WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – Franklin & Marshall's baseball team dropped its first contest of the 2015 season, falling to Babson by a 14-7 score on Thursday morning at the Russmatt Central Florida Invitational. The loss dropped the Diplomats to 5-1 on the year, while the Beavers improved to 3-4.
Babson struck first in the opening inning off an RBI single to left field, before a Luke Seib sacrifice bunt RBI in the bottom of the second sent Mike Smeriglio home from third and knotted the game at 1-1.
In the third, the Beavers jumped ahead by a 4-1 score with a one out home run to right field, which scored runners from first and second. The Diplomats continued to fight and came within two in the third, when Smeriglio stepped to the dish with two outs and runners on second and third and laced a single through the right side that sent Brett Poniros across the plate.
However, F&M struggled to contain Babson's powerful offense as the Beavers rallied for four runs with two outs in the top of the fourth, off of four consecutive singles, sprinting ahead at 8-2. The Diplomats showed life in the bottom of the frame when a two-RBI double from Poniros, followed by an RBI double to left field from Dan Marano, made it a three-run game.
In the following frame, the Beavers got a run back in the fifth with an RBI single up the middle, before loading the bases with two outs. Chris Mathewson entered in relief with the bases juiced and forced a lineout to center field, which Brian Erb made a sliding catch to snag, keeping the score close.
Seib singled through the right side to score Smeriglio from third in the bottom of the inning and delivering some momentum to F&M, however Babson followed with a pair of runs off two hits in the sixth and another two runs off a pair of hits and an error in the seventh, to pull away from the Diplomats.
Starting pitcher Brandon Theriault (0-1) was charged with the loss after allowing eight earned off 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings of work. The Beavers' Ken Rotunno (2-0) earned the win, tossing four frames and allowing six earned off seven hits. Babson's bullpen was solid, pitching four innings and allowing just one run and six hits.
The Beavers outhit F&M by a 19-13 tally, while the Diplomats stranded 11 runners on base through nine innings. Marano paced the F&M offense from the designated hitter position with a 3-for-4 effort and one RBI. Smeriglio continued to swing a hot bat with a 2-for-4 showing at the cleanup spot, with one RBI and a pair of runs scored, while Poniros went 2-for-5 with three runs and two RBIs at the leadoff position.
Spring break action continues tomorrow when the Diplomats take on Centenary (N.J.) at 9:30 a.m. in Auburndale and Plattsburgh St. at 4:00 p.m. in Winter Haven.