From Wednesday, March 29 to Sunday, April 2, the Rowan baseball team endured a season-long three-game skid that included a tough loss to No. 2 nationally ranked Salisbury, and a doubleheader sweep against William Paterson to open up New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play for the 2023 season.
Coach Mike Dickson and company were able to turn the tide on Tuesday, however, storming back from a 9-0 deficit to snap their three-game losing streak and take home a 14-12 victory against the Gwynedd Mercy University Griffins.
As can be expected from an early 9-0 hole, the Profs started off this game with play similar to that in their past three games. The Griffins’ lineup continually applied pressure on Rowan starting pitcher Chase Rieger as well as Rowan’s bullpen, scoring 11 runs in the first four innings of play.
A large factor in that total was defensive mishaps, with the brown and gold committing three of their five errors in the first four frames.
“There were a lot of mishaps out there,” Head Coach Mike Dickson said. “Five errors, totally unacceptable. There was one point in the game where we out-hit them, and we’re losing 11-5 or something like that. We gotta continue to work at it, if we’re gonna be a good team, we’re gonna need to be able to pitch and play defense… You gotta be able to play defense if you’re gonna win games, otherwise, you’re gonna be fighting all day long.”
From there, Coach Dickson decided to pull the plug on multiple starters and make substitutions. First, freshman Nick Struble went in at first base for Marco Mannino, then soon after, Chris Serrano got subbed in at shortstop for Chris Curcio, who had committed two fielding errors up to that point.
Coach Dickson described his thought process in regard to those mid-game substitutions.
“We just weren’t playing the way we needed to play,” Dickson said. “Some changes needed to be made so we could start playing better and hopefully give us a chance to get a little spark. When those guys went out there, they did a pretty good job.”
As has been the case all season, the Profs’ energy on the bench was unmatched, even at points throughout the game where the chances of a win were looking bleak.
One of the main catalysts of that was Anthony Schooley, who was visibly fired up on the basepaths after each of his three hits on the day. That energy spread throughout the team, sparking a comeback.
Schooley, who also recorded three RBIs and scored three runs in addition to his three hits, spoke about his position as one of the leaders of the team.
“I just wanna win, that’s all that matters to me,” Schooley said. “Those guys, they’re my family. They’re my brothers. I know that they have my back, so I just try to show them that I got theirs… I just wanna show them that we can do anything. We can go all the way this year, we can go home with rings on our fingers. Obviously, there’s stops on the way, but this team, we got it, man… I’m getting fired up because that’s the passion I want to play with, it’s the passion that everyone plays with.”
Heading into the bottom of the eighth inning down 11-6 and with the sun beginning to set, the Profs’ chances of a comeback were dwindling away with each passing minute. However, at one point, a switch flipped, and Rowan’s lineup began chipping away.
With the Profs suddenly down 11-10, Tyler Cannon came to the plate with runners on first and second and two men down. What ensued would leave Rowan players, coaches, and fans jumping for joy, as Cannon roped a double into right field which allowed both men on base to come around and score.
Cannon, who went 2-6 on the day with two RBIs and two runs scored, described what that moment was like for him.
“In a situation like that, you want to stay calm, cool, and collected,” Cannon said. “I just wanted to grind out a good at-bat, hit a ball in play. Lucky enough, I put a big swing on it, and it went through. It’s a good feeling.”
The Profs wound up scoring two more insurance runs in the bottom half of the eighth, and Christian Bascunan, Rowan baseball’s all-time leader in saves, closed the door in the top of the ninth.
The trio of Schooley, Cannon, and Coach Dickson were speechless after the game in awe of what the team was able to accomplish in the game.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Schooley said. “These guys fought, they bought in. That’s what it’s all about, man. We’ve been waiting to come together like this. I hate losing, we’re down that much and I’m just running around the dugout, we’re talking about how we’re not losing. We kept saying that over and over again, trying to believe it. And then next thing you know, we put up that big inning… I love this game, I’ve been playing my whole life, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a win like that.”
Cannon echoed Schooley’s statement.
“That’s a huge comeback win,” Cannon said. “Heading into conference weekend, we got four big games coming up. The emotions were riding high, but we were able to stay calm, cool, and collected, and grind out a win.”
While the offense stole the show in the later innings, Coach Dickson doesn’t want the bullpen’s day to go unnoticed.
“First and foremost, it goes back to the bullpen guys who kept it at 11-3,” Dickson said. “If they continue to expand, we don’t have a chance of coming back. Credit to them for throwing up zeros, and letting us chip away and get it to a manageable number to be able to score runs.”
Coach Dickson and Cannon took it a step further, describing the team’s resiliency in being able to come back from down nine runs in a game where early on, it looked like the Profs could very well be on their way to their fourth straight loss.
“They were definitely resilient,” Dickson said. “Being down early, to be able to work their way back, it’s a big win for us. Coming off three straight losses, you don’t wanna make it four. Good job coming back there.”
“Baseball is a very mentally tough game,” Cannon said. “You have to be mentally tough in order to succeed, we were coming off a three-game losing streak. It was just important for us to kind of wash away those games, put them in the past, and worry about today.”
With some momentum now on the Profs’ side, they will look to capture their first conference win of the season against New Jersey City University (NJCU) on Thursday, April 6, in Glassboro.
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