that from the first batter of the game until the last out.
“I was able to hit my spots with my fastball,” said MacDonald. “Wherever Johnny (Fagnola) put the glove I was around it. Just getting ahead early and make my defence do the work.”
And the Rams' defence made one excellent play after another both in the infield and outfield. In particular, were the numerous acrobatic plays at first by Pete Apostolopoulos, and shortstop Kyle Conquer's slick fielding in the fourth to turn an inning-ending double play.
After the game Conquer talked about the defensive play.
“We have good communication on the field and this was definitely our most complete game defensively,” he said.
However, it was Rams' defensive lapse that occurred in the top of the seventh that nearly was costly. With the Rams up 2-1 with one out and the tying run on second, Shaemus Tracey hit a ground ball to Conquer. The Rams shortstop was distracted by the runner going to third and hesitated his throw to first and the Mustangs outfielder beat it out. However, MacDonald bared down to strikeout the next batter and then get Chris Nolfi, who had already had two hits, to fly out to right-fielder Matt Papania to preserve the win for the Rams.
Offensively Conquer would contribute with two hits, including a single in the bottom of the fourth to break the 1-1 tie. The Rams had opportunities to add to their lead but were unable to capitalize leaving the bases loaded in both the fourth and fifth inning. Mustang starter Smith was able to only surrender one run through six innings, even though he gave up seven hits and five walks.
Ryerson would score their other run in the first inning on a double by RJ Mienkowski. Western would score their only run in the top of the third on a well executed bunt by Ryan Lim.
Ryerson head coach Ben Rich, a former player and OUA champion with the Mustangs, admitted after the game it felt good to beat his old team and coach. But what was most impressive was how well the Rams played in all aspects of the two games that lead to the sweep.
“This was some of the most complete baseball that we have seen for all nine innings in game one and seven innings in game two” said Rich. “Complete games on all sides of the ball for every inning. That's really been the challenge this season, so that is the best thing to come out of today.”