Baseball

Emory baseball dropped its first three-game series of the season, losing two of three against the Covenant College (Ga.) Scots. Despite the weekend losses, the Eagles’ record remains 17-5.

After a 4-1 victory against D3baseball.com’s No. 4 team Birmingham Southern University (Ala.) March 15, the Eagles hoped to build off that success in their home series against Covenant. The Eagles flew out of the dugout, jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Junior first baseman Bubby Terp knocked in two runs on a double along the right field line.

Sophomore starting pitcher Billy Dimlow held Covenant scoreless for the first four innings before yielding two runs to the Scots in the top of the fifth. With the game tied at two, Emory regained the lead in the bottom of the inning after a Covenant fielding error allowing two runs to cross home plate.

Yielding one more run in his start, Dimlow completed a strong afternoon on the mound, allowing three earned runs on six hits and two walks in seven innings. With Dimlow out of the game, senior pitcher Kyle Monk came in looking for his fifth save this season in the eighth. With scoreless eighth and ninth innings, Monk struck out three Covenant batters. In the meantime, Emory added three more runs in the seventh and eighth innings to win the game 7-3.

Dimlow attributed part of his strong start to the dynamic between himself and his catcher, junior Mitch Kerner.

“Part of my success has come because I’ve had great chemistry with my catcher,” Dimlow said. “He’s been calling pitches that have allowed me to stay consistent and to execute.”

Superb performances from Dimlow and senior left fielder Wilson Morgan paved the way to the Eagles’ victory. Dimlow continues to build a strong resume this season, recording his fourth win in six starts. Morgan went two for three batting with two doubles, an RBI and two walks.

Dimlow spoke about his ability to throw his slider for strikes and how it has helped him to dominate his opponents.

“The slider is a pitch that I can throw in any count and feel confident,” Dimlow said. “I have been able to throw different types of sliders and have relied on them almost like a crutch.”

Emory looked to build a winning streak against Covenant in a doubleheader March 18 in Lookout Mountain, Ga. In an offensive battle, the Eagles fell short in a 12-10 defeat.

The Scots battered senior pitcher Luke Emmett, who gave up seven runs on five hits and seven walks in the two and one third innings that he pitched. Following Emmett’s rough start, freshman pitcher John Ross sought to cool off the Covenant bats. Despite the pitching change, Covenant continued their prolific offensive display, knocking three more runs in Ross’s two and two-thirds innings pitched.

Covenant built a 9-0 lead in the first four innings. Emory battled back in innings five through six, bringing home 10 runs of their own, but after allowing Covenant to pick up in the fifth and sixth innings, the Eagles remained unable to claim a lead.

Despite the loss, Twardoski said that his team fought hard to get back into the game.

“Coming back is what we have done all year,” Twardoski said. “We had some really good energy, and some guys had some great at-bats, but we gave up a two-run home run, and if we  hadn’t we probably would have tied.”

Perhaps most damaging to the Eagles on the mound were Covenant’s three home runs. Prior to the first game of this series, Emory’s pitchers allowed only three home runs in the season’s first 19 games.

Head Coach Mike Twardoski noted the Eagles’ poor pitch locations on the home runs.

“When you give up a home run, the ball is up in the zone,” Twardoski said. “We have to pitch to better locations.”

In the second half of the doubleheader, Emory edged a 1-0 lead in the first three innings. The Eagles’ run came on a walk with the bases loaded to freshman third baseman Ryan Adelman.

On the rubber for Emory, senior pitcher Philip Maldari kept the Covenant bats silent in the first three innings. At the bottom of the fourth inning, Maldari yielded two runs to Covenant.

Emory lost control in the bottom of the fifth as Covenant marked four runs on four hits, including a home run. Maldari did not make it through the inning, ending the day with three earned runs on four hits in four innings. Emory’s pitching gave up eight runs in a seven inning game, while Emory’s bats were stymied with only two runs. The Eagles finished the day with an 8-2 defeat.

Dimlow emphasized that pitching is the key factor in determining Emory’s success.

“When our pitching has started well we have been able to win games,” Dimlow said. “Ever since we lost our first game, we have struggled somewhat on the mound. Pitching should be the strongest part of the team.”

Twardoski criticized his team’s approach, stressing that his players must be more poised and prepared to compete in every game.

“My concern is that we’re not ready to play,” Twardoski said. “We are not quick, there’s no energy or camaraderie from a few of us. We need more consistency and [to] have fun playing. It seems that some guys are tired and it’s a bad dynamic now.”

Rounding out the nonconference portion of their schedule, the Eagles fell 9-4 to LaGrange College (Ga.) March 21. Emory will begin University Athletic Association (UAA) play March 24,  hosting Case Western Reserve University (Ohio).

The Emory baseball team ended spring break with a 2-1 series victory against the Piedmont College (Ga.) Lions. Dropping the first of a three-game set March 10 at Piedmont College, the Eagles bounced back to beat the Lions at home Saturday and Sunday. Emory is still clinging to the No. 1 spot in D3baseball.com’s rankings with a 15-2 record.

After starting the season with a 11-0 record, Emory entered the series against Piedmont with only one loss, which Millsaps College (Miss.) had handed them March 4.

At the start of the Friday bout, the Eagles suffered an early deficit. The Lions pounced on the Eagles by scoring two runs in the first inning and four in the third. Emory’s defense faltered in the third inning, recording two errors that led to two unearned runs. Senior starting pitcher Jackson Weeg’s day on the mound was cut short after a turbulent three innings, during which he gave up six runs (five earned) on five hits and three walks.

Freshman pitcher Richard Brereton replaced Weeg, putting in four innings of relief and allowing one run on three hits. During that time, Emory scored only one run of their own and trailed Piedmont by six heading into the top of the seventh.

Thanks to two Piedmont errors and three Emory hits, Emory scored four runs in the seventh inning. But the Eagles failed to score in the final two innings and lost the game 7-5.

Sophomore pitcher Billy Dimlow led Emory Saturday. Dimlow garnered his third victory of the season, pitching seven scoreless innings, including 11 strikeouts. Emory’s bats were hot throughout the game, helping the Eagles score five runs.

Head Coach Mike Twardoski attributed Dimlow’s success to his ability to throw challenging, off-speed pitches.

“His slider has been very effective so far this season,” Twardoski said. “[Piedmont] was probably looking for fastballs but Dimlow threw his slider for strikes and he kept them off balance.”

The Eagles enjoyed strong offensive performances by senior left fielder Brian Hernandez and junior shortstop Nick Chambers. Hernandez gave a solid at bat performance, going four for four with two RBIs, a homerun, a double and a stolen base. Chambers reached first three times on two hits and a walk.

Senior pitcher Kyle Monk came in for relief in the eighth and ninth innings to help the Eagles complete the shutout. He made easy work of the Piedmont offense, recording four strikeouts against the seven batters he faced.

Facing off in the final game of the series Sunday, Emory and Piedmont vied for the series win. The Eagles and Lions played toe-to-toe until the Eagles edged out the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Senior pitcher Philip Maldari started for Emory, allowing three runs (two earned) in six innings. Along with a solid outing on the mound, Maldari went five for five hitting with three RBIs.

Twardoski praised the dynamism of Maldari, noting how special it is to have a player step up both defensively and offensively.

“It is very unique to have a player who is effective batting and pitching,” Twardoski said.

Maldari kept the game close, allowing Emory to acquire a 4-3 lead after six innings. Piedmont knotted the game at four in the top of the seventh when senior pitcher Luke Emmett took over for Emory.

Piedmont’s batters capitalized in the top of the eighth with four runs, leaving Emory with a lofty deficit to make up in the final two innings. Undeterred, Emory scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to trail by one heading into the ninth inning.

To keep the game within reach, Monk threw a scoreless top of the ninth, striking out the side. Senior Jeff Ronpirin knocked in two runs in a heroic at bat as a pinch hitter for sophomore shortstop James Pittinger. Ronpirin’s single up the middle proved to be the crushing blow. The Eagles completed the series victory with a 9-8 triumph.

Emory committed four errors. Hernandez emphasized how the team needs to focus on fielding moving forward.

“What is happening is that sometimes we get complacent in our practices,” Hernandez said. “We need to quicken ourselves up and not let ourselves become complacent and fall into a lull during practice.”

Twardoski said that despite the team’s lackluster performance that they “really fought through adversity.”

Emory returned to the diamond Wednesday with a 4-1 victory over Birmingham-Southern College (Ala.).

Junior shortstop Nick Chambers connects on a single to left center in the Eagles' game Friday against Huntingdon (Ala.). Chambers' 2 RBIs lifted Emory to a 12-7 victory. Photo courtesy Gemy Sethaputra.
Junior shortstop Nick Chambers connects on a single to left center in the Eagles' game Friday against Huntingdon (Ala.). Chambers' 2 RBIs lifted Emory to a 12-7 victory. Photo courtesy Gemy Sethaputra.
Junior shortstop Nick Chambers connects on a single to left center in the Eagles’ game Friday against Huntingdon (Ala.). Chambers’ 2 RBIs lifted Emory to a 12-7 victory. Photo courtesy Gemy Sethaputra.

After this past weekend, the Emory baseball team remains undefeated, having successfully pulled off a three-game sweep against Huntingdon College (Ala.). With these victories, Emory improved their record to 10-0. The team’s perfect record and strong team play earned the team the No. 1 spot in D3baseball.com’s rankings.

Head Coach Mike Twardoski stressed that despite their ranking, the team still has much more to accomplish.

“As far as being number 1, I am very proud, but we have a long way to go,” Twardoski said. “We will keep working hard to try to keep it going.”

Senior designated hitter Brian Hernandez expressed his excitement at Emory’s No. 1 ranking and what it means for the team moving forward.

“I hope we’re able to keep this level of play up,” Hernandez said. “Even though right now we’re still not playing our best, if we’re one of the best teams in the country it’ll be exciting to see what we can do once we get into the swing of things

The series against Huntingdon began Friday, Feb. 24, the team’s first away game of the season. Senior pitcher Jackson Weeg started on the mound for Emory, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits, three walks and six strikeouts.

Trailing by one run in the third, Emory lit up the scoreboard with a monstrous inning. The Huntingdon pitcher was atrocious, giving up three hits and a walk. Huntingdon’s pitcher hit two Emory batters, allowing the Eagles to waltz through two of the six runs in the inning. Six different Eagles recorded RBIs.

Although Huntingdon scored seven runs in the game, Emory’s batters continued to execute offensively. The Eagles added six more runs over the course of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Hernandez and senior designated hitter Jeff Ronpirin were Emory’s top offensive players. Hernandez went three for four with a double, triple and two RBIs. Ronpirin went two for five with a double and three RBIs.

After Friday’s 12-7 win, the Eagles looked to notch another victory against Huntingdon Saturday, Feb. 25. In a lower scoring game, Emory was lifted by sophomore starting pitcher Billy Dimlow. Allowing one run (zero earned) and striking out 10 batters through eight innings, Dimlow stymied Huntingdon’s offense.

Senior pitcher Luke Emmett holds the mound for the Eagles. Emory itching stifled Huntington in the series. Photo courtesy Gemy Sethaputra.
Senior pitcher Luke Emmett holds the mound for the Eagles. Emory itching stifled Huntington in the series. Photo courtesy Gemy Sethaputra.

Emory’s bats were active early in the game, marking three runs in the first two innings. In the second inning, the Eagles loaded the bases after two singles and a walk. Emory went on to score two runs after wild pitches by the Huntingdon pitcher.

With Dimlow shutting Huntingdon down and an early three run advantage, the Eagles glided to a 5-1 victory. Emory’s top hitters were senior third baseman Philip Maldari, who went three for four and scored twice, and Hernandez, who went two for five with an RBI.

Emory returned home to Chappell field to take on Huntingdon one last time Sunday, Feb. 26. Senior pitcher Luke Emmett led the team on the mound, remaining unscathed until the fifth inning.

The Eagles had an early lead, scoring four runs in the third inning. Ronpirin led the scoring with a three-run triple. However, Huntingdon struck back in the fifth inning, accumulating five runs and surpassing Emory 5-4.

In the bottom of the seventh, Emory trailed Huntingdon 6-4 but responded by scoring four runs. Emory tacked on one more in the bottom of the eighth before senior relief pitcher Kyle Monk went out to save the game. Monk pitched a scoreless top of the ninth and recorded his second save of the season. The Eagles’ 9-6 victory topped off a three-game sweep over Huntingdon.

Recapping a speech made by the seniors, Hernandez noted that the speech gave the team the motivation it needed to have a big seventh inning.

“In between innings, the seniors noticed that our team was down and had very low energy, which is very unlike us,” Hernandez said. “We called up a meeting and said they put up five runs in an inning and we can do the exact same thing.”

Hernandez and Ronpirin wrapped up an impressive weekend with two hits each Sunday. Both batters were effective, driving in runs with two and four RBIs, respectively.

Reflecting on what contributed to Emory’s victories and where the team could use improvement, Hernandez mentioned strengths in both hitting and pitching along with their mishaps in the field.

“We are finally starting to get our offense rolling and our pitching has continued to work well,” Hernandez said. “But if we want to keep winning our defense needs to step up a little bit.”

Twardoski emphasized the importance of collecting another series sweep and getting production when they needed most.

“Whenever you sweep a series, especially a three game series, you are playing well,” Twardoski said. “We pitched great again and got our timely hits. We put together consecutive good at bats and that is why we scored more runs.”

Emory will return to the diamond Tuesday, Feb. 28, for one game against Berry College (Ga.).

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Senior pitcher Luke Emmet pitches in Sunday's game against Washington and Lee (Va.). Emory went on to win 13-0. Photo courtesy Ruth Reyes/Photo Editor.
Senior pitcher Luke Emmet pitches in Sunday’s game against Washington and Lee (Va.). Emory went on to win 13-0. Photo courtesy Ruth Reyes/Photo Editor.

The Emory baseball team continued their dominance by sweeping their opponent for the second straight week. Over the course of the weekend, three games became three wins for Emory against the Washington and Lee University (Va.) Generals. With the series sweep, Emory improved to 7-0 on the season.

The Eagles  began the series Saturday, Feb. 18, with their ace, senior pitcher Jackson Weeg, on the mound. Weeg had a historic performance, setting the Emory all-time record for strikeouts in a game. His 18 strikeouts topped a record of 16 set in 1994. Weeg had a long afternoon on the mound, pitching eight innings and allowing only three runs on six hits and a walk.

In light of breaking the single-game record for strikeouts, Weeg noted that his main goal was to keep Washington and Lee off the scoreboard.

“I knew my first six outs of the game came on strikeouts,” Weeg said. “After that I was pitching to limit runs and to put our team into position to win.”

Head coach Mike Twardoski affirmed that Weeg was ready to handle a long afternoon on the mound and was able to pitch well from start to finish.

“Weeg was ready for it; it would have been hard to take him out of the game,” Twardoski said. “I considered taking him out of the game, but he talked me out of it. He’s ready to get a lot of innings in, so I was comfortable allowing him to approach the 100 pitch count.”

Both teams held the lead throughout the first seven innings. The game remained close until the bottom of the eighth when Emory hit their stride offensively. The Eagles scored four runs in the inning, giving them a 7-3 lead into the ninth. Junior first baseman Bubby Terp, senior third baseman Philip Maldari and junior shortstop Nick Chambers all had RBIs in the inning. Pitching a scoreless top of the ninth, junior relief pitcher Rhett Stuart helped the Eagles maintain their 7-3 lead.

On top of his strong performance on the mound, Weeg commended his team for backing him up with a solid game.

“Every time that I would give up runs, the team would keep on fighting back,” Weeg said. “Catcher [senior] Chris Young called a great game, the bench was into the game and it was a great team effort more than anything.”

In the first game of a day-time double header Sunday, Feb. 19, the Eagles were led on the mound by sophomore pitcher Billy Dimlow. Dimlow allowed no runs in the first five innings. The Eagles themselves struggled to score, but broke through in the fourth thanks to an RBI single by senior right fielder Brian Hernandez.

Clinging to a one run lead in the top of the sixth, Emory yielded a run that tied the game after a fielding error allowed Washington and Lee to have a man on first and second with no outs.

Neither team scored until the bottom of the ninth, when Emory executed its third walk-off victory of the season. Chambers hit a sacrifice fly into center field that scored sophomore third baseman Thomas Baumgartner. The walk-off sacrifice fly gave Emory a 2-1 victory.

Building off of Dimlow’s glorious performance, which included seven innings pitched with no earned runs, one hit, one walk and eight strikeouts, senior relief pitcher Kyle Monk received his third win of the season, keeping the game tied into the bottom of the ninth.

Unlike the first two games in the series, Emory pounced on their opponent in a decisive victory Sunday afternoon. Senior pitcher Luke Emmett kept Washington and Lee scoreless through six innings, allowing only three hits and striking out four batters.

Emory’s bats came alive in the fifth. Up 3-0 to begin the inning, Emory brought in six more runs on four hits and two walks to take a commanding 9-0 lead. The Eagles continued to score in each of the following three innings to grow their lead to 13-0.

Twardoski discussed what made his hitters so effective in the game.

“We strung hits together and we got hits with runners in scoring position,” Twardoski said. “Whenever you do that you put up some runs.”

Four Emory pitchers helped keep Washington and Lee scoreless in the game and contributed to a massive 13-run victory. Emmett received the victory for his second win this season. Young was among Emory’s best hitters in the game, going three for three.

Recapping the weekend, Twardoski indicated the team’s biggest strengths were pitching and contributions from younger players.

“Our strength again this year is pitching and all three of our starting pitchers had great performances,” Twardoski said. “Also we got some young position players in the game and they played with a lot of energy.”

The Eagles will head on the road for their next set of games, beginning Friday, Feb. 26, against Huntingdon College (Ala.).

Emory baseball initiated the season in style, sporting an impressive three-game sweep of Sewanee: The University of the South (Tenn.) Tigers. The Eagles’ completed their first game Saturday, and ended the weekend with a double-header Sunday at Chappell Park.

The Eagles launched their season Saturday with a hard-fought 6-5 victory. Emory’s ace on the mound, senior Jackson Weeg was poised to start the Eagles’ season off strong. In his start, he allowed only two runs and four hits in six innings, striking out six batters.

After Sewanee scored two runs in the first four innings, Emory faced a two-run deficit heading to the bottom of the fourth. Senior second baseman Jeff Ronpirin doubled and advanced to the third base before junior first baseman Bubby Terp smashed his first home run of the season.

Terp recapped his at bat and gave insight into his heroic swing.

“I settled in a little bit since I was down two strikes,” Terp said. “[Sewanee’s pitcher] threw a pitch that he left in a pretty good spot to hit and I put a good swing on it.”

Head coach Mike Twardoski said that Terp’s home run was instrumental in boosting the team’s morale.

“Terp’s home run was the biggest swing of the day,” Twardoski said. “We didn’t have a lot of offense at the time and that two-run home run got us back in the game.”

Weeg held Sewanee scoreless in the top of the fifth and kept the game tied heading to the bottom of the fifth. Emory claimed their first lead of the game, scoring three runs in the inning. RBIs came on a one-run single by Ronpirin and a two-run single by Terp.

The Eagles carried their three-run lead to the top of the eighth when Sewanee struck back. Senior closer Kyle Monk allowed four hits, a walk and three runs to Sewanee in the eighth.

Although Emory was held scoreless in the bottom of the eighth, Monk recovered on the mound in the ninth, keeping Sewanee off the scoreboard. In the bottom of the ninth sophomore infielder NJ Kim pinch hit for sophomore centerfielder Jackson Grayson and hit a single before advancing to second on a ground out. With Kim on second with one out, senior left fielder Wilson Morgan hit a walk-off double into right field to give Emory a 6-5 win.

Emory triumphed in its second part of the series Sunday, winning 3-0. Sophomore pitcher Billy Dimlow threw seven scoreless innings in a dazzling performance. The Tigers had no answer for Dimlow, only knocking two hits against him. Dimlow blew the baseball past the Sewanee batters, tallying 12 strikeouts.

Twardoski attributed Dimlow’s success to his lethal slider.

“[Dimlow] is dominant if he has command of his slider,” Twardoski said. “He had a great location, and at the end of the day if he throws the slider the way he did, he will always have a chance to do very well.”

Emory’s batters were also held scoreless until the bottom of the sixth inning, when the Eagles finally scored a run. Senior third baseman drove Ronpirin home from second base with a single up the middle of the field.

The Eagles tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the seventh. Batters Kim and Morgan both got RBIs in the inning, hitting singles into the outfield. Up three runs, Monk made easy work of Sewanee, allowing only one hit and saving his first game of the season.

In the final game of the three-game series, Emory successfully completed the sweep. The Eagles had an offensive explosion, piling together eight runs on the Tigers.

Firing on all cylinders in the first two innings, Emory jumped ahead to an early 5-0 lead. Senior designated hitter Brian Hernandez started off the scoring in the first inning, driving in senior catcher Chris Young. In the second inning, three more Eagles batted in runs for a total of four in the inning. All together, the Eagles compiled eight hits in the first two innings.

Sewanee inched closer in the third and fourth innings, earning three runs. In the sixth inning, however, Emory added one more run on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly from sophomore Eric Terry.

The Eagles ended the game with an 8-4 victory thanks to the club’s prolific offense. Senior pitcher Luke Emmett notched his first win of the season, pitching five innings and yielding three runs.

Despite the three wins, Twardoski saw areas where the team needs to improve. .

“We missed signs, which we don’t do, and we gave up bases, which we don’t do,” Twardoski said. “We really have to clean some things up, but if we work hard in practice and play with the same energy, I very much like the way we’re playing.”

Terp emphasized the importance of a sweep to start off the season.

“You’ll take sweeps for granted.. Sweeps are big,” Terp said. “3-0 to start the season is huge, and with a sweep to start, you can’t ask for anything more than that.”

Emory will return to the diamond Wednesday, Feb. 15, for a single game against Berry College (Ga.) before hosting Washington and Lee University (Va.) over the weekend.

The Emory baseball team is drawing a lot of attention coming into the 2017 season. Ranked No. 4 out of all Division III teams, the Eagles lofty expectations.

Emory departed early from the NCAA Division III College World Series last season, suffering a loss at the hands of the State University of New York at Cortland. Their journey to the series last year was their third consecutive appearance.

Despite the expectations, Head Coach Mike Twardoski wants to focus on one game at a time.

“The goal is always not to look forward too much,” Twardoski said. “There are so many people telling me we can’t wait to see you again in the College World Series next year, but we’ve got to take it one game at a time and one practice at a time.”

Senior catcher Chris Young believes the team is in great position to live up to their potential.

“We are a lot stronger and better conditioned than we have been,” Young said. “We are all on the same page knowing how talented we are and how successful we have the potential to be.”

Luckily Twardoski is bringing back core members of Emory’s squad from the 2016 season. In total, Twardoski has nine seniors and six juniors. He expects his seniors to step up and be the leaders of the team.

In particular, Twardoski believes that his team’s leadership begins with the seniors on the pitching staff. Among the members of the pitching rotation, he said seniors Luke Emmett, Jackson Weeg and Kyle Monk will be key members of the team. The three combine for an impressive 38 wins, 23 of which belong to Weeg. Weeg also has a career ERA of 2.34.

Weeg’s illustrious career has earned him a plethora of honors. Notably, he was named to D3baseball.com’s 2016 preseason all-America first team and earned 2016 All-University Athletic Association first team honors. His prior success will certainly make him one of the most-feared pitching match-ups across the country entering the 2017 campaign.

When focusing on his batters, Twardoski admits there have been some key departures, but his freshmen are displaying talent.

“We lost some outfield players and Dylan Eisner, a very good second baseman,” Twardoski said. “We needed to stabilize some the kids that we’ve lost, but saying that we have some young talent; some freshmen came in and look very good.”

With the loss of star second baseman Dylan Eisner, Twardoski hopes to see senior Jeff Ronpirin step up to the starting role. Another batter that Twardoski noted was designated hitter senior Brian Hernandez. Hernandez has a career .363 batting average, with 61 runs batted in and four home runs.

In the infield and behind the plate, Twardoski raved about seniors third baseman Philip Maldari and catcher Young. Maldari and Young have career batting averages of .335 and .232 respectively. If Maldari’s prior batting statistics are any indication, he is due for another fantastic season in 2017. Although Young’s batting statistics are not as impressive, his prowess behind the plate and streaks of strong play should expand into this season.

Young believes the team’s offense is poised to be highly effective in the upcoming games.

“I think our offense should be a big step up from last year,” Young said. “We have more power, more speed and more confidence.”

Most of all, Twardoski is impressed with the hard work his team puts in on a daily basis. He believes the Eagles’ preparation has their team poised to do well.

The Eagles will begin their season at home against Sewanee: The University of the South (Tenn.) Saturday, Feb. 11.

Photo Courtesy of Jasen Leathers

It’s Oct. 14, 1908. Today, the Chicago Cubs will face off against the Detroit Tigers in game five of the World Series. The Cubs are up 3-1 in the series, meaning with a win tonight they can secure their second straight World Series championship and their second overall as a franchise. The Cubs do not have the benefit of home-field advantage: game five will take place at Bennett Park in Detroit in front of 6,210 roaring fans, not West Side Park in Chicago. Today, Cubs pitcher Orval Overall will pitch a complete game shutout, including a classic four-strikeout inning in the bottom of the first, securing the Cubs a 2-0 victory and a World Series championship. The Cubs will savor this day for a long, long time.

Fast-forward to Oct. 11, 1948. The Cleveland Indians find themselves in the World Series against the Boston Braves. The average attendance for this year’s World Series is nearly 60,000 fans. Cleveland has played well to give themselves a 3-2 series lead, and need a win at Braves Field to win their first World Series since 1920 and their second overall as a franchise. Backed by a home run from second baseman and future Baseball Hall of Famer Joe “Flash” Gordon, Cleveland pitcher Bob Lemon does enough to get the 4-3 win and bring a World Series title back to Cleveland. They will treasure this victory for a long, long time.

It is now October 2016. This year, the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs, both with a meager two championships apiece, find themselves face-to-face with a World Series title on the line. Combined, the two franchises boast a 4-11 record in their World Series appearances over a total 257 seasons of baseball, the Cubs contributing quite generously to that total with a 2-8 record over 141 years. For the baseball mathematicians out there, this means that these two teams have combined to win a World Series title 1.55 percent of the seasons in which they have played. Given the fact that there are currently 30 teams in baseball, that number ought to be closer to 6.7 percent, and even higher if you consider the depressing fact that there were only 16 teams vying for the championship back in 1908.

This is all to suggest one rather sad, if not obvious, fact: history has proven unfavorable to these longstanding franchises. The Cubs have come to embrace the “loveable losers” identity that has been bestowed upon them, and Cleveland has built itself a reputation as a city void of sports success (except the Cavaliers’ miracle 3-1 comeback against the record-setting Golden State Warriors in this past summer’s NBA Finals, which ended the city’s 52-year championship drought).

However, Lady Luck, in a generous yet undeniably cruel gesture, has decided to pit these two desperate franchises against one another for a chance at the elusive World Series championship. Each franchise boasts a fanbase starving for a championship, yet only one will walk away with a World Series title at the end of this month. The Cubs and the Indians might as well be Harry Potter and Voldemort (you can decide which is which), for neither can live while the other survives.

This is the 2016 World Series matchup. This is why baseball still matters in 2016. Even with the MLB and its mess of shortcomings — the outdated formality of baseball’s unwritten code that seems to crush any attempts at fun (bat flipping, anyone?); the four-, sometimes five-hour games; the seemingly never-ending regular season and the frustrating playoff structure (the All-Star Game determines home-field advantage in the World Series? The Wild Card series is a one-game playoff?) — baseball stands in a tier of its own amongst American sports.

A storyline like this doesn’t happen in the NBA, NFL or NHL. Baseball has embraced its status as a timeless tradition that other professional sports can only dream of replicating. Baseball fans are initiated into a history unlike any other sports tradition; fans harbor an inherent appreciation not only for where baseball is now, but also for where it came from all those years ago.

This is a preview of this year’s World Series. But this isn’t an analysis of each team’s personnel, strengths or weaknesses. If this had been for any other sport, the discussion might have focused on the Cubs’ incredible starting rotation, the breakout of second baseman Javier Baez or the absolute torching that Cleveland put on the rest of the American League this postseason with the help of their seemingly unhittable relief pitching. Sure, that all matters, and plenty of ESPN analysts will spend this week talking about ERAs, batting averages, matchups and all of that other technical data. But in the end, all of that pales in comparison to the historical significance of this year’s World Series. This is about what a championship means to a Cubs fan and what a championship means to an Indians fan. In the end, that story overshadows all of the technical crap, and that’s what sports fans will remember another 100 years down the line. A Cubs championship has often been referred to as the holy grail of sports accomplishments (as much as Cubs manager Joe Maddon would like to deny), and no stat line can hold its own in comparison to a tale of such epic proportions.

Baseball differentiates itself by being one of the only sports without a clock; one could say that baseball games transcend time. Yet even without a clock, baseball may be more reliant on time than any other sport. By embracing history, the great American pastime simply gets better with age.

Paul Merolla was handed his first defeat of the season. Courtesy of Emory Athletics.

Emory’s baseball team (27-8) took on Georgia Gwinnett College (42-4) April 15, falling to the Grizzlies 14-3. Coach Mike Twardoski said that although the outcome was disappointing, the game can still help the team succeed.

“Georgia Gwinnett is a great team — they’re No. 1 in the NAIA [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics],” Twardoski said. “We got a chance to put a lot of guys in to see some great hitting and pitching.”

Junior pitcher Andrew Doetsch echoed his coach’s sentiment.

“Georgia Gwinnett is one of the best teams in the NAIA,” Doetsch said. “Just playing against the best prepares us for the rest of the season and post-season, which is always our goal.”

Senior pitcher Paul Merolla got the start for the Eagles and struggled in his four-inning outing. Merolla allowed five runs, three of which were earned. Merolla gave up five hits and four walks, while striking out three. The team of four relievers who closed out the game for Emory had a hard time containing Georgia Gwinnett, as well. Sophomores Rhett Stuart, Danny Kerning and Mack Wilkins, as well as junior Andrew Doetsch each pitched one inning to finish the game. Stuart allowed five runs and Doetsch allowed two, while Kerning and Wilkins allowed a single run each.

At the plate, Emory managed to collect only four hits total. Left fielder Wilson Morgan and third baseman Philip Maldari, both juniors, as well as and left fielder David Draper and first baseman Sam Brzowski, both freshmen, each recorded one hit. Morgan, Draper and Maldari also drove in  an RBI each. The team struck out 11 times and drew only four walks in the game. Twardoski was especially impressed the plate appearances of the two freshmen in the bunch.

“They [Draper and Brzowski] haven’t gotten a lot of at-bats, so it’s hard to get your timing down,” Twardoski said. “To come in off the bench and get hits off a guy throwing 90 [miles per hour] is really good.”

The Eagles will return to action Tuesday, April 19, when they travel across town to take on Oglethorpe University (Ga.) (19-20). Junior pitcher Jackson Weeg (6-0, 1.97 ERA) is planned to start Tuesday night’s game. Twardoski said that a fierce attitude could lead the Eagles to victory.

“I really want to see us come out and play with a chip on our shoulder after dropping a home game to [Oglethorpe] last week,” Twardoski said. “I think that could give us an edge in the game.”

Emory now has four regular season games remaining  on the year. When asked about how to finish the season strong, Doetsch said  the key is staying healthy and consistent .

“We need to maintain the current level of play we have, if not improve on it,” Doetsch said. “We need to continue to get consistent starts from our staff and keep capitalizing at the plate and the field.”

Junior Luke Emmit dominates in his last start. Courtesy of Emory Athletics

This past weekend, Emory’s baseball team (24-7) took on North Carolina Wesleyan College (21-14) in a three-game series. Emory won all three games: 5-1, 17-7 and 8-1.

In the first game, Emory defeated North Carolina Wesleyan 5-1 thanks to a great outing from the team’s pitching staff. Junior pitcher Jackson Weeg (6-0) threw a gem and picked up his sixth win of the season. Weeg threw six and two-thirds innings, allowing one earned run while striking out six. Junior Kyle Monk relieved Weeg and finished the game off for the Eagles. Monk did not allow a run and picked up his 11th save of the year.

Juniors catcher Chris Young, designated hitter Brian Hernandez and third baseman Philip Maldari carried the Eagles at the plate. Young, Hernandez and Maldari all managed to get two hits a piece. In addition, Young and Maldari drove home a pair of runs each. Senior center fielder David Coble drove in the Eagles’ other run of the game.

Unlike the first game, the second game of the series was all about offense and saw Emory win 17-7. Emory had a mind-boggling 11 players bring home a run, including five players driving in two (sophomore shortstop Nick Chambers, sophomore first baseman Bubby Terp, freshman third baseman Thomas Baumgartner, senior right fielder Chris Slivka and junior left fielder Wilson Morgan). Slivka, Chambers and Terp all homered in the game as well. In addition to their 12 hits, Emory managed to draw 10 free passes while only striking out four times. Coach Twardoski was especially impressed by Terp’s performance for the usual starter, senior Ben Vizvary, who sat out the game due to injury.

Junior pitcher Hans Hansen (7-1) got the start from Emory, and his five innings of work were good enough to pick up his seventh win of the season. While he did allow four runs, only one was earned. In fact, while North Carolina Wesleyan crossed the plate a total of seven times, only two of those runs were earned. Sophomore pitcher Danny Kerning and senior second baseman Dylan Eisner each committed an error.

In the third and final game of the series, Emory once again benefitted from a dominant effort from their starter, junior Luke Emmett, winning 8-1. Emmett threw seven innings of one-run baseball, striking out eight and allowing five hits along the way. Senior Paul Merolla and sophomore Rhett Stuart each pitched an inning to finish off the game. Neither of the two allowed a run.

At the plate, both Eisner and Hernandez finished the game with three hits. Eisner drove in a pair of runs as well. While the Eagles couldn’t produce any long balls, it didn’t matter, as the team managed four doubles (Maldari, Slivka, Eisner and Hernandez). On top of that, the Eagles were active on the basepaths and managed four stolen bases courtesy of Eisner (two), Morgan and Coble.

Coach Twardoski talked a little about his pitching staff, which currently boasts four starters with sub-2.00 ERAs (Weeg, Emmet, Hansen and freshman Billy Dimlow).

“Our pitching staff has really made it easy on me this year,” Twardoski said. “I haven’t had to make a lot of decisions because of how well they’re pitching. I think I made one trip to the mound during our three games this weekend.”

Emory will return to the diamond on Wednesday, April 10, when they take on Oglethorpe University (26-15) (Ga.) at home. Twardoski believes the key to the game lies in the team’s ability to “wipe the school off them”.

“Mid-week games are always tough,” Twardoski said. “It’s hard to play 3 p.m. games when you get out of class at 2 [p.m.]. We’re tired and sore, so we really have to come out and play with energy to do well.”