DURHAM – Durham University Baseball welcomed the newest members of Teikyo University Durham as the club prepared for its upcoming doubleheader at the University of Sheffield with an intrasquad competition. The scrimmage saw the Bishops defeated the Dragons 6-4 behind solid hitting from Joe Proffitt and a strong pitching performance from Gabriel Fidler.
Teikyo is a Japanese university with campuses around Japan, as well as Colorado, Durham, and Berlin. The association with DU began in 1990, and provides language and cultural exchange for Japanese students. The university operates on a different schedule than does Durham, so its students began their year only a few weeks ago. Club captain Will Zucker has been working with Teikyo University’s Nick Purdon to include their students. This week marked the first collaboration between DU Baseball and its neighbours, though multiple players have now been asked to train with the club.
“We hope to gain stronger ties with Teikyo University and we can learn many traits from all over the world with our U.S. athletes and players from Japan and elsewhere,” remarked Zucker.
Like Durham, it is well-known for its sport, and produced Olympic baseball player Tomoya Satozaki. Satozaki played for 15 seasons for the Chiba Lotte Marines in Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan’s major leagues), earning an all-star berth and taking home ‘Best Catcher’ award at the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
The game began with only regular members of the black-and-purple, though it was the first game action for Frank DiRenno, Lauren Gillott, Jenny Laurence, and Thomas Marsh. The ‘Bishops’ took the field first, with Fidler on the rubber, on a perfect day for baseball.
With one down, Sam Ross ripped a single down the right field line and stole second. After moving to third on an error, a delayed steal and an errant throw from the Bishops’ catcher saw the Dragons take a 1-0 lead. Fidler buckled down and got the next two out, finishing the frame on a punchout.
Moh El Nas was the other starting pitcher in the game, and got off to a difficult start, hitting the first batter and walking the second. Back-to-back stolen bases from Proffitt and an errant pickoff brought home a run before a sacrifice fly from DiRenno made it 2-1. Andrew Poole followed with a safety to right and moved to third before El Nas picked the veteran off third with a sneaky move to the hot corner.
The righthander got himself into trouble with two down and no one base, stringing together five free passes for two more runs, before striking out Kento Higa, the first of the only recently-arrived Teikyo players to enter the game.
With the score 4-1, Fidler started the second dealing strikes, whiffing the first two hitters to run his streak to three. Facing the skipper Zucker, the Bishops’ hurler bowed to the pressure, sending him to first on a base on balls. Hiroki, a late entrant to the lineup in right field, took advantage of the miscue by ripping the game’s best-hit ball, a triple to deep right, to plate the run.
Cameron Richardson worked a walk and stole second before an error allowed Hiroki to trot home with the side’s second run, but Fidler got his third K of the frame to end the threat and keep the Bishops on top by a run.
Proffitt led off against new pitcher Jack Andrew with a big double to left-centre, and after two walks, would cross home plate on a grounder off the bat of Poole. With two down following an Andrew strikeout, Laurence Hodgkins beat out an infield single to push the score to 6-4. The first-year pitcher would bear down to get another whiff and end the inning.
Fidler returned to the hill for a third frame and finished his day with an impressive 1-2-3 inning, putting an exclamation point on the performance with his fifth strikeout of the day to end the top of the third. The victory, though unofficial, was his second in-a-row.
In the bottom of the inning, Teikyo pitcher Higa entered and looked very comfortable to start things off, getting two quick outs before running into bad luck on a slow roller to the left side that Proffitt beat out for his third time on base in the game. After a walk to Ben Turner, his third of the day, Proffitt would come home on a DiRenno double, but a nice throw from Masae in right field would catch Turner in a pickle to end the inning.
The final frame saw Atsuya toe the rubber, and he got himself into trouble against his fellow Teikyo member after throwing wildly to first on a comebacker. Two quick outs almost saw the submariner get out of the jam, but a RBI-single from Ross saw the margin go to 7-5. Atsuya nailed down the save with two runners on, however, getting a big K to conclude the intrasquad match.
“I thought the Teikyo students playing was a really nice addition to the game,” observed second-year Jenny Laurence, fresh off her first cap in centre field. “They added an extra element of fun and we all had a good time with them.”
Proffitt and Ross both had a pair of hits, with the former crossing the plate three times and stealing four bases. All told, eight Teikyo students joined Durham’s players in the field, and all agreed it had been a memorable day.
“We don’t really get lots of chances to integrate and mix with the Teikyo students so this was a great opportunity to do just that,” noted club secretary Turner. “Their hitting was on point and I was particularly impressed with Kento’s pitching. It was fun to play baseball with people from a country that is just as crazy about the sport as the States are.”
“Having Teikyo players will be a strength for our programme and further deepen our depth of hitting and pitching,” concluded Zucker. “It will lead us closer to our goal of a more global baseball club with players from all over the world, helping the core of our British members.”
The Palatinate baseballers (5-1 on the season) will next take the field against Sheffield on Saturday. The Hornets are one of the better established university teams in Britain and should provide excellent competition ahead of Durham’s trip to Belfast for the Ulster Invitational Tournament later in May.