Yeargin’s Yard: Sweeping off the rust


Daniel Passapera

Junior outfielder Jared Zimbardo (right) hit three home runs this past weekend.

Benjamin Yeargin, Associate Sports Editor

Flashes of high-energy, consistent approaches and resiliency showed when the Quinnipiac baseball team lost to Rhode Island on March 28. The Bobcats brought all three of those qualities with them when they swept the Marist Red Foxes this past weekend for their first conference sweep since 2019.

The two stars of the series were undoubtedly graduate student infielder Kyle Maves and junior outfielder Jared Zimbardo.

Maves is in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak and since March 22, has hit .417 at the plate. Head coach John Delaney moved him up to fourth in the order for the series against Marist, where he batted .500.

“He’s got a little more confidence right now,” Delaney said on April 2. “He’s showing a little bit more discipline and he’s on time with better pitches right now.”

Zimbardo launched three home runs on the weekend, one to left field and two to right-center, showing off the pop he can have to all fields.

Junior catcher/outfielder Keegan O’Connor, redshirt junior first baseman/designated hitter Sean Swenson and senior outfielder Anthony Donofrio all went yard this weekend as well.

Zimbardo, O’Connor and Swenson all utilized the opposite field in game two of the doubleheader Sunday afternoon. Their timing against Marist sophomore left-handed pitcher Jack Bowery improved as the game went on; all three struggled the first time around the order but made the necessary change to get on time.

“He (Bowery) was quick from his leg lift to delivering the ball to the plate,” Maves said on April 2. “As a unit we were late our first go around the order … We were trying to be as early as possible and I think that made us on time and able to drive the ball more.”

Even players who weren’t necessarily getting hits made their impact known throughout the series.

Take freshman outfielder John Heitzman for example. If you’re looking at the box score for game one on Sunday, Heitzman went 0-3 with two strikeouts — not great. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find Heitzman bunted over O’Connor in his first at-bat, and his next two at-bats, he saw eight or more pitches, forcing the Marist pitchers to throw more.

Another example is junior first baseman Sebastian Mueller in game one. Mueller went 1-3 with two walks, but Mueller stretched to the splits twice at first to get the runner out and was stellar defensively.

“We talk a lot with all our players (about) being able to make hits with your glove,” Delaney said. “We might not be doing our job at the plate, but for every hit we might not have gotten at the plate, we’re able to take away hits with our glove.”

The lineup showed how good they can be when they’re consistent, but they also showed how resilient they were.

O’Connor and Zimbardo’s home runs on Friday tied the game and gave the Bobcats the lead, respectively. Donofrio’s, Swenson’s and Zimbardo’s first long balls in Sunday’s games were all go-ahead shots too.

Quinnipiac focused on winning the inning, and performing at its best no matter what the circumstances entailed.

“When they get on us and come out and put up a two or three spot, we can fire back when we come out on offense,” Zimbardo said on April 2. “We’re never uncomfortable when we go down.”

For the most part, the Bobcats kept their composure under the pressure of the wind, varying umpire calls and jeering from the Red Foxes dugout. The three contests epitomized how contentious conference games can be.

Turning to the mound, it took time for all three of the Bobcats starters to settle in but once they did, they cruised.

Senior right-handed pitchers Jimmy Hagan and Kevin Seitter and graduate student righty Tim Blaisdell allowed a combined five runs in the first inning, which nearly equaled how many runs all three gave up in total.

Hagan found his changeup and allowed only one more run in his start, Seitter regained his command and Blaisdell focused on getting more ground ball outs, with nearly half of his 18 outs coming off ground balls.

Conversely, the bullpen was volatile.

On Friday, graduate student righty Frank Craska, sophomore righty Ryan Hutchinson, freshmen left-handed pitcher Matt Alduino and righty Mike Poncini completed four no-hit innings. All four of them looked unstoppable against a Red Foxes lineup that couldn’t muster any offense.

But Sunday was a different story.

Craska, who looked superb Friday, allowed three earned runs by giving up a homer to Marist senior outfielder Colin Mackle and walking senior infielder Dylan Hoy and freshman outfielder Ethan Conrad. Hutchinson was dealt a tough hand, coming in with two base runners and no outs and allowed only one earned run.

During game two, freshman righties Andrew Rubayo and Aaron Zenus allowed three runs each, a shakeup from both of their previous shutout outings.

For the Bobcats to continue their success, consistent appearances from the bullpen are necessary. Hutchinson and Poncini have been fantastic, but guys like Craska, Rubayo and Zenus must be consistent.

The Bobcats will continue MAAC play as they face Niagara this weekend starting on Thursday at 3 p.m. and look to prove the conference wrong.

“We were picked (seventh) in the preseason MAAC poll,” Maves said. “But we’re here, we’re coming and we’re building.”