By ZACH GILLELAND
On Mar. 29, 2016, the Salisbury University baseball team marched to Washington College, blanking the Shoremen for the third shutout of the SU head coach Troy Brohawn era. 340 days later, the Sea Gulls (5-4) matched that feat with their first shutout of the season, defeating the Franklin & Marshall Diplomats 10-0 on Saturday.
SU senior right-hander Micah Wells started on the mound for Salisbury. Roughed up in his previous outing against Oswego St., Wells displayed excellent command, establishing the strike zone, getting ahead of batters and using his fastball/curveball mix to keep the Diplomats’ offense off-balanced.
The senior threw first-pitch strikes on the majority of batters he faced, allowing him to attack ahead in the count. Wells finished the game with six innings pitched, allowing four hits and striking out five.
“He’s one of our most aggressive guys on the bump,” coach Brohawn said. “His first start I think he tried to prove too much. He was calm, but aggressive and pounded the zone.”
With pitching and defense acting as the Achilles heel for the Sea Gulls this season, the team had a promising outing Sunday, walking two and committing only one error. The Salisbury defense went to work behind Wells, fielding tough grounders and making accurate throws to first.
“Trusting the defense, that’s the most important part,” Wells said when referencing his start. “I was able to get some groundballs and rely on my defense to do what they do best.”
The maroon and gold caught a break in the first inning on a routine fly ball to right field. Diplomats’ senior right fielder Tyler Daley, battling the sun and a strong wind, dropped the ball, allowing freshman center fielder Justin Meekins to score for the Sea Gulls.
Salisbury extended its lead in the bottom of the second with help from another Franklin & Marshall defensive miscue. Diplomats’ senior shortstop Reed Williams muffed a would-be double play and the Sea Gulls loaded the bases. A hit-by-pitch off the back of Meekins two batters later gave SU a 2-0 lead.
Franklin & Marshall (1-3) threatened in the top of the fourth. With two away and runners on second and third, a hard grounder off the bat of freshman catcher Kyle Ebert looked to make it up the middle. SU junior shortstop Scott Ardoin fielded the ball behind the second base bag and near the outfield grass, firing the ball to first to stop the Diplomats’ rally.
With the strong outing of Wells behind them, the Salisbury offense built off his performance in the bottom half of the fourth. Senior catcher Tom LaBriola hit a shot to center with the bases loaded, one-hopping the wall and scoring three, giving the Sea Gulls a 5-0 lead.
“[Franklin & Marshall] were throwing fastballs which I haven’t seen much of lately,” LaBriola said. “They gave me it and I took advantage of it.”
The SU bats showed patience at the plate, making Diplomat ace Mike Androconis throw a lot of pitches and work deep in counts. LaBriola said the team worked on its patience from previous games.
“If you do something you don’t like, step out and take a deep breath, find your focal point and just relax at the plate,” LaBriola said. “It was working out well for us.”
The maroon and gold continued the scoring in the fourth. Junior designated hitter Simon Palenchar followed the LaBriola double with an opposite field single to left, making it a 6-0 game. Errors continued to hurt Franklin & Marshall as a throwing error from Williams scored another run.
After a LaBriola RBI single made it 8-0, SU junior left fielder Kyle Canavan connected on a two-run shot to left center in the sixth inning to finish the scoring.
The Sea Gulls finished the game with 11 hits total with seven of the Salisbury starting nine delivering a hit.
With a 10-run lead, coach Brohawn turned to less experienced pitchers to get some innings. Freshman right-hander Tyler Hickey made his SU debut, striking out one and junior southpaw Logan Manz made his second appearance, closing the door in the ninth.
“They come out here and they bust their tails every single day,” Brohawn said.
The Sea Gulls continue the weekend stretch, hosting Dickinson College in a doubleheader Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for noon with game two starting 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one.
“We’ll take that right into tomorrow with the energy and passion that we have,” LaBriola said. “It’s huge for us.”