The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds are relying heavily on a couple of freshmen in their rotation this season. That’s typically not a good sign, but on Sunday freshman Bobby Maxwell looked like a veteran as he tossed a complete game even without his best off-speed pitches.
Maxwell gave up just one run in the ninth inning and allowed just four hits all game as the Blackbirds beat Wagner 11-1 at LIU Brooklyn on Sunday which earned them a split during the four-game weekend series.
“It hurt a little bit to lose the shutout,” Maxwell admitted. “I was trying to keep it out of my head as much as possible during the game, but I wanted it. I am proud of that game though. We got the W and I was able to pitch without having my best off-speed stuff. I was able to spot my fastball real well though and mixed in my changeup effectively.”
“Sometimes it’s easy to forget that he’s a freshman,” LIU Brooklyn coach John Suarez added. “He has a real nice maturity to him and he’s quickly caught on that some of the stuff that he could get away with in high school he can’t get away with at this level. He didn’t even have his best stuff today, but he did a good job keeping the ball down and the defense helped him out.”
Maxwell never really got into trouble. He was helped out by a couple of double plays early on. Even when he gave up the run in the ninth inning, on a double and a pair of groundouts, he was in control.
Meanwhile the lineup did everything it needed to do. Pete Leonello started it off early on with a home run in the first at bat of the game for the Birds. They followed that up with a five-run third inning that included a two-RBI double from Jon McAllister, an RBI double by John Ziznewski and a couple of RBI-ground outs by Mark Hernandez and Bobby Webb.
Ziznewski had a hot bat all game long as he drove in a couple more runs in the fifth on a two-RBI double and then he nearly missed a home run in the sixth as he drilled the top of the right field wall that drove in another run that made it 11-0 at the time.
“We took a little advantage of the mistakes they made,” Ziznewski said of the third inning rally. “Pete came up, did a good job, J-Mack did a good job in that situation with two strikes, I got to two strikes as well and was just looking for a pitch that I could handle. I swung at a curveball and got a good swing on it.”
The Blackbirds lost on Friday in a disappointing 6-2 loss, but then came back in a big way in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader as Kevin Needham won the game 7-3 thanks to a walk-off grand slam. Suarez explained afterward that the win was so exciting that the team lost focus and dropped the second game of the doubleheader 4-2.
“Friday was bad, we deserved to lose that game, but we could have had the game on Saturday,” Suarez said. “I think, because of the grand slam, we got a little too excited and lost our focus. We had that momentum, but we gave it right back to them when we allowed them to score three runs in the first inning of that game. I am really proud of the team now because they were able to turn around so quickly and regain that focus.”
The Blackbirds are happy with the split especially since it was their first Northeast Conference series of the season and they avoided going down 1-3. They scored a total of 22 runs in the series and the only starter that allowed more than four runs for the Birds was Nick Freijomil on Friday, but Suarez said after the game that he liked the way the freshman pitched. Most importantly, they played solid defense throughout the entire weekend.
“I feel good,” Suarez said. “I think, again, it’s all about our focus. We didn’t focus in game three after the grand slam so we lost 4-2. It was a good game, but we didn’t recapture that focus. Today we could tell early on that we were going to win today. That’s not good either because sometimes you can tell when we’re going into the abyss too. This team needs to get a little more steady in its approach. Once we get a little more focused in our approach this team has a tremendous upside.”