U of R claims second straight Liberty League Baseball title

Courtesy of UofRAthletics.com

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The University of Rochester did what it has been doing all season long, pounding out hit after hit, earning its second straight Liberty League baseball title in impressive fashion, defeating visiting Union College 19-4 on Saturday afternoon at Towers Field.

The Yellowjackets (24-8) pounded out 19 hits in the win and earn the teams second ever Liberty League tournament crown, following up the 2019 win with another one this season. Last years tournament was canceled due to the pandemic. Union finishes its 2021 season with a 12-8 record.

With the victory, Rochester will move on to the NCAA Division III Tournament for just the fifth time in program history, joining the 1980, 1989, 1999 and 2019 teams in NCAAs. The full field will be announced on NCAA.com on May 23rd.

Rochester’s offense entered near the top of Division III in a number of statistical categories including batting average, doubles, runs, runs per game and slugging percentage.

Things got started right away for UR in the bottom of the first inning. Leadoff hitter and tournament Most Outstanding Player Aaron Whitley led off with a sharp single to left. He quickly reached third after a throwing error on a pickoff attempt at first and scored when Joseph Rende, UR’s second hitter, laced a double to right center.

John Moses, the next hitter in the UR lineup, followed by taking the first pitch he saw and blasted a 2-run home run over the left field fence to give the Yellowjackets all the momentum and a 3-0 lead after just three batters.

It was more of the same in the second. The first four batters reached, via a walk, hit by pitch and singles from Jackson Reed and Whitley. Reed’s hit scored two, Jacob Matzat and Brian McKinsey who led off the inning.

Rende kept the train rolling with a single to load the bases. After an out, Steve Pickering drew a walk to plate a run and Harper Sy smacked a base hit to score two more runs, making it 8-0 Rochester through two innings.

After being held off the scoreboard in the third, the ‘Jackets were back at it offensively in the fourth. Moses doubled to left to start the frame. Pickering followed with a bloop double putting runners at second and third. Sy followed with another 2-run single to right. UR’s third double of the inning, off the bat of McKinsey scored Josh Leadem and the score was 11-0.

Union was able to avoid the shutout plating four runs in the fourth inning. After surrendering no hits in the first four innings, Rochester starter Trevor Van Allen yielded four straight to start the fourth. Jack Koch had an RBI double and Joey Palko had one of his three hits to score another run.

After getting a flyout, Van Allen issued a walk to load the bases and was removed for reliever Dillon Bevan. Matt Toy, the first batter against Bevan, kept Union’s inning going with an RBI base hit and another run scored when Noah Schott drew a walk with the bases loaded.

In the bottom of the fifth Rochester was able to erase all four runs Union scored, by scoring four times themselves, batting around for the second time in the game.

Whitley led off the inning getting hit by his team leading 17th pitch, a stat which he is top-15 in Division III. After Rende walked and Whitley advanced to third on a wild pitch, Moses lifted a sac fly to left for his third RBI of the game.

After a walk and hit batter, Leadem singled through the left side for an RBI. Matzat followed with a line drive up the middle and Reed drew a bases loaded walk to bring in the fourth run of the inning.

Union looked to respond in the top of the sixth, but Bevan escaped a bases loaded jam, getting Toy to ground into a fielders choice to end the threat, keeping the score 15-4.

UR completed its scoring in the seventh, with a Matzat RBI double, McKinsey RBI single and 2-run triple from Rende.

On the mound, Van Allen ended up going 4.1 innings for UR and gave up 4 hits, 4 runs and 4 walks while striking out 3. Bevan earned the victory in relief, tossing 3.2 innings while surrendering no runs on six hits with four strikeouts. Spencer Rojahn tossed a scoreless ninth inning with one strikeout for the Yellowjackets.

Union used a total of six pitchers in the loss. Bryce Fournier took the loss, giving up seven runs in his outing.

At the plate for the Yellowjackets, seven UR starters had multiple hits, led by Whitley, Rende and Moses who each had three. Whitley ended the tournament going 7-for-11 across two games, and he ended with three runs scored on Saturday. Moses finished a triple shy of the cycle and drove in three runs, while Rende had three batted in and added a double and triple.

Sy was 2-for-4 with four RBI while Reed produced three RBI with his 2-for-4 performance. Both McKinsey and Matzat produced two runs, two hits and two RBI.

Union’s leader offensively was Palko who went 3-for-5 with an RBI and run scored. Koch had a double, RBI and run scored.

The wins for UR exact a little revenge against Union in the Liberty League tournament, as the two teams met twice before in the championship round of the tournament, coming in 2014 and 2018. The 2014 title went to Union after sweeping two games on the last day of play, while the 2018 Union squad held off Rochester, on Towers Field, in a winner-take-all final game that season.

Rochester’s title capped a terrific day on the River Campus, as the UR softball team also won the Liberty League crown, their fifth in team history, defeating Ithaca College 6-1 across campus earlier in the day.

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