After more than five weeks of waiting, the Richmond baseball team finally got to have a true home opener.
The first game played on the newly renovated Pitt Field was not accompanied by any fanfare or ceremonies that often occur for an opening game. The players created the fireworks for themselves.
The team blew out Cornell in a 23-7 win, highlighted by three home runs, a total hit tally of 21 for the Spiders, and of course the new synthetic turf surface.
Despite the delays to its completion, the players were thrilled with their new home field. They appreciated the perfect levelness of the surface, the vibrant colors of the turf and the comfort of finally being able to host a true home game instead of the pseudo-home games held as far away as South Carolina.
“I think everyone was über excited to get out here today,” third baseman Matt Dacey said. “There’s no other feeling in the world like playing at Pitt. This is our home. This is the field we all love. To have it brand spankin’ new and get a win to christen it like that is an awesome feeling.”
The offense came out in full force for the field’s baptism. Every starting position player got at least one hit, but right-fielder Jansen Fraser stole the day with his 5-for-5 effort with two home runs and four RBIs.
“I don’t think it mattered who stepped on the field against us, I knew we were winning today,” Fraser said. “It was good to be back.”
Left-fielder Tanner Stanley reached base every time he went to the plate, going 3-for-3 with two walks. Centerfielder Michael Morman went 3-for-6 with a walk, and designated hitter Kyle Adams went 2-for-5 with six RBIs.
Dacey celebrated his 21st birthday by hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning.
“It was a pretty good present,” he said.
The Spiders jumped to an early lead, scoring eight runs in the second inning, which created a comfortable cushion for the pitchers to work with despite the blustery weather making their jobs more difficult.
Starting pitcher Justin Garcia added another solid appearance to his freshman career. He allowed three runs on five hits with five strikeouts over five innings.
The lopsided score continued into the late innings, which created an opportunity for pitchers who hadn’t had much playing time this season to take the mound. Freshman Sean Collins and sophomore Zach Moore each put up zeros in their second appearances of the season. Freshman Ryan Franceschina did not fare as well, allowing three runs on three walks and one hit in his collegiate debut. He faced seven batters but induced only one out.
Head coach Tracy Woodson acknowledged that the windy conditions were less than favorable for pitchers, but that the offense was talented enough to eat up any deficit.
Tuesday marked the eighth game of the season in which the Spiders scored 10 or more runs, raising their average runs scored per game to 8.7 through 22 games. The win raised Richmond’s record to 14-8, and pushed Cornell’s even further under .500 to 6-13.
The Richmond fielders did not appear to have any trouble adjusting to the new surface, despite holding their only practice on it less than 24 hours before Tuesday’s game. The two errors of the game were committed by Cornell, and had more to do with fly balls getting lost in the sun than with acclimating to the synthetic turf.
“I thought [the field] played true,” Woodson said. “It played like we thought it would. The wind was the biggest factor today in the game.”
The Spiders’ next challenge will be an in-conference match-up against St. Bonaventure in New York. They will return to Pitt Field on April 11 to play a doubleheader against Sacred Heart.
Contact reporter Erin Flynn at email@example.com