Bears’ playoff push falls short

Bears go 18-18 and finish 8th in the Centennial Conference standings

David Mendelsohn

The Ursinus College Baseball team wrapped up its 2019 campaign this weekend, falling just short of playoff aspirations.

The Bears finished 18-18 over- all, with a record of 7-11 in the Centennial Conference, giving them an 8th place finish in the CC.

They were in a position to control their own destiny, for the most part, after their historic April 6 sweep of the #11 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays in a Saturday double header. They won the games by a combined score of 26-17, and it was the first time Ursinus had ever swept Hopkins.

After the sweep, the Bears had 13 conference games left to play and were in a playoff position. Unfortunately, they won just four of their remaining games against CC opponents.

The Bears did not even get one night to celebrate their sweep of Hopkins before they had to eat a 10-1 loss to #6 Swarthmore on April 7. Ursinus had previously played a very tight game against Swarthmore, and the national powerhouse Garnet did not want to play a close one again, evidently.

Swarthmore, the defending conference champions, jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead in the first five innings of the Sunday affair, with the Bears scoring just one run on an RBI groundout by junior outfielder Dom Fiorentino. It’s hard to blame the Bears for faltering to a team like Swat the day after earning a well-fought sweep, but they were not able to turn the corner again after that and get back to their winning ways.

The next week they lost both of their matchups to Haverford with a non-conference win wedged in between the losses. They lost the first leg 7-3, with sophomore catcher Tom Jacobs responsible for driving in all three runs.

The second game against Haverford was even closer. The Bears lost by just one run, 6-5, and left the bases loaded in the ninth in their pursuit of a comeback. The offense wasn’t quite able to earn back the runs coughed up by the bullpen in a 4-run Haverford 7th inning in time to complete the comeback.

After that, Ursinus got involved in a slugfest with Gettysburg in a Saturday twin-bill. The first game vacillated between the two teams as Ursinus surrendered a 5-run lead in the bottom of the 8th inning at the battleground. The potent UC offense earned the lead back to go up 9-8, only to get walked-off by the Bullets in the bottom of the ninth.

The Bears were determined to make the second game against Gettysburg much less interesting. They had a 7-2 lead after their half of the fifth inning, including a home run by Fiorentino, but those pesky Bullets came back to knot the score at 7 before the end of the fifth inning. Ursinus woke up after that and outscored them the rest of the way, winning 11-8, registering a lofty 31 hits between the two games.

It looked like they were getting back on the right path after taking both games against Muhlenberg the next week. It was ideal not just because they were winning games, but also because of the fashion in which they won those games. The first game was a comeback and a close victory, 6-4. UC scored five runs in the 8th inning, including a 2-run go- ahead blast by Jacobs.

The second game was a blow- out that the Bears won 22-9. That was a historic game in many ways for the Bears. Junior stand- outs Alex Mumme and Fiorentino each homered twice, with Mumme’s home runs setting new standards for the Ursinus program in both single-season blasts and career home runs.

Winning games several different ways is generally indicative of a high-quality team. That adage holds up for this year’s UC team, despite how the season ended up in the end. This was clearly a team capable of winning baseball games.

What really put the Bears in a bind was a double-header split with McDaniel on April 20. They came all the way back from down 8-1 in game one, but the game continued its back-and forth pace when McDaniel ultimately won 17-16.

Ursinus made the second game much less interesting, winning the matchup 12-6, including a home run by first base standout Jon Moldoff.

After that split with McDaniel, the Bears had minimal wiggle room in order to make the playoffs, and that whittled down to zero wiggle room after a 6-4 loss to Franklin and Marshall on April 23. The Bears would have to win out in order to make the postseason.

The Bears tried their best to get the job done against Washington College on UC’s senior day this past Saturday.

Down 6-2 entering the ninth inning, it started to look like they would come back after a leadoff home run by Fiorentino. They continued to rally and scored one more run before making the final out, losing 6-4, and were eliminated from postseason contention.

The Bears honored their seniors before losing the second game 16-1 and dropping a meaningless 5-2 game at Franklin and Marshall on Sunday to conclude an eventful season.

Though they obviously did not end up where they wanted to this season, the Bears accomplished quite a bit this year and their efforts are worthy of many plaudits.

Mumme set several program records. There are the aforementioned home run records, but he also set the program record in doubles and single-season RBIs, and tied the record in overall hits, with a strong candidacy to catch the career mark for hits next season. He ends the season tied for the most home runs in the country with 14. He is a shoo-in for All-CC honors and very well could find himself as an All-American by the end of the season.

First-year first baseman Jon Moldoff had an incredible rookie campaign. He had 44 RBIs, which would have set the school’s single-season record if not for the existence of Mumme (45 RBIs). He has a strong candidacy for Centennial Conference Rookie- of-the-Year.

Jacobs turned himself into an elite offensive player. He had the seventh-highest on-base percent- age in the CC with .466, and was eighth in batting average with .389 while being a defensive force. He threw out 17 would-be base stealers this season.

Finally, Fiorentino set the team record for triples in a season after just 19 games. He finished second in all of Division III with 10 triples.

Most of the Bears offensive contributions came from non- seniors, with infielder Carter Usowski the only starting position player to graduate this year. Usowski wrapped up his career with a .319 career batting average and 88 RBIs. He was a two- time All-CC honoree.

The Bears should still be able to excite next season with all of their returning offensive talent as well as additional development with a young core of high-potential pitchers.

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