BASE: Multiple Colonels put in the record books during first appearance on Bruggeworth Field in only competition of regular season

Kirsten Peters, Co-Sports Editor

With all spring seasons cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilkes baseball recorded a host of firsts in their first – and only – regular season game on Bruggeworth Field with a 3-2 win against Centenary University on March 11 afternoon.

“It was an honor to pitch the first game and record the first win at Bruggeworth with my team,” reflected junior pitcher Tony Molitoris. “I try to be positive, but it still sucks right now with the season being over.”

The first pitch of the contest was thrown out by Molitoris, who recently recorded his first win of the season in an 18-7 victory over Northland College while the Colonels spent their spring break in Fort Pierce, Fla.

“I try to pound the zone with my fastball and then keep opposing batters off balance with my change-up and curveball,” Molitoris said. “I’m a contact pitcher, so I need the support of my defense behind me to help, which they did a great job with against Centenary.”

Molitoris, along with second baseman Michael Patrizio and first baseman Nicholas Malatesta, recorded the first out (more specifically, the first pair of outs) during the turf field’s inaugural baseball competition. The trio executed a double play when Centenary’s Brandon Smith hit the ball back to the pitcher, allowing Molitoris to find Patrizio at second before Patrizio chucked the ball over to Malatesta at first.

In the bottom of the first inning, the Colonels added to their list of firsts offensively.

Patrizio walked as the lead-off batter, being the first Colonel to reach first base. Soon after, he recorded the first Colonel steal when he successfully reached second. On a wild pitch, Patrizio found himself sitting at third with two outs and clean-up hitter Brandon Reno at the plate.

“My approach was just to hit a hard line-drive,” said Reno, a senior third baseman. “I wasn’t looking to walk, and a ground ball or fly ball wouldn’t have worked in that situation with two outs.”

On the seventh pitch of his at bat, Reno executed his approach. A single to left field brought the first Colonel run across home plate with Patrizio running in from third. Reno also went down in the record books with the first Wilkes hit and the first RBI recorded on Bruggeworth Field.

“To have the first RBI on the field means a lot, but it could have come from anybody in the lineup,” said Reno. “I just knew I had a job to.”

With a 1-0 lead through four innings, the Colonels pushed their lead to 3-0 with another first on the new field – a home run.

With Patrizio on base from a bunt single, he was afforded the same luck moving around the bases as he had in the first inning. The 5’10” 150 lb. lead-off batter stole second for the second time in the contest and reached third on a throwing error by the catcher.

Again, with two outs, the Colonels found a way to get Patrizio around the bases and across home plate. The answer proved to be junior shortstop Nick Pronti.

“Honestly, my approach at the plate is never to hit a home run. It’s always to stay inside the baseball and try to hit a line drive over second base,” shared Pronti. “With two outs, a runner on third and only having a one-run lead, I knew I had an important at bat.”

With the first pitch off-speed, Pronti was looking for a fastball in the 0-1 count.

“When he (Centenary’s pitcher Chris Lilly) did throw me the pitch, which was middle/in, I got my barrel on it and elevated the ball,” said Pronti. “Off the bat, I wasn’t thinking it was a home run. But when I heard the dugout go quiet for a split second, I knew the ball was headed out. I pointed to my guys and took the jog.”

Pronti homered down the left field line, leaving his name in the record books for Wilkes with the first home run at Bruggeworth Field.

“It’s a surreal feeling, for sure,” explained Pronti. “It didn’t hit me that I was the first one for a few moments. I hadn’t thought about it because I was too overwhelmed with my brothers in the dugout coming out to celebrate. There’s nothing more important than performing well for the guys who work their tails off with you all off-season.”

Pronti’s homer proved to be just what the Colonels needed in the bottom of the fifth, as the Cyclones found new life in the top of the sixth. When Centenary’s Jon Fleck doubled to right field, lead-off batter Paul Links brought the first Cyclone run across the plate.

In the top of the seventh, the Cyclones cut the deficit to one when Chris Miller’s sacrifice fly to centerfield scored Michael Vall.

Wilkes managed to keep the game at 3-2 through the remainder of the contest, giving Molitoris the first win at Bruggeworth Field and junior pitcher Andrew Indzonka the first save after a scoreless ninth inning.

Molitoris improved to 2-0 on the season, allowing one run on seven hits over 5.2 innings. He prevented any walks and recorded two strikeouts.

“The energy from the team really made it feel electric at the field,” said Molitoris. “It’s still the first of many wins at Bruggeworth.”

The Colonels finish the season 4-5 following the announcement by the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) to cancel all spring sporting events. Yet, Wilkes’ season wasn’t brought to an end without 10 firsts during their first competition on the new turf field at Bruggeworth.