Groves baseball sweeps Seaholm in the regular season
By: Chadwick Cole
The Falcons came into the series against Seaholm leading the all-time record between the two teams at 65-64-1. In recent history the Falcons have owned the rivalry, winning thirteen straight matchups from 2015 to 2018. However the last few seasons Seaholm has seen more success in the matchup, winning six out of seven games between 2019 and 2021. Senior first baseman Charlie Cusimano describes the rivalry.
“We hadn’t won a series against them since we entered high school,” Cusimano said. “We don't like them and they don’t like us, sometimes words are exchanged. We remember how they disrespected us last year, particularly how they celebrated after they won the third game to clinch the series.”
Last year Seaholm won the first game of the series, throwing a no-hitter and shutting Groves out. The Falcons rallied back and mercied Seaholm,13-3, in their second meeting of 2021. Seaholm won the third game, and the series, by one run. Groves did not play a baseball season in 2020 due to Covid. Coach Shawn Morrison describes the feelings within the team heading into the series.
“The current kids on the team had not experienced the success against Seaholm. All of our sweeps were before the current seniors got to ever experience that. So this series was a very big thing for them, for sure,” Morrison said. “Anytime you're playing the team from down the road, it has a different feel to it. Our goal begins with winning the first game, then winning the second, and finally sweeping the series. We try to take it one step at a time.”
Photo by Chadwick Cole
Senior pitcher and middle infielder Joey Beatty winds up and launches a pitch in the sixth inning of the first game of the doubleheader on April 21. “Seaholm week is always one of the most important weeks of the year. When we get on the field it's cutthroat, no mercy,” Beatty said.
The morning of the first game against Seaholm this year, the Falcons’ number one and two pitchers both called in sick. Coach Morrison put his trust in three juniors to get the job done.
“We put some fairly untested arms on the mound, it worked out for us. Carson Kaye threw the first three and two thirds innings, Dylan Stojanovic threw three innings and picked up the win in relief, then Luke Zeff got us out of a jam with the bases loaded for the last out and the save.”
Groves won the game 7-4. The Falcons were led by a big game from Cusimano, who was awarded the BACB sports player of the game, getting the first hit to start a six run Groves rally in the fifth inning.
“We were losing and I was leading off the inning, I hit a single to get on base and from there we rallied. I got another hit and had some pop-ups, grounders, and made a couple other good plays on defense,” Cusimano said. “There was a ground ball coming fast to my right side, I had to dive away from the bag for it. When I got up I looked and saw no one was covering first. I had to sprint back and dive full stretch to touch the base before the runner.”
The first game of the series took place on April 20, the second and third games were scheduled for the next day, April 21, as a doubleheader, two games played back to back on the same day. The Falcons needed to carry the momentum from the first game to close out the series.
“With any sport, I think it comes down to momentum, you have to capture the momentum,” Morrison said. “If you lose the first game, you're on a losing streak, but when you win the first game, you're on a winning streak and you still have the possibility of a sweep. It's all about taking momentum from the win into games two and three.”
Seaholm took an early two run lead in the second game. They were able to hang on due to a good performance from the Maples’ pitcher. However, the Falcons found some footing in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded, senior third baseman Brennen Vechazone hit a single on the first pitch of the at-bat to bring in two runs.
“My first at-bat was pretty bad, I was too anxious in the box. I went back to the dugout, thought about what happened, and realized ‘this kid’s only throwing first-pitch fastball’ so I wanted to jump on it,” Vechazone said. “We were down 3-1 and I was up again. As I walked up I remembered what I thought about in the dugout. He threw a first-pitch fastball and I was all over it. I made solid contact and ripped it down the third baseline. My adrenaline and emotions were at an all-time high, I just thought ‘yeah, we got this now.’”
Photo by Chadwick Cole
Senior third baseman Brennen Vechazone gets hyped after getting a hit to tie the first game of the doubleheader on April 21. “You could feel the momentum shift,” Vechazone said.
Groves would bring in another run in the fourth inning to take the lead 4-3. The Falcons were able to hold on to the lead due to the pitching of senior Joey Beatty.
“When your offense can step up and get the runs going it gets the blood flowing and creates a positive impact for the whole team to feed off of,” Beatty said. “Being down pitching is tougher than when you’re defending a lead. Scoring all those runs and coming back definitely gave me motivation pitching.”
The game stayed close, tied 4-4 going into the bottom of the seventh and final inning. The Falcons were up to bat, first up was junior center fielder Matt Meilinger. Meilinger hit a single which was followed by singles from seniors Nick Mason and Jackson Zako. Beatty was up to bat with the bases loaded and no outs. Beatty went down 1-2 in the at-bat but fought back to make it a full count. The Seaholm pitcher then threw a third straight ball to walk in the winning run. Meilinger describes the pressure of being the man on third in this situation.
“I was just trying not to mess up. No outs, bases loaded, when you’re the man on third all you’re thinking is ‘I can’t get out here.’ You have to persevere and almost forget about the situation and just play baseball,” Meilinger said.
Photo by Chadwick Cole
Senior right fielder Nick Mason is all over this pitch early in the first game of the double header on April 21. Mason's multi-hit game helped Groves clinch the series win.
The Falcons had won the series but there was still another game to play in the doubleheader. Although Groves had won the series, they still weren’t satisfied heading into the final game.
“We knew we were either going to celebrate a series win or a series sweep, but a series sweep sounds much better,” Morrison said. “We came out and put pressure on them in the first inning.”
Groves capitalized on an error by the Maples’ pitcher and got multiple hits, two from seniors Vechazone and Cusimano, to take an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Falcons once again relied on their pitching, this time from sophomore Evan Stojanovic, to help them hold on to the narrow lead.
"It was definitely a bonus to start off with early runs, particularly because we had a younger guy pitching against Seaholm. That definitely takes a little bit of the pressure off, especially in a situation like that,” Morrison said. “We scored two runs in the first inning and then Stojanovic pretty much shut them down.”
Groves brought in another run in the fifth to extend the lead, but the Maples put the pressure on in the sixth. They scored a run and managed to load the bases, but junior pitcher Luke Zeff got the save and closed out the series for the Falcons. Senior second baseman Alex Fenkell describes the feeling after completing the sweep.
“It felt good, they were talking a lot of smack and in the end, they were pretty quiet. I think we shut them up,” Fenkell said. “We were stoked about it but we were kind of expecting it.”
After the game, the Falcons practiced their post game tradition of "victory sprints." After every win, the team runs together from first to second and back or third to second and back, depending on which side they are on.
“I think it's been a cool tradition here. I think too many people associate running with punishment, so I decided that we are going to run after wins,” Morrison said. “We just call them ‘victory sprints.’ You don’t even feel like you’re running because you’re just on top of the world, the other teams probably hate it.”
Photo by Chadwick Cole
Senior pitcher and middle infielder Joey Beatty hurls a pitch in the first game of the double header on April 21. “After every win we do ‘victory sprints’ in the outfield, everyone is just celebrating and messing around,” Beatty said. “It’s really cool with all of the guys.”
With no current Groves players having won a series against Seaholm, this was the seniors’ last chance. Cusimano describes the feeling of relief after winning the third game.
“It was definitely a burden off our shoulders, everyone was super relieved and happy,” Cusimano said. “They’re our rivals and it feels amazing to beat them and see the looks on their faces. It was awesome to sweep them and just a great feeling all around.”