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COLLEGE BASEBALL: Cesarini Shines as Saint Joseph's Baseball Speeds Past Penn

By Morgan Killian Moseley, 04/25/24, 7:30PM EDT


By: Morgan Killian-Moseley  

PHILADELPHIA- Saint Joseph's junior left fielder Ryan Cesarini went 3-for-5 with a run batted in, three runs scored, and FOUR of the team’s six stolen bases (including a steal of home), as the Hawks took down the Penn Quakers at Tommy Lasorda Field at Meiklejohn Stadium 8-3 on April 17th. 

St. Joe’s sophomore shortstop Ryan Weingartner, sophomore third baseman Owen Petrich, and senior right fielder Ryan Picollo would each contribute two hits and a run scored as well. Weingartner delivered a 2-run home run in the top of the 9th, while Petrich and Piccolo would knock in a run on a 1st inning sacrifice fly and a 6th inning infield single, respectively. 

The Crimson and Gray came out of the gate hot, putting up a crooked number in the 1st inning against Penn junior righthander Noah Millikan. Senior centerfielder Conlan Wall was hit by a pitch to lead off, then stole second on Millikan’s 1-1 pitch to Cesarini. Two pitches later, Cesarini would rip a double to right to give the Hawks the 1-0 lead. Cesarini would steal third during Weingartner’s at-bat, then come home on Petrich’s sac fly to make it 2-0 St. Joe’s. 

Sophomore Frank Ciccone got the start for the Hawks and set the Quakers down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 1st but ran into a little trouble in the 2nd. With one out, freshman first baseman Nick Spaventa would deliver a double to the left-center field gap. Sophomore right fielder Jarrett Pokrovsky would take the first pitch he saw the opposite way for a single to right, but Spaventa was held at third. This decision would come back to bite the Quakers as Ciccone would come back to strike out senior designated hitter Carson Ozmer and freshman left fielder Gavin Collins swinging. 

SJU senior Ryan Cesarini post game interview - PSD Video by Morgan Killian Moseley

Millikan would have a bounce back inning in the top of the 2nd. St. Joe’s graduate designated hitter Luke Zimmerman would reach on Millikan’s error, but Millikan would bail himself out by rolling the pitcher’s best friend: a 5-4-3, around-the-horn, double play off the bat of graduate first baseman Brandon Drapeau. Millikan would then induce a fly out to left from senior catcher Jakob Reed to end the frame. 

In the 3rd, Millikan would get senior second baseman Max Hitman on a 3-1 groundout, then retire Wall on a deep foul out to right as Pokrovsky seemed to bang into the railing. Cesarini would deliver a two-out single to left, though, and at that point Penn head coach John Yurkow had seen enough. Sophomore righty John Cerwinski would take over on the mound. And though he would walk Weingartner, he would get Petrich to ground into a force out to end the 3rd inning threat and save further damage to Millikan’s line. 

Cerwinski would give up a 4th inning leadoff single to Picollo but would get Zimmerman swinging and Drapeau on a foul tip; with Drapeau’s K being the front end of a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play as Quaker junior catcher Asa Wilson would gun down Picollo on a close play. Cerwinski would then set down the Hawks 1-2-3 in the 5th.  

Graduate righty Colin Yablonsky was the first man out of the Hawks bullpen. He got the Quakers in order in the 3rd but in the 4th surrendered a one-out opposite field double to Penn sophomore centerfielder Ryan Taylor. Yablonsky would then walk Pokrovsky on four pitches and Ozmer on six to load the bases. Collins would follow, wisely looking to make Yablonsky throw a strike. The righty would prove unable to do so, walking Collins on four pitches to force Taylor home and cut the Penn deficit to 2-1. Wilson would step up, got a 1-0 pitch that he liked and launched it deep to center. On a hotter day or with the wind not blowing in, Wilson would likely have had himself a grand slam. But on this day, the hit died just short as Wall made the catch crashing into the wall, killing the rally with it. 

Designated hitter rules are a little different in college baseball compared to the pros. In Major and Minor League Baseball, the “Shohei Ohtani rule” states a starting pitcher can be their own DH and later be relieved on the mound while staying in the game as the DH. But if a pitcher that isn’t listed as his own DH bats for himself or a DH takes over on the mound in the pros, his team can no longer use the DH for the rest of the game.  

In college though, the DH can come in to pitch in relief and later be relieved, all while remaining as the DH. That’s exactly what happened in the bottom of the 5th, as Zimmerman would take over on the mound for St. Joe’s.  

Zimmerman would walk Penn junior 2nd baseman Connor Chavez to start the inning. The biggest threat in the Quaker lineup, senior 3rd baseman Wyatt Henseler, would chop a 1-1 pitch back to the mound but Zimmerman’s throw to 2nd was a bit wide. Hitman held the bag for the force out, but the wide throw ensured there was no double play. With an 0-2 count to sophomore shortstop Davis Baker, Zimmerman was called for a balk on a pickoff attempt by home plate umpire Don Goller; wiping out the double play chance completely. However, Zimmerman would recover by striking out Baker and getting Taylor to pop out to 1st, keeping the score at 2-1. 

And the Red and Blue would draw no closer the rest of the way. Freshman lefthander Marty Coyne would take over on the mound for Penn in the top of the 6th. Coyne would give up a single to four of the five batters he faced: a leadoff infield hit by Cesarini, a one-out hit-and-run single to right by Petrich which put Cesarini at 3rd, an infield single in the hole at shortstop to Piccolo one pitch later which brought Cesarini home, and a similar hit by Zimmerman to load the bases. Junior lefty Will Tobin was summoned from the Quaker bullpen to try and limit the damage but gave up a sacrifice fly to Drapeau to bring home Petrich and a two-out infield single to Reed that scored Piccolo. 

SJU SENIOR RYAN CESARINI hits a double - PSD Video by Morgan Killian Moseley

Post Game interview with SJU head coach Fritz Hamburg - PSD Video by Morgan Killian Moseley

In all three runs scored in that inning on five hits, four that didn’t leave the infield, and the Hawks had a 5-1 lead. Zimmerman would hold the line in the bottom of the 6th, retiring the Quakers in order. 

Sophomore righty Jake Moss took over on the mound for Penn in the 7th. He got Wall on a grounder to 2nd, but Cesarini reached base on a smash to 1st that ate up Spaventa. Cesarini would steal 2nd on the 0-1 pitch to Weingartner, then get to 3rd on Weingartner’s single to left. Weingartner would take off on the 1-1 to Petrich. Wilson’s throw was in the dirt; and as soon as he released Cesarini would break for the plate. There was no chance for a return throw and the double steal made it 6-1 Hawks. 

Junior righty Luke Gabrysh took over in the bottom of the 7th for St. Joe’s and would set down the Quakers 1-2-3. He’d stay on for the 8th but would give up a leadoff single to Henseler. Baker would strike out swinging, but Taylor would reach on an E-6 as Weingartner couldn’t make a clean transfer trying to start a double play. But Weingartner would redeem himself two pitches later as Gabrysh rolled a 6-4-3 twin killing to end the Quaker threat. 

Penn junior lefty Marshall Mott would deliver a much-needed 1-2-3 inning in the 8th, but in the top of the 9th freshman righty Andrew Miehe wasn’t so lucky. Hitman led off the final frame with a double down the 3rd base line. Miehe was able to recover by getting Wall to ground out to 3rd, holding Hitman at 2nd. 

Considering how Cesarini had torched the Quakers that day, plus the fact that three straight right-handed hitters followed him in the batting order, many managers would have pitched around Cesarini, or simply intentionally walked him, to set up the righty-righty matchups.  

Since there is no three-batter minimum for pitchers in college, Yurkow opted to instead bring in freshman southpaw Anthoni Kiafoulis to face Cesarini. The move initially looked to pay off as Kiafoulis struck out Cesarini swinging. But Yurkow kept Kiafoulis in to face Weingartner, and the Hawk shortstop made the Quakers pay by launching a 1-0 pitch over the right-center field wall to push the Hawks’ lead to 8-1. 

In the bottom of the 9th, graduate righthander Luke Smith looked to get the final three outs for the Crimson and Gray. He got Pokrovsky on a well-played grounder to Weingartner, but Ozmer walked in a plate appearance that featured a pitch clock violation when Smith was deemed to have quick-pitched (throwing before the batter was looking at the pitcher). Collins would follow with a double down the 3rd base line, putting two men in scoring position. Wilson would strike out swinging to bring Penn down to their last out. Chavez would then draw a walk which would have loaded the bases, but ball four was spiked in the dirt and got away from Reed, allowing Ozmer to score and Collins to get to 3rd. Henseler would then drive in Collins and get Chavez to 3rd on a single to left to cut the deficit to five. But the last-out magic would run out there, as Baker would get under the next pitch and fly out to right to end it. 

The 2-5 hitters in St. Joe’s lineup went a combined 9-for-18, scoring six of St. Joe’s eight runs and knocking in five of them. In contrast, Penn’s lineup had only six hits (Henseler being the only Quaker having multiple hits), but they did draw six walks. 

Penn’s pitching staff has not performed well in many games this season. But for a team that now has a 7.05 ERA and 1.76 WHIP ratio, Cerwinski’s and Mott’s outings out of the bullpen have to be encouraging to the Penn coaching staff.  

Gabrysh’s two shutout innings out of the bullpen were enough to give him the win, his first of the season. His record is now 1-2. Millikan’s 2 2/3 inning start wasn’t bad, all things considered; but the Penn offense couldn’t get him any run support and he was saddled with the loss, putting him at 0-1 on the season.  

“We just came to play today,” said Cesarini. “I know it’s been a struggle [in mid-week games] this year, but we played with an edge today. I’m glad we got the win.” 

“I thought we pitched really well today.”  “We picked it up well, we made some nice defensive plays, and obviously we had some timely hitting,” said St. Joe’s head coach Fritz Hamburg. “It was good to off [to a good start], and then we tacked on from there. It was a nice all-around team win.” 

Hamburg went on to add that this win came from being able to execute in key situations and would give his team confidence that they could continue to do so. 

Penn’s players and coaches declined to comment on the game. 

St. Joe’s is now 17-19 overall and 6-6 in the Atlantic 10, seventh of twelve teams in the conference, after winning two out of three at home against the Bonnies of St. Bonaventure over the weekend and holding on to beat the Delaware Blue Hens 10-9 on Tuesday to close out their four-game home stand. The Hawks hit the road for three in Amherst, Mass. against the UMass Minutemen. 

Penn stands at 15-20 overall, with a 7-8 record in the Ivy League after losing two out of three to the Princeton Tigers on the road this past weekend. The Quakers stand in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Ancient Eight and travel to Cambridge, Mass. to take on the Harvard Crimson this weekend; one of the team’s they’re tied with (the other being the Yale Bulldogs).