HERKIMER, NY – The home dugout at Herkimer College’s baseball field has to be one of the most comfortable in all of college baseball.
Instead of benches, the Generals can boast a futon alongside the usual steel benches. That’s not the only thing that has made an appearance there, however.
“That was in there before I got here,” Generals starting pitcher Greg Musk said of the couch in the dugout. “We used to have a punching bag in there too, and we’d come in and punch it during games.”
“We want our field to feel like home,” Herkimer head coach Jason Rathbun said. “We want it to feel like a place where our guys are relaxed and we can play as a team.”
The punching bag has long since disappeared (though evidence of its existence still remains), but the Generals’ dugout still feels like a home away from home. Nowhere was that more evident than on Sunday afternoon, as Herkimer only allowed one run while rocking Fulton-Montgomery pitchers for 17 of their own in a doubleheader sweep of the Raiders, 7-1 and 10-0.
Musk, along with freshman pitcher Collin Shunk, held Fulton-Montgomery to only eight total hits on the day while also forcing a mercy-rule victory in game two of the doubleheader.
“We didn’t compete with our bats today,” Raiders head coach Dave Hennessey said. “Give their guys credit…they threw strikes today.”
Despite that, Game One started out as a pitcher’s duel between Musk and Raiders starter Richard Umholtz. Musk started out by only allowing three baserunners through as many innings (giving up only one hit while racking up eight strikeouts), while Umholtz would give up one run through the same amount of time. That run would be given up on a wild pitch that would score leadoff hitter Jake Terrill in the second inning.
Meanwhile, Musk would continue to baffle the Raiders, putting up at least one strikeout in all seven innings in Game One. The sophomore would rack up 16 strikeouts over seven innings, giving up only a single run while picking up the victory.
“We just played great baseball overall,” Musk said. “We had great bats and a solid defense behind me. I felt I was really on today…I had a lot of velocity on my fastball and my breaking ball had a lot of break on it.”
Meanwhile, the Generals’ bats were just getting started, continuing their scoring in the fourth inning. Sophomore Leon Babcock would blast a solo home run to right field to double the Herkimer lead and all but break the game open for the Generals.
The Raiders would get back to within one run in the sixth, as first baseman Brogan Barker would hit a line drive to left field to score Ryan McNamara. However, that was as close as the Raiders would get, as Musk would force Jake Petralia to pop out and strike out Ryan Cullam to mitigate the damage for Must to just one run.
Herkimer would break the game wide open in their half of the sixth inning, as Umholtz would put himself into a jam by walking the first two Generals’ batters. Freshman outfielder Bobby Lazar would make Umholtz pay for that with a line drive to left center to score both walkers, Christian Aybar and Justin Emond. Brandon Hubbard would do the exact same thing, scoring Lazar with his double. Hubbard would get home with a Babcock single, but a long throw from right field would get Terrill at home to end the damage at four runs. From there, Musk would set the Raiders down in order to lock up Game One for the Generals.
Herkimer would get right back to work after the break, starting off Game Two the way they had ended the first game: scoring runs in bunches. They started with two in the very first inning, leading off with two straight doubles by Aybar and Hubbard. Both would come home on a passed ball by Fulton-Montgomery starter Justin Putnam and mistakes by the Raiders’ defense. Luckily, Putnam would catch Babcock off base and mitigate his damage.
However, the bad day for the Raiders continued, as Game Two starter Colin Shunk started out in a first and second jam, but struck out the last three Fulton-Montgomery batters to get out of his half of the first. Shunk would get himself into jams all day; however, the Raiders could not take advantage, with several big opportunities for the Raiders to salvage a split falling by the wayside.
“I thought I pitched pretty good today,” Shunk said of his performance, which was limited to only five innings due to the mercy-rule. “I just kept my composure. They’re still another team we have to play against.”
“I think it’s their confidence,” Rathbun said of both his pitchers’ performances today. “When pitchers are confident, it shows on the mound. Every time they go out they’re quick and help set the pace for us at the plate.”
The pace continued to be fast and furious at the plate for the Generals, as 15 batters would slam Putnam for seven runs over the next two innings, helped along by back-to-back stand-up triples by Emond and Joe Fichera to set off a four-run second inning. The Raiders would try to get back on the board in the second, hitting into two fielders choices. However, a controversial call by the infield umpire that the ball had hit sophomore Kyle Agresta (which resulted in Agresta being called out) defused a big rally by Fulton-Montgomery, one of many questionable calls by both umpires on the day that doomed the Raiders.
“That didn’t have too much bearing on the game,” Hennessey said. “We didn’t play well today. We didn’t come ready to play today…we just didn’t compete.”
From there, the Generals continued to batter Putnam, finally chasing him out in the third after errors by the Raiders forced another three runs to cross the plate in the third inning. Reliever Coby Caraballo would not be immune to the errors either, as a dropped fly ball by the Fulton-Montgomery left fielder would score Babcock to end the scoring. From there, Shunk would set the Raiders down in order to enforce the mercy rule and lock up the game for Herkimer.
“I think our starters were good at limiting runs and keeping us in the game today,” Rathbun said of his pitchers’ performance today. “We’re growing as a team…we’re starting to buy into the plan. We’re starting to grow, and I’m excited to see where it’s going to end up.”
For Shunk, there was no secret to his success on Sunday; it was just another day at the office.
“I just go out there and pitch everyday,” the Rome Free Academy graduate said. “We just have to keep our heads up and hope for the best…we just have to keep on competing and win some more ballgames and hopefully win Regionals.”
With the futon in the dugout, even if the Generals don’t make a run towards their eighth Mountain Valley Conference championship in nine years, or another appearance in the NJCAA World Series, they’ll certainly win the award for the most relaxed team in the junior college baseball circuit.
Herkimer College 7, Fulton-Montgomery Community College 1
Herkimer College 10, Fulton-Montgomery Community College 0 (5 innings)
Raiders 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 5 0
Generals 0 1 0 2 0 4 X 7 9 1
WP- Greg Musk (CG, 15 K, 1 BB, 5 H, 1 ER)
LP- Richard Umholtz (6 IP, 7 K, 3 BB, 9 H, 7 ER)
2B – Herkimer: Jake Terrill, Bobby Lazar, Brandon Hubbard. Fulton-Montgomery: Ryan McNamara.
HR – Herkimer: Leon Babcock.
Total LOB: Herkimer 7, Fulton-Montgomery 6.
Raiders 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 2
Generals 2 4 3 1 X 10 6 1
WP: Colin Shunk (5 IP, 7 K, 4 BB, 3 H, 0 ER)
LP: Justin Putnam (3 IP, 5 BB, 6 H, 9 ER)
Also Pitched: Cody Caraballo (Fulton-Montgomery).
2B – Herkimer: Christian Aybar, Brandon Hubbard, Justin Emond.
3B – Herkimer: Emond, Joe Fichera,
Total LOB: Fulton-Montgomery 12, Herkimer 3.