ODU Triumphs Over Marshall Twice in Three-Game Series


Elena Harris

Junior Chris Dengler tags the baserunner out at second base.

By Art Neal, Assistant Sports Editor

As the weather starts to warm up in the 757 and baseball season gets into full swing, ODU baseball took on the Marshall Thundering Herd in a three-game series on March 24-26. This three-game series is the Monarch’s second series in Sun Belt play, where they look to place themselves atop the Sun Belt leaderboard. Entering this series, ODU’s record stood at 18-3, 3-0 in the Sun Belt, while Marshall stood at 10-8 and 1-2 in the Sun Belt respectively. 

Game one started under the lights on Friday evening with sophomore LHP Blake Morgan on the rubber for the Monarchs. Unfortunately, the Thundering Herd was able to capitalize off a walk and then a double that plated a run in the first. The Monarchs had no response in their part of the first as they were struck out in order to finish the first inning.  However, the Monarchs responded in the second and tied it at one after the Marshall starting pitcher developed some control issues and found himself in a bases-loaded situation. He then hit the batter in the box with a fastball, bringing home a run. 

Sophomore LHP Blake Morgan winds up for the pitch in Game One against Marshall (Elena Harris )

Unfortunately, that was the last scene of the ODU offense on Friday night. The Thundering Herd continued scoring one in the third and then forced Morgan out of the game in the fifth inning with two outs. Junior left-hander Jacob Gomez came in after Morgan struggled and gave up two earned runs in 1.0 innings, bringing the game to 6-1 in the sixth. Fortunately, junior right-hander, Vincent Bashara was able to stop the metaphorical bleeding in the evening, tossing 3.1 innings while tallying four strikeouts. 

In short, the Monarchs went home Friday night with a sour taste in their mouths at a poor hitting performance and tallying their first loss in Sun Belt play. But the Monarchs did not struggle at the plate in game two or three, instead putting on an offensive showcase in both games. 

Game two on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. showed off all the talent ODU baseball has to offer. The Monarchs dominated both on the mound and in the box. Starting pitcher Sam Armstrong, an ODU junior, tallied five scoreless innings, giving up only one hit during that span and getting a fair amount of run support. The Monarchs plated seven runs and spread the wealth by scoring two times in the second, third, and fourth innings, and once in the fifth. 

The sixth inning came as a brief wake-up call for the Monarchs as the Thundering Herd tallied four runs, making the score 7-4 and finishing off Armstrong’s outing. Following this, Radford transfer John Holobetz was put in to shut down the Marshall lineup and maintain the Monarch lead. Holobetz did just that, and the Monarchs provided him with an immense amount of run support as they tallied 5 in the sixth and 9 runs in the seventh batting through the lineup. Following this, Holobetz gave up a solo home run in the eighth, which was inconsequential, as he gained his third save of the season. Armstrong also earned the win, which brought him to a perfect 5-0 for the season. 

Junior Chris Dengler sees the pitch he likes and swings through the ball. (Elena Harris )

On the offensive side of the ball, the Monarchs set a program record for eight home runs in the contest. The long ball charge was led by ODU’s 6’7” designated hitter junior Jake Ticer, who went 3-5 with three HRs, seven RBIs, five runs, and two walks on the day. This is his second game of the season where he has launched a trifecta of home runs, becoming the only Monarch ever to do so. This also puts him and first baseman Hunter Fitz-Gerald in the top 15 nationally in home runs. Other Monarchs to homer were Camden Grimes, who had two, as well as Kenny Levari, Robbie O’Neal, and Josh Trujillo, who all had one dinger on the day. 

At the end of their offensive showcase and drain on Marshall’s pitching, the Monarchs found themselves up 21-5. They took game two and looked forward to taking the series as they awaited the finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Monarchs strung together another dominant performance on both sides of the ball. The ODU pitching staff continued to improve throughout the day, as they surrendered nine hits but only gave way to two runs in the eighth and final innings. Freshman lefty Dylan Brown started on the bump and scattered four hits across 4.2 innings and tallied four strikeouts—one shy of his season best. 

Following this, freshman lefty Bailey Matela came out of the bullpen and tossed 2.1 innings in relief and remained immaculate for the year, his record now 3-0. A trifecta consisting of Joey Dechiaro, Trent Buchanan, and Ron Cole also came out of the bullpen. 

The Monarch offense was led on Sunday by a great performance from leadoff man sophomore Luke Waters, who went 3-5 with a triple, an RBI, two runs, and a stolen base. Senior utility man Camden Grimes (2-for-3) also tallied two doubles with an RBI and a walk. Freshman shortstop Alex Bouche continued his offensive tear across college baseball as he went 2-for-3, tallying a double, two runs, and a base on balls. Fitz-Gerald (1-for-5) tallied the Monarchs’ only long ball of the afternoon, launching a two-run blast in the sixth. This two-run blast puts him in the top 10 across D-I baseball in RBIs with 38. The game ended with ODU in an impressive 12-2 lead.

Junior Hunter Fitz-Gerald looks on as the play as Game One goes on. (Elena Harris )

“I was really proud of how we played these last two days,” said head coach Chris Finwood. “We faced three really good arms today and had our best approach offensively of the season with lots of big two-strike hits to expand the lead. Dylan Brown continues to improve on the mound each time out and gave us a really solid start today. We have a real tough week in front of us and it was nice to start it off with a series victory.”

The Monarchs continue taking on challenges within the Commonwealth as they face the University of Virginia, which is ranked number five in the nation, on Tuesday, March 28 at 3 p.m. Following this, ODU baseball will spend next weekend in Georgia as they battle the Georgia Southern Golden Eagles in a three-game series before coming home to Southern Miss on April 6-8 where they are likely to face Tanner Hall—the gem of the Southern Miss rotation—and to be an early-round draft pick in an upcoming MLB draft.