Baseball sweeps Brandeis, moves one step closer to post-season play

| Sports Editor

Freshman Shane Pellegrino tags out a runner during baseball play against Brandeis University over the weekend. (Clara Richards | Student Life)

Sophomore outfielder Brandon Buday knew that the Washington University baseball team needed to pull off another win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.

After a torrential downpour had pushed the third game of the four-game series versus Brandeis University to Sunday, the Bears were fighting off fatigue as they attempted to take both games of the doubleheader.

The Bears had coasted to wins in the first two games on Friday and Saturday but had fallen into an early 1-0 hole on Sunday. The team knew it needed to sweep Brandeis before its upcoming Emory series next weekend. With the game tied at one in the fourth inning, Buday came up to the plate with the bases loaded.

“Coach [Pat Bloom] looked at me and told me that I knew what I had to do,” Buday said. 

With the count at 1-0, Buday launched the pitch over the right field fence for his second home run of the season, nearly hitting the side of Gregg House and pulling the Bears into a commanding lead.

“Stepping up to the box, I tried to keep it simple,” Buday said. “The pitch came, and it looked like a good pitch to hit. I was able to elevate it, and the rest just happened.”

Rejuvenated by the grand slam, WashU would remain in control for the rest of the series. Aside from the scare early in game three, the Bears looked dominant. One weekend after taking three of four from NYU, the team was able to pull off the ever-elusive UAA sweep, outscoring Brandeis University Judges 50-11. Led by elite starting pitching and consistent hitting up and down the lineup, WashU baseball won the games 17-4, 11-1, 7-3, and 15-3. The team has now won 10 out of their last 11 games.

Buday, who hits leadoff, led the way with six hits over the course of the weekend, including Sunday’s grand slam. The speedy lefty leads the Bears in hits this year and is top three in nearly every other statistical category. Buday was one of a number of WashU bats to get to the Judges’ pitching this weekend.

Brandeis has struggled mightily this season — it currently sits last in the UAA standings with a paltry 1-11 conference record. Regardless, it was important for the Bears to take care of business at home, especially after they lost their series versus Brandeis last season. 

This year, the Bears’ turnaround has been dramatic — going from 3-13 in the UAA to 9-3 through their first 12 games this year. Captain Hunter Goldberg says the team’s improvement can be felt in the team’s attitude as much as in the box score.

“It’s a real turnaround from last year …where the other team would come out to lead in the middle of the game and we would shut down because we didn’t have the confidence to feel like we could come back,” Goldberg said. “But this year, it feels really different. Guys are swinging it really well, [and] hitting is contagious. When one guy hits, another guy hits, and then the guy after that hits, and it just gets easier and easier.”

Buday agreed. “The biggest difference would be the culture that we have this year compared to last year. I know this year everyone’s just a lot more bought into the program. Everyone just wants to win more. Everyone has more fight, and then they all want to get that W at the end of the

day,” Buday said.

Players returning to the lineup after injury have also helped the Bears both defensively in the infield and offensively, including first baseman Jack Miller and second baseman Harry Mauterer.  

“It makes a big difference having Harry and Jack out there,” said head coach Pat Bloom after the team’s win against Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. “From a leadership standpoint, they were here when we made the World Series run, and even though their roles were limited, they definitely had a lot of opportunities to see and be around really good baseball.  And so it’s great to see them back in the fold with us, and we are a different team with them for sure.” 

WashU will play a four-game set versus Emory in Atlanta this weekend. The team needs at least two or three wins over the first-place Eagles to put themselves in a good position to receive an at-large bid to make the playoffs.

Bloom pinpointed the relief pitching as an essential component to the Bears emerging from Atlanta with the series victory. “It will be an extremely stiff test for us,” Bloom said.  “But we’re playing decent baseball. We just have got to have more of our young arms step up into sports and give us quality innings.” 

Buday is looking to stay hot and says the team has their focus locked in on the series versus Emory.

“We’re all looking forward to it,” Buday said, “It will be one of the biggest series of the year, some of the biggest games we will play all year, so we’re all super excited about it, especially me.”

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