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Big Green Keeps the Bats Hot

Hard-Hitting Dartmouth Cruises Past Siena in Home Opener

  • Dartmouth’s Nick Lombardi, right, celebrates with teammate Dustin Selzer during yesterday’s win over Siena in Hanover. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Dartmouth’s Nick Lombardi, right, celebrates with teammate Dustin Selzer during yesterday’s win over Siena in Hanover. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth players take in the action during yesterday’s game against Siena at Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park.(Valley News - Libby March)

    Dartmouth players take in the action during yesterday’s game against Siena at Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park.(Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth’s Nick Lombardi, right, celebrates with teammate Dustin Selzer during yesterday’s win over Siena in Hanover. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Dartmouth players take in the action during yesterday’s game against Siena at Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park.(Valley News - Libby March)

Hanover — Having an artificial turf home field doesn’t absolve the members of the Dartmouth College baseball team from post-game field maintenance. There is still dirt to tamp down, basepaths to clean.

The Big Green got the raking done first yesterday afternoon.

Rapping 16 hits, Dartmouth pounded Siena, 15-7, in its Biondi Park home opener. The Big Green (12-1) looked just like the team that spent its first dozen games away from Hanover, using a five-run rally in the home half of the third inning to put the Saints (6-16) away.

The Big Green picked up a particularly welcome three-hit day from first baseman Dustin Selzer, who batted only .195 through Dartmouth’s 11-wins-in-12-games start to the schedule. Catcher Matt MacDowell also delivered three hits, while Jeff Keller and Nick Lombardi both launched home runs.

“I had a feeling we were going to play well offensively today,” said Keller, who went 2-for-3 at the plate and scored the run that put Dartmouth ahead to stay. “We were hitting the ball hard. … We knew we were going to get to their starter. And we knew we had a lot of game ahead of us.

“You know, in a midweek game, there’s going to be a lot of offense. You can’t panic if you fall behind early.”

With Ivy League play waiting in the wings, Dartmouth coach Bob Whalen — as he usually does — used the nonconference affair to give pitchers beyond this weekend’s starting rotation innings while also trying to shake a couple of batters out of mild slumps.

Dropped to seventh in the order, Keller made the most of the moment. So did Selzer, who drove in Dartmouth’s first run and scored two more.

“When you’re 12-1 and you’ve found ways to win, particularly against very good teams early on, that gives you confidence,” Whalen said. “I told the guys the other day there’s a bunch of teams in this league that don’t have great records that can’t wait to get to the Ivy season, because everybody’s 0-0.

“We just have to take that confidence and translate it to how we’re going to play beginning next weekend. Clearly, I’d rather be 12-1 than 2-10.”

The Big Green carried over two themes from its successful early-season efforts in Minnesota and Florida. They scored often — Dartmouth averaged more than eight runs a game entering yesterday — and they bunched their most significant rally in the third inning, which has been their most productive frame to date.

Dartmouth batters had their way early with Dan Dopico, the Siena right-hander making his first start of the spring. Ennis Coble, the only senior in the Big Green lineup yesterday, scored on a second-inning Selzer double, and Keller followed with a two-run blast to left field in the second for a 3-0 lead.

“I was hitting down in the order today with the intention of seeing more fastballs, because I was struggling a little bit at the beginning of the season,” Keller said. “I was sitting on a fastball, and he gave it to me.”

Uncharacteristically, Dartmouth didn’t hold the lead for long.

Vincent Citro (3-for-4, 2 RBIs) tripled in a run, Mike Fish topped an infield grounder for another and Larry Balkwill tied the game with a run-scoring single. A walk to John Rooney ended Frank’s day — the shortest of the season by a Big Green starting pitcher — and Brian Fay greeted reliever Dustin Robinson’s third offering by drilling it off the screen over right field for a three-run homer and a 6-3 cushion.

“Obviously, the third inning was rough for me,” Frank admitted. “I wasn’t hitting spots like I was supposed to, and they’re pretty good hitters.”

Dartmouth — batting .386 as a team entering the day — has a few of those, too.

A single, a hit batsman and a walk loaded the bases to open the home third for Lombardi, whose RBI sacrifice fly to center cut the deficit to two. A free pass to Keller filled the sacks again and brought up catcher MacDowell, who cleared the bases with a three-run triple for a 7-6 edge. Nick Ruppert (2-for-4, 2 RBIs) followed with an RBI double.

Coble’s two-run double capped a four-run fifth for Dartmouth. Lombardi’s three-run moon shot of a homer in the eighth ended the Big Green’s scoring and gave every starter at least one hit.

At the other end, Whalen employed five relievers — his plan all along, he said, regardless of Frank’s results — to handle Siena’s lineup. Dartmouth’s third pitcher of the day, Louis Concato, got the win as the pen held the Saints to just one run on six hits over the final 62∕3 innings.

Robinson and Concato combined to retire 10 straight Saints, the other key element to the Big Green’s quick turnaround.

“We did a good job,” Whalen said of his pitchers. “Even though we gave up seven runs — and clearly that’s not what you want — we went into the day knowing a lot of guys were going to get opportunities. The opportunity to compete in games is beneficial more than just having them throw bullpen in preparation for the weekend.”

That when what Keller called “the second season” begins. Play against the rest of the Ancient Eight will ultimately determine if Dartmouth can secure a third Ivy title in the past five years and return to the NCAA tournament.

They’ve proved they can rake. Now it’s time to see if the Big Green can sweep, too.

Fungoes: The 15 runs were a season high for Dartmouth. … Yesterday’s game marked the earliest start to Dartmouth’s home schedule in program history. … The Big Green and Saints last met two seasons ago. Dartmouth built a 12-0 lead, then held on for a 16-11 win. … The umpiring crew included the father-son combo of Don and Jeff January on the bases with Al Libardoni behind the dish. Don January served as a replacement during Major League Baseball’s labor disputes with its umpires in 1991 and 1995. … Dartmouth has won 12 of its last 13 home openers. … The Big Green begins Ivy play in doubleheaders at Penn on Saturday and Columbia on Sunday. Senior Cole Sulser, who missed last year while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his pitching arm, will get the start in Saturday’s first game. Mitch Horacek, Kyle Hunter and Michael Johnson are frontrunners for the other league-weekend starting slots.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.

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