CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – MIT freshman Max Ockner threw 8 strikeouts in 3 innings to secure the win, as the Engineers beat out non-conference opponent Salem State College, 7-5, Wednesday on Briggs Field. With the win, MIT’s record evens to 10-10 (3-7 NEWMAC) while the Vikings level out at 11-11 (1-3 MASCAC).
MIT and Salem State had only previously met once on the baseball field. The Engineers surely entered the game carrying a grudge after their 14-1 loss to the Vikings in the first round of the 1989 ECAC D-III Championship Tournament, despite the fact that many players from both teams were not yet born.
The Engineers opened the scoring in the bottom of the first, as MIT’s Brian Doyle was hit by a pitch and stole second before junior William Blackman singled down the right line, bringing Doyle home and putting the MIT up 1-0.
Salem State responded in the fourth when senior Steve Mucci took two bases off a liner into center field. Junior Ryan Kane was next up and hit another shot into center for an RBI-double to even the score at 1-1.
Junior Evan Valcourt kept the Vikings’ going in the fifth with a shot over the wall to left field. With his first homer of the season, Valcourt gave Salem State the lead at 2-1.
MIT gained momentum in the fifth, with sophomore Bryan Macomber leading off with a single through the right side, setting up an RBI-single from senior Stewart Park, tying the game at 2-2. After the next two batters reached base on balls, starter Andrew Galindo came off the mound, tallying 4 strikeouts and 6 walks in 4 and 1/3 innings.
With bases loaded and one out, sophomore Matt Kerr looked like he had escaped trouble on a grounder double-play, but instead of turning two, a Viking error brought Park and Blackman home. Kerr reloaded the bases with a hit batsman and walk before walking in the fourth run of the inning. With MIT ahead 5-2, Kerr partially redeemed himself by striking out Macomber to end the inning.
Mucci’s second hit of the day was a big one for Salem State. In the sixth, the first-baseman homered to left for his team-high seventh of the season, narrowing the lead to 5-3.
MIT starter Chris Hendrix retired after 6 innings, recording 4 strikeouts and 0 walks.
The Vikings struck again in the seventh. Ockner opened his tenure on the mound with 2 K’s and 2 hits before sophomore Eric Juncker singled into center, driving home Guery Alonzo and Valcourt, erasing the Engineers’ advantage and equalizing the score at 5-5. Ockner’s arm got away from him when another hit batter (the game’s third) and wild pitch put runners in scoring position. He regained enough control to catch Galindo swinging for the third out of the inning.
Continuing this season’s pattern of late-game scoring, MIT used the seventh to go ahead for good, leading with four consecutive singles and a sac-fly to score the final 2 runs and take the lead at 7-5.
Junior Jeff Borges pitched the eighth for the Vikings, replacing Kerr (2-3) after 2 strikeouts and 2 walks in 2 and 2/3 innings. Borges pitched 1 strikeout and 1 walk in what was a quiet inning for the Engineers.
Ockner (2-1) clinched the victory for the Cardinal and Gray with 5 consecutive strikeouts. He totaled 8 on the day (with 0 walks) and now averages 8.2 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.
Salem State is back on the field Thursday when the Vikings travel to play non-conference opponent Plymouth State University at 3:30 p.m. The Engineers’ are next scheduled to play the Cougars of Clark University in a NEWMAC doubleheader on Saturday, April 17, starting at 12 p.m.