By ANDREW DONCHAK
Fordham baseball is off and underway, and the Rams, under head coach Kevin Leighton, are hoping to attend what would be their 4th straight appearance in the Atlantic 10 championship tournament. To get there, they have to qualify among the top seven teams in the 13-team conference. While the baseball season is a long one, the Rams have gotten off to a rough start, losing six out of their first seven games.
The struggles the team has faced thus far have been two-fold. The pitching has given up an average of 7.0 runs per game, while the offense has mustered an average of just 3.3 runs themselves during that timespan. Coach Leighton downplayed the team’s early record, stating “the team just has to keep competing. We’re going to get back on track.”
As far as the positives to come out of the first handful of games has been the emergence of Luke Stampfl, Gabelli School of Business at Rose Hill (GSBRH) ’17. As a shortstop, traditionally one of the lightest-hitting positions, Stampfl has been nothing but dominant, already posting three 4-hit contests. That includes a 5-for-5 game on Feb. 25 at Long Beach State University, where he hit for the cycle: collecting a home run, triple and double to go along with his two singles. He’s currently been reaching the base at an amazing rate as well, batting an unimaginable .516 with a .806 slugging percentage, both being the best marks on the squad.
Two sophomores on the team have also started off performing well. Catcher Justin Bardwell, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’19, has hit .375 thus far while notching four doubles. Likewise, first baseman Brian Goulard, FCRH ’19, has slugged his way to a .357 average and 16 total bases. Meanwhile senior and starting centerfielder Jason Lundy has showed himself to be a patient batter, getting on base at an even .400 average.
On the other side of the ball, opening day starter Mike Cowell GSBRH ‘19, a sophomore who lost all of his freshman campaign due to injury has showed a lot of good signs of getting back into the swing of things. He’s led the team with 10 strikeouts in 12⅔ and two very strong starts, but he’s had issues with control, walking eight. If Cowell can turn that around, his electric stuff can carry this rotation far.
One of the nicest surprises thus far for the pitching staff has been sophomore Anthony DiMeglio, who made his first start for Fordham last week against Houston Baptist after pitching only in relief last season, throwing five innings of one-run ball before the Huskies got to the Fordham bullpen. Opponents are hitting just a measly .130 off him, making his 1.42 era look like the result of strong pitching, not just a fluke.
Pitcher, Reiss Knehr, FCRH ‘19, struck out more than 11 batters per nine innings on his way to a 1.15 era in the Hamptons League this past summer. He has the only registered win thus far in the Rams’ young season, beating Houston Baptist with almost four scoreless innings. Look for the strong right hander who can hit the upper 90s to impress in his second season at Fordham.
Graduate student and team captain Jimmy Murphy has also had his share of troubles in his first two starts, but his leadership, experience and track record he’ll be more than capable of turning things around before season’s end.
Coach Leighton understands the disappointment in the team’s performance thus far, but insists fans keep their reactions in check. “We have a very talented group, [however we have] been hurt by a couple injuries. But overall, I like what we have.”
As far as getting back to the Atlantic 10 tournament, and hopefully getting a stronger finish, Leighton said “We have to stay consistent, it’s not easy. There’s 13 good teams [in the A-10]. Just have to find a way to win [games] each weekend.”