FORT MYERS, Fla. (March 6, 2016) – The USMMA baseball team opened the 2016 season on Sunday with a doubleheader against arch-rival Coast Guard in the Mariners' first contests of the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic down in Florida. Merchant Marine dropped the first game, 7-6, but rebounded to take the second, 5-4, setting up a rubber game on Monday for the point in the standings towards the 2015-16 Superintendents' Trophy.
Junior southpaw Patrick Morgan (Roxboro, N.C.) got the starting nod for the first game and allowed just one hit over the first two innings. The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on freshman Tyler Mowry's (Peachtree City, Ga.) RBI groundout that plated junior Richard Kernan (Blythewood, S.C.).
The Bears scored four runs on four hits, including a three-run homer, in the top of the third and then added another in the fourth to take a 5-1 lead, but Merchant Marine responded with five runs in the bottom half of the fourth to regain a one-run lead.
Sophomore Alex Gambino (Haddonfield, N.J.) started it off with a double and moved to third on a single by classmate Steve Lucy (Leawood, Kan.). Mowry knocked both of them in with a double to left field to pull the Mariners to within two, 5-3. A walk and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with no outs. Sophomore Michael Barnes (Alexandria, Va.) hit a sac fly to left which was dropped by the left fielder and scored Mowry. An RBI single by freshman Kai Vitella (Lewes, Del.) saw freshman Jesse Reinebold (Granger, Ind.) come across to tie the score up at 5-5. Senior Quinn Fleming (Ashburn, Va.) put USMMA ahead with an RBI fielder's choice to close out the scoring in the inning.
It didn't take long for Coast Guard to strike back however, as they plated two runs off the Mariner bullpen in the top of the fifth to take the lead once again. The Mariners had a chance to make noise with last licks in the bottom of the seventh. Kernan doubled to right with two outs and then moved to third on a passed ball, but the tying run was left 90 feet away, as the Bears' Cody Bain closed out the save with a strikeout.
Morgan pitched to a no-decision, going four innings and allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits with six strikeouts. Freshman John Kelly Jr. (Apex, N.C.) suffered the loss after pitching the top of the fifth and allowing two runs on just one hit. Senior Jeff Suciu (Zanesville, Ohio) hurled the last two innings and also allowed just one hit.
Eight different Mariners had one hit apiece in the first game and six different scored runs. Mowry led the way with three RBIs.
In the second game, the Mariners got on the board first with two runs in the top of the third. Mowry had an RBI groundout that scored freshman Reilly Cherry (Coeur d'Alene, Idaho), followed by Reinebold reaching on an error that would've ended the inning and wound up scoring Lucy. They added three more in the next inning to push their lead to 5-0 after Fleming hit an RBI triple that scored Vitella and then Fleming and senior Grant Foley (Butler, Pa.) scored on another Bear fielding error.
Coast Guard scored two in the next half inning and then added one more run in both the sixth and seventh innings and, like the Mariners, had the tying run just 90 feet away before the game ended with a fly out to Reinebold in left field.
Merchant Marine used four pitchers in the game, as freshman Andrew Spinnenweber (Pasadena, Md.) started and lasted four innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits with four strikeouts to earn his first collegiate victory. Junior Nathan Slusarczyk (Woodbury, N.J.) came in in relief and allowed just a walk in the fifth inning while retiring the side. Sophomore Justus Martin (Eaton, Colo.) replaced Slusarczyk for the sixth and allowed one run on two hits while striking out one. Senior Brad Suciu (Zanesville, Ohio) earned the save after pitching the bottom of the seventh and allowing one run on one hit with one whiff.
The Mariners are back at it tomorrow for the rubber game of this three-game series with Coast Guard. First pitch is scheduled for 9 a.m. Live stats for the contest are available by following this link.
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