Even though the game against local rival St. John Fisher College was cancelled earlier in the week due to inclement weather, the UR baseball team still had a successful week. Over the past four years, the Yellowjackets have only lost two games to league opponent Union College. This past weekend, UR took three of four games from the Dutchmen, improving the ‘Jackets’ record to 6-2 in the Liberty League and an impressive overall record of 11-6. This series win over Union moved UR into first place in the league over Skidmore College, who has played fewer league games.

In the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday (a seven-inning game), sophomore starting pitcher Blair Veenema went the distance, throwing seven shutout innings while allowing a measly three hits. Veenema attributed his success to his aggressive inside pitching.

“I was able to get the ball in on their hitters’ hands and force a lot of ground balls,” he said. “Also, I had good command of my changeup the entire game.”

While Veenema had a nearly flawless outing to earn his second complete game of the season, the hitting behind him followed suit, gaining at least one run in six of the seven innings for a total of seven runs. The final score was 7-0.

The highlight of the game came in the sixth inning when junior shortstop Ed Kahovec hit a homerun. Even though the victory was all but assured, this hit put an exclamation on it. The ‘Jackets combined for nine hits, including two hits each from freshman third baseman Blaine Fuke and junior second baseman Jay Jay Vanderstyne.

In the second game of the day (a nine-inning game), UR jumped out to a fast start, scoring three runs in the first inning on four consecutive hits by Vanderstyne, senior Frank Infurna, junior Devin Shane and sophomore Dan Brien. Defensively, the ‘Jackets took control, led by junior starting pitcher Peter McEneaney, who went seven innings, allowing only one unearned run, to pick up his second win of the season.

In the third inning, Infurna doubled, and a single from Shane followed to improve the score to 4-0. In the bottom half of the inning, for the first time in the series, Union scored a run, making the score 4-1. However, UR responded by scoring three runs on three hits, advancing the score to 7-1. From then on, the Yellowjackets added two more runs in the fourth and ninth innings, while Union scored another run in the eighth to make the final score 9-2. In the victory, the ‘Jackets compiled a remarkable 15 hits – UR’s two through six hitters combined for 13 of them.

On Sunday, in the first game of the doubleheader, UR ran into the toughest pitcher they have faced all season, Eric Giovannone. He pitched a near no-hitter, only surrendering one hit in the first inning to Vanderstyne throughout the complete game. Giovannone’s counterpart, UR’s senior pitcher Brady Noon, displayed a solid effort, allowing only five hits and two runs (only one earned), but it was not enough, as UR fell to Union, 1-2.

The first run of the game came in the fourth inning when Union got a hit, followed by a walk and then an error to make the score 1-0. Union took the lead for good in the top of the sixth on an error-filled inning that allowed in a run. Vanderstyne’s RBI that scored Kahovec in the bottom of the sixth was not enough, and UR’s four-game winning streak was snapped.

While the bats were quiet in the first game on Sunday, this was not the case in the second. The first inning opened with Fuke walking, Kahovec singling, Vanderstyne reaching on a throwing error, Infurna singling, Shane singling and, finally, Brien singling. By then, the damage was done, as UR amassed five runs.

Sophomore Mike Park started the game for the ‘Jackets and was a little rocky, allowing four runs in 3.1 innings pitched. However, it didn’t matter because the team backed him up by compiling nine runs in the 9-6 loss. Freshman center fielder Andy Cannon provided two hits, one run and an RBI in the win.

Cannon was named Liberty League Co-Rookie of the Week for his performance over the weekend. He hit 3-9 over three games, scoring two runs and earning one RBI. In the field, Cannon had seven putouts and no errors.

Head coach Joe Reina credited strong pitching and timely hitting for the success this past weekend.

“We had very good pitching performances from Blair Veenema, Peter McEneaney and Brady Noon. They were throwing strikes and making Union put the ball in play,” he said. “We got some clutch hitting from guys. We are starting to come around and we took full advantage of their mistakes. That is a sign of a good team.”

This weekend, UR takes on Liberty League opponent Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in a challenging four-game series that spans two days.

After that, UR heads to SUNY Cortland on Tuesday to square off against the Red Dragons at 4 p.m.

“We’ve gotten off to a solid start this season, putting ourselves in a position to stay atop the Liberty League,” Veenema said of the season thus far. “We have to keep playing good fundamental baseball and get prepared this week for a tough four-game set against RPI.”

Nathan is a member of the class of 2010.

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