With a “top dog” mentality, baseball blows past NYU and sets sights on playoffs

| Sports Editor


Junior Clayton Miller celebrates with teammates during a game against Illinois Wesleyan University early this season. (Ginger Schulte | Student Life)

Freshman Shane Pellegrino had dreamed of this moment for years. Standing on third base with two outs in a 2-2 ballgame, the freshman shortstop was ninety feet from scoring the go-ahead run. With the Statue of Liberty overlooking the field from across New York Bay, the city skyline serving as a backdrop for the Friday evening game and barge horns blaring in the background, Pellegrino darted back and forth as he led off third. 

“I’ve been thinking about playing college baseball since I was five years old. This was really a dream come true for me,” said Pellegrino after the game. 

He would ultimately score on a balk – not exactly a pretty way to take the lead, but giving the Bears a one run advantage in the eighth inning of the game, one of a pivotal series versus New York University (NYU). The Bears would go on to win the first game 4-2 and ultimately take three of four from NYU. One year after narrowly avoiding a home sweep to Violets, WashU looked dominant after making the trek out to Staten Island, New York. 

“It’s so big to take three out of four on the road at NYU,” said head coach Pat Bloom.  “It’s hard — to say the least — to win three out of four against anybody in our league. But on the road, it’s especially difficult.” 

This season, WashU’s wins haven’t always been pretty, with the team fighting for late leads. Yet with a scrappy, next-man-up mentality, the team has gotten runs across the board at the right time. Led by veteran poise and the emergence of an impressive underclassmen class, the squad has hit its stride as it heads into the home stretch of the season.

“Guys who aren’t on board, they’re just not going to play,” said catcher and senior captain Hunter Goldberg on the team’s playstyle. “For lack of better words, we’re just being dogs. You know, not letting anyone take us off the field. We’re the top dogs on the field. That’s how we want to play.”

Their performance on Saturday was perhaps most impressive, taking both games of the doubleheader. The Bears jumped out to an early lead in the first game after sophomore Brandon Buday drew a walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on Pellegrino sac fly. WashU added two more runs in the third, but the Violets tied the score up with a three run sixth inning. In the seventh, Buday struck again, leading off the inning with a solo home homerun. The Bears added five more runs in the final two innings to go up 9-3, while freshman Miles Quemuel-Labrador got his first-career win after going a scoreless 2.1 innings in relief. 

In the second game, sophomore Sebastian Guzman got his third win of the season, going 6-and-a-third innings while giving up just two runs. NYU kept it close until the ninth, when the Bears exploded for five runs. 

The Bears were not able to get the series sweep on Sunday, but the 3-1 win meant a lot to the team— they hadn’t won a series versus their UAA rivals since 2018. In last season’s series, outfielder junior Magnus Dunn was ejected during a game where tempers flared on both sides. While this year’s games were chippy and tense, emotions never seemed to boil over. 

“We went into the games knowing that they were going to talk. We knew that they were going to play their brand of baseball, and we just kind of prepared for that,” said Goldberg. “We showed up, and I’m proud of the guys.”

Lacking the elite starting pitching that defined the pre-pandemic Bears squads and starting a number of underclassmen, WashU baseball had its share of question marks entering the season. Yet led by the the emergence of the freshmen middle infield tandem Pellegrino and Chris Jacinto, the consistency of the junior class infielders including Harry Mauterer and Clayton Miller, and the stable pitching from Will Henkel, Matt Lopes and Guzman, the Bears have found different ways to win – at the plate, on the mound, and on the basepaths.

Sophomore Henkel, who started Wednesday’s non conference win against Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, pitched thirteen innings in five days and allowed just two earned runs.  

“Will’s been solid all year,” Bloom said. “He’s really taken that out front role, and he’s given us some good, quality time.  He doesn’t throw the hardest, but he’s a quality left-handed pitcher and he’s got five pitches that he throws for strikes.”  

Henkel and the rest of the Bears’ rotation have been aided by an impressive lineup. Seven regulars are hitting .300 or better, and six have swiped seven or more bases. This season, the speedster Dunn has led the way with 16 stolen bases, good enough to lead the UAA – and he’s only been thrown out once. Dunn helped WashU secure two wins on Saturday with his baserunning, stealing four bases and scoring three runs, including one on a wild pitch. He also made a great throw to nail what would have been the tying run at the plate during the third game of the series.

Pellegrino was also dominant this weekend, recording six hits, five RBIs, and three runs. While the freshman shortstop has led the way for the Bears this season – batting .330 and hitting in the three-hole – a spot in the lineup was far from guaranteed for the Houston, Texas native at the beginning of the year. A torn labrum and rotator cuff sidelined Pellegrino through much of the offseason, and he was fully cleared for practice just three weeks before the start of the season.

Pellegrino is joined in the middle infield by freshman second baseman Jacinto, a fellow Texan. The two have known each other ever since they first played baseball together a decade ago. Jacinto and Pellegrino had played travel ball with each other for years prior to coming to WashU; now, the two room together.

“We have really strong chemistry,” said Pellegrino. “I feel really comfortable with Chris out there because I’m someone that I’m able to trust a lot. It’s really fun hanging out there.” Jacinto shared similar sentiments, recognizing the bond the two have on and off the field.

Much like Pellegrino, Jacinto knew it would be an uphill climb to getting playing time. But since cracking the lineup, Jacinto has been a consistent force for the Bears with both his glove and his bat.

While the loss on Sunday may have left a sour taste in the team’s mouth, the squad had a great experience in New York as a whole. When they were not playing baseball, Pellegrino and Jacinto spent time exploring the city. “When you’ve been to Clarksville, Arkansas this year, and there’s absolutely nothing going on, and then you get to New York City, and it’s this whole bustling environment, it’s really cool to experience,” said Jacinto. Pellegrino agreed, calling it a “breathtaking experience” and the highlight of his year thus far.

After a 11-3 win against Rose-Hulman in the team’s midweek non conference matchup, the Bears look to continue their hot streak this weekend with a four game set versus Brandeis. 

They’ll finish UAA play the following weekend when they travel to Atlanta to face the first-place Emory Eagles. The Eagles are coming off of a massive offensive effort against Brandeis where they scored 62 runs in fourteen innings. The natural surface field, Bloom said, will be a challenge for a group that has “struggled a little bit to catch the baseball and throw the baseball.” 

“We’ve got to shore up some things defensively on the mound, and it’ll start there,” he said.  “We can’t give up free runs. They’re a very, very good team, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.” 

WashU needs strong performances in both conference series to get a playoff spot, but the team remains confident.  “We’ll definitely get there,” said Pellegrino. Goldberg agreed: “I mean, you gotta be thinking about the postseason, or else why are you playing?”


Editor Clara Richards contributed reporting to this article

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