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Friday, April 15, 2011

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Women’s lacrosse, softball, women’s tennis

no blast, just bunts:
baseball edges past swarthmore again

One day, it was a blast over the fence in right. The next day, it was five batted balls that strung together, would have barely made it to the outfield.

It’s all about finding ways to win, and after a season in which the winning formula has been elusive, the Muhlenberg baseball team is finally turning things around.

The Mules played “small-ball” to the extreme, parlaying five
Joseph Vila
Vila, the Mules' cleanup hitter, had two sacrifice bunts in the game and also contributed a two-run single in the six-run fifth inning.
sacrifice bunts and a couple of misplays into a three-run rally that was the difference in an 11-10 win against Swarthmore. The win gave Muhlenberg a season sweep of the Garnet, a day after an 8-7 victory on a three-run walkoff home run.

“It was nice to finally get another one,” said senior Joseph DiCecilia. “It was a great game to be a part of.”

The Swarthmore pitchers might feel otherwise. The Mules (8-22-1, 5-7), who came back from an early 4-0 deficit to take an 8-5 lead, trailed 9-8 when they came to the plate in the eighth. Senior Jeff Puklin led off with a single to right field, and then the bunt-fest began.

Sophomore John Muha beat out a bunt down the third-base line for his fourth hit of the game. DiCecilia, who had two
John Muha
Muha's second career four-hit game helped the Mules to a season-high 18 hits.
doubles in the game, followed with a sacrifice bunt that was thrown away by the Garnet pitcher. Puklin came home with the tying run, and Muha crossed over to third.

Swarthmore changed pitchers, but the next play was exactly the same. Sophomore Joseph Vila bunted to move DiCecilia over to second and reached base himself when the throw from the pitcher was wild, allowing Muha to score the go-ahead run.

The next hitter, freshman Max Litvak put down Muhlenberg’s fourth straight bunt. This time the Garnet played it right, leaving runners on second and third with one out. After a walk came the coup de grace: a successful squeeze bunt with the bases loaded by freshman Nick Gazzillo, bringing in DiCecilia to make the score 11-9.

“We put pressure on their defense and forced them to make plays, and they couldn’t,” said DiCecilia. “Small-ball is something we’ve struggled to do all year. It was our execution in that inning that won the game.”

The game wasn’t quite won yet. The Garnet (16-10, 7-5) got a runner to third in the bottom of the eighth and scored a run in the bottom of the ninth, but senior Jason Daniels recorded the final out to nail down the win and end a personal seven-game losing streak.

It was just the latest nailbiter for the Mules, who have played seven one-run games (including the last three) out of their 12 in the CC. And like many of those previous games, they had to come from behind. In the first game against Swarthmore, Muhlenberg overcame a five-run hole with three in the eighth and three in the ninth.

“Baseball is a crazy game,” said DiCecilia. “Momentum doesn’t always carry well. But after a game like yesterday, you have to feel confident.”

The Mules also suddenly feel confident about their CC playoff prospects after a sweeping a team that was coming off a sweep of then-nationally ranked Johns Hopkins. With their next four games against Gettysburg and Dickinson, both of whom are 3-9 in the CC, the Mules have a chance to play themselves back into playoff picture.

“We’re in a position where we control our fate,” said DiCecilia. “If we keep stringing wins together, we’ll get to where we need to be.”
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