AUBURNDALE, Fla. – The Brandeis University baseball team, opening its 2011 season at the RussMatt Invitational in Auburndale and Winter Park, Fla., dropped its first two contests at the hands of NAIA Davenport (Iowa) University. The Panthers took the opener, 7-6, with a four-run eighth inning on Tuesday, and then put up a three-spot in the first frame on Wednesday en route to a 7-2 victory.
In the season opener, the Judges rapped out 11 hits to score six runs, but it was a late blast by Davenport that did the damage. The Judges avoided giving up a run in the top of the first inning when sophomore Andrew Cohen (Beverly Hills, Calif./Montclair Prep School) gunned down a runner at the plate from left field to end the inning. Davenport broke through with a run in the third thanks to two stolen bases by LF Rob Bolster and a two-out single by 3B Doug Gentile.
The Judges claimed their first lead of the season in the bottom of the inning, doing all their damage with two outs. Junior 3B Jon Chu (Hollis Hills, N.Y./Bronx Science) plated junior SS Sean O'Hare (Northampton, Mass./Northampton) on a grounder to first that was mishandled on an attempted 3-6-3 double play. Sophomore catcher Chris Ferro (Walpole, Mass./Walpole) followed with an RBI single, extending his hitting streak dating back to last season to 15 games. DU designated hitter Joe Friest knotted the game at 2-all in the fourth with a home run off of sophomore Dylan Britton (Poughquag, N.Y./Arlington).
Brandeis jumped ahead again in the fifth, when rookie RF Brian Ing (Sandwich, Mass./Sandwich) and O'Hare hit back-to-back doubles. After sophomore DH Kenny Destremps (Mashpee, Mass./Mashpee) singled to put runners on the corners, Panther hurler Andy Westerburg induced Chu to hit into a double play, plating Brandeis's fourth run in the process. Cohen gave the Judges their fifth run of the game in the sixth inning with a sacrifice fly, putting the Judges ahead, 5-2.
DU answered with a run in the seventh against sophomore Jesse Link (Weston, Conn./Weston), but a Destremps double and an error on a ball struck by Ferro put the Judges back up by three, 6-3, headed into the eighth. Unfortunately, Link was unable to keep the Panthers at bay, allowing an RBI single to Freist and a game-winning three-run home run to senior 1B Dan Brown that made the score 7-6. The Judges got a runner to second base in the eighth when Cohen hit a two-out double, but that was as close as they came to answering the DU barrage.
Destremps led the Judges with a 3-for-5 performance with two runs scored and a double, while O'Hare was 2-for-5 with two runs and an RBI. Rookie Colin Markel (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale) was impressive in his collegiate debut with two innings of shutout ball and three strikeouts. Link suffered the loss, his first career decision.
In the second contest between the two squads, Davenport got to work early against Brandeis senior lefty Rafi Stern (Jerusalem, Israel/Makor Chaim), scoring three in the first and one more in the third on just three hits. Stern displayed some wildness early in the season, walking three and hitting three batters. Classmate John McGrath (New York, N.Y./Trevor Day) followed and tossed two innings of one-hit ball, striking out three in the process.
After falling behind early, the Judges bounced back in the second with their only two runs of the day against DU right Drew Kennedy. O'Hare and Destremps had back-to-back RBI singles with two outs, but the Judges couldn't push home anything further. Kennedy settled down and allowed just two more hits in his final five innings of work to earn the win.
Offensively for the Judges, sophomore Nick Cortese (Guayanbo, P.R./ Baldwin School of Puerto Rico) went 3-for-4 with a run scored, while Destremps and Chu each had two-hit games. Chu's first-inning double was the team's only extra-base hit.
The Judges play their first Division III contest of the season on Thursday against Augustana (Ill.) College.
(Ed. note: Due to circumstances beyond the control of the sports information office, statistics from early-season games contain inaccuracies. They will be corrected upon the return of the team from Florida.)