MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (February 22, 2018) – A seven-run lead through seven innings was, somehow, not enough for the Franklin Pierce University baseball team in its season opener on Thursday evening. Instead, the Ravens coughed up six runs in the eighth and one more in the ninth to head to extra innings against Felician, in non-conference, neutral-site play at the Ripken Experience. The crimson and grey would find redemption in the first extra frame, as junior center fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) provided the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 10th, and the Ravens pulled out a 14-13 barnburner of a win.
With the win, Franklin Pierce opens its season at 1-0, while Felician falls to 0-5. In addition to the 27 runs, the game featured 14 pitchers, 35 hits and 11 walks between the two teams. Senior second baseman John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) opened his season in extreme style for the Ravens, as he reached base five times while going 2-for-3 with a pair of two-run home runs.
After Franklin Pierce built up a 13-6 lead through the first seven innings, it was Felician which rattled off six runs against four different pitchers in the top of the eighth inning to make things interesting again. With a run already in, courtesy of an RBI double by senior shortstop Bruce Strickland, senior left-hander Adam Goss (Waterford, Conn.) took over on the mound with two outs and two on, attempting to shut the door on the inning with what was still a six-run lead.
However, the inning unraveled from there. Goss faced three batters, but retired none of them, as he hit junior second baseman L.T. Struble, allowed an RBI single to senior center fielder Matt Diesel and surrendered a two-run double to senior first baseman Jason Polgano to cut the gap all the way down to 13-10. Graduate student right-hander Sam Steeves (Dorchester, Mass.) took over from there and fared no better against the lone batter he faced, as he served up a two-run single to junior left fielder Danny Healy Jr. to make it a one-run game. Junior right-hander Anthony Matarazzo (Medford, Mass.) relieved Steeves and finally ended the inning by getting junior right fielder Jason Aponte to bounce into a fielder's choice.
The Ravens got two runners into scoring position in the bottom of the eighth, but could not convert, and then Felician completed its comeback against Matarazzo in the top of the ninth. Freshman third baseman Sean Downey worked a leadoff walk and was lifted for a pinch runner, sophomore Rahul Prince, who moved around to third on a double by senior catcher Brenden Cuni. Prince was cut down at the plate on a ground ball for the first out of the inning, but Strickland followed with a sacrifice fly to score Cuni and tie the game at 13-13.
Franklin Pierce got a runner into scoring position in the bottom of the ninth but came up empty. Healey stroked a two-out double for Felician in the top of the 10th, but was thrown out from the outfield after rounding second base to end the inning.
It all set the stage for Roberto's heroics in the bottom half of the 10th. With one out, sophomore shortstop James Boria (Massapequa, N.Y.) reached on an infield single and then moved to second on a passed ball. Two batters later, Roberto provided the game's final salvo, an RBI through the left side to plate Boria, make winners out of the Ravens and put an end to the four-hour and 20-minute marathon.
Earlier in the evening, Felician opened the scoring with three runs in the top of the first, courtesy of three different RBI hits, including a run-scoring double by Aponte. Franklin Pierce answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, as senior right fielder Adam Chase (Bridgewater, Mass.) singled to set the table for the first of Friday's pair of two-run blasts.
Two more runs in the top of the second staked Felician to a 5-2 lead, as Struble and Diesel both provided RBI singles. Friday came up with Chase on base again in the bottom half of the third and delivered once again, with another two-run homer, to cut the gap to 5-4.
Franklin Pierce seemingly took control through the middle innings, with two runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and one in the sixth to jump to a 9-5 lead. Roberto and Chase drove home runs in the fourth, senior left fielder Harrison Smoske (Burlington, Mass.) had an RBI single and later scored in the fifth, and senior catcher Stephen Octave (New Windsor, N.Y.) socked a solo home run in the sixth.
The Golden Falcons picked up a run in the top of the seventh to make it 9-6, as Struble led off with a triple and scored on an RBI groundout by Diesel. The Ravens answered with a four-spot in the bottom of the seventh to open up the 13-6 lead, with Chase providing a key two-run double to cap the inning's scoring. It all set the stage for the late-inning craziness still to come.
Senior right-hander John Amendola (Wallingford, Conn.) took the ball in the opener for the Ravens, but was long gone by the time a decision was rendered. He was touched for five runs on eight hits over five innings, did not issue a walk and struck out four. Freshman right-hander Zachary Player (East Hampton, Conn.) would pick up the win (1-0) out of the bullpen in his collegiate debut. He threw a scoreless top of the 10th while allowing one hit, before becoming the beneficiary of Roberto's game-winning hit in the bottom half of the inning.
On the other side of the ledger, freshman right-hander Michael Gutierrez started for Felician, but was also dispatched long before the outcome of the game was decided. He was roughed up for six runs (five earned) on six hits over just 3.2 innings, walked three and struck out three. Struble (0-2) moved from second base to the mound to record the final out of the ninth, but would then allow the two hits and unearned run in the 10th to take the loss for the Golden Falcons.
The Ravens return to the field on Friday, Feb. 23, for a pair of non-conference contests against East Region opponents at the Ripken Experience. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. against Bridgeport and 7 p.m. against Queens (N.Y.).
For more information on Franklin Pierce Athletics, please visit the official website of Franklin Pierce Athletics (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu). Also be sure to follow the Ravens through the Department of Athletics' official Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/FranklinPierceRavens), its YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/franklinpiercesports) and its Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/FPUathletics). Fans wishing to purchase Franklin Pierce baseball apparel can do so at the Department of Athletics' online store (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu/store).