By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, NY — An adjustment in the batting order paid immediate dividends as the Monroe Community College Tribunes swept a conference doubleheader on a brisk Saturday afternoon.
Monroe’s top of the order put the pedal to the floor as the Tribunes (13-13/2-2) beat the Genesee Community College Cougars (6-3/12-2) in WNYAC action at Tribune Field.
“At the end of the day I try to get our four best hitters up as much as possible,” Monroe’s head coach Dave Brust said of Jimmy Latona, Ellington Hopkins, Dave Vaccaro and Angel Diaz. “The guys who are swinging the bat consistently would be those first four guys.”
The quartet combined for 12 hits and 14 RBI on the day.
“I stare at the numbers for hours,” Brust added. “I play around with lineups. Ultimately, what I come back to is guys will get on base. Then I’m looking at guys who are driving in runs. I try to blend that. Today it paid off.”
Hopkins paced MCC with three triples and four RBI in the opener. Hitting second in the order, the sophomore center fielder sparked a decisive three-run fourth with a one-out triple to right center plating Hunter Merrill and Mike Pringle.
“I saw it coming,” Brust said. “He’s had a lot of good at bats. Today was Hoppy’s day to heat up. He really cashed in which was great. He carried the load.”
Diaz followed one out later with a base hit to left field, and the Tribunes had their margin of victory at 6-3.
“Everything we do here is a cycle,” Brust noted. “Some guys cool down. Next guy heats up.”
Diaz collected three hits in the night cap including a three-run home run in a six-run second.
“He is a phenomenal two-strike hitter,” Brust said of the sophomore first baseman. “He has real confidence. He is unphased by most things. He’s been a little quiet, but quiet for him is still a line drive RBI a game.”
Tom Mastrodonato struck out two and walked two for his third win of the season. The right-hander consistently pounded the zone for first-pitch strikes.
“It’s an unbelievable phenomenon,” Brust said of starting batters with a strike. “You control the tempo of the game. You control the strike zone. They can’t tee off on anything they want. When Tommy’s doing that, he’s really tough to hit.”
Mastrodonato retired 11 of the first 12 he faced.
“I wasn’t trying to be too cute with my pitches as Coach Brust would say,” Mastrodonato commented. “I trust my defense and let them hit the ball, attack the zone.”
The sophomore hurler induced 13 ground outs to just five fly balls.
“Coach preaches on the string at the knees,” Mastodonato explained. “If you keep pounding the zone, they’re going to get themselves out.”
Blaine Farrell did the trick in the second game. Expanding the strike zone, the southpaw fanned five and allowed just one free pass as the Tribunes earned a mercy-rule win in five innings.
“That was like the Blaine of old,” Brust stated. “He throws too many strikes. We’ve been working with him to go in-out, in out. Stay down. Stay on the string, but move in and out.”
Brust compared Farrell’s approach to that of Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine.
“You get those guys 0-2, 1-2, you need to throw six to eight inches out or bust them in and go out. He did that. That’s how he gets his strike outs. He gets guys swinging at pitches that they don’t want to swing at.”
Latona moved into the leadoff spot and responded with three hits, including a home run, four runs scored, three RBI, a walk and a hit by pitch.
“Jimmy Latona is an easy guy to lead off because his on-base percentage is always incredible,” Brust noted.
Merrill scored three runs with a pair of base raps.
Matt Brooks reached base four times with three walks and a hit. The freshman outfielder drove in two and scored once.
Andrew Segar crossed the plate twice.
Monroe hosts Ithaca (JV) Bombers on Sunday. A 1 p.m. first pitch is scheduled.
Genesee CC returns to Monroe on Tuesday for a rematch.