The Bryant University baseball team opened their 2017 season with trips to the Southwest United States. The Bulldogs faced off with the New Mexico State Aggies for four games, February 17-19, and then battled the Arkansas Razorbacks for another three games, February 24-26. The team went 2-5, but the tough competition will only aid the Bulldogs when conference play arrives later in the spring.

Bryant’s season opened swimmingly with highly touted ace James Karinchak starting on the mound. Karinchak struck out 12 New Mexico State batters over five innings allowing only two hits and a single run. Four Bulldogs pitchers combined to close out a 6-3 Bryant win with Jack Ipsen recording the save pitching a scoreless inning striking out two. The team’s offense used a patient approach, drawing nine walks from Aggie pitching. Right fielder Tyler Panno hit a key double in the eighth inning providing the Bulldogs with a healthy margin.  

The second game of the set featured a Bryant offensive explosion as the team rolled to a 13-7 win. A seven run fifth inning keyed the win, but the Bulldogs tacked on multi-run innings in the sixth and seventh innings.  Left fielder Ryan Ward hit two homeruns and drove in four runners, catcher Mickey Gasper added a homerun of his own as well as a triple, and shortstop Jimmy Titus reached base four times in the game. Steve Theetge recorded the win battling through five plus innings keeping the Bulldogs in front. Matt Knych recorded a save pitching the game’s final three and a third innings.

Bryant then looked for a third consecutive victory over New Mexico State only to fall in a nail biter 4-3. The Bulldogs trailed 3-1 heading into the top of the sixth inning, when Jimmy Titus came through with a clutch two run single tying the score at three. However, New Mexico State added a run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning and managed to hang on to the slim margin. In the fourth game, 2 home runs from Nick Angelini and another from Cole Fabio were not enough to keep up with the Aggie offense as New Mexico State scored 20 times in a convincing win. Bryant now looked to the task of facing tough SEC foe Arkansas.

Despite the Bulldogs best efforts, they were unable to come through with a win in any of the three games versus the Razorbacks. After Karinchak left the Game 1 after five strong innings, the Razorbacks jumped all over the Bryant bullpen winning the game 11-8. The Bulldog offense put up another strong showing behind home runs from Chris Wright and Tyler Panno. Game 2 featured more of the same with Arkansas racing out to a 10-0 lead and cruising to a 13-7 victory. The Bulldogs showed fight scoring seven runs in the final two innings. Again in Game 3, Bryant could not keep the Arkansas offense in check losing 16-6 after holding an early 5-1 lead. Jimmy Titus hit his first career home run, and Christ Wright homered for the second time in the series. Starting pitcher Ross Weiner had an excellent start allowing just one earned run over his five innings.

The Bulldogs now travel to Virginia to face Liberty University for three games from March 3-5. Even though team has hit a rut, there are many bright spots to be found. Catcher Mickey Gasper holds a .423 batting average and a whopping .531 on-base percentage. Tyler Panno and Chris Wright each hold batting averages above .380 as well. Wright and Ryan Ward each received Freshman of the Week honors from the NEC. James Karinchak has fanned an impressive 17 batters over his 10 innings pitched, and Ross Weiner has delivered two quality efforts as well. Bryant will look to get back to their winning ways, and build momentum for the rest of the season as they continue their early season road trips.