DANVERS, Mass. (March 16, 2018) – Battling the elements on a frigid New England afternoon and, at one point, being literally battered on the mound as well, senior right-hander John Amendola (Wallingford, Conn.) kept hanging up zeroes on Friday. The only blemish came in the bottom of the third, as he otherwise spun eight innings of six-hit ball. The offense of the Franklin Pierce University baseball team evened things in the fifth, but struggled with execution for portions of the proceedings on the road against Merrimack, though the Ravens ultimately found enough to get the job done. Junior left fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) cashed in sophomore second baseman J.R. DiSarcina (Barnstable, Mass.) with the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth, and senior right-hander Ryan Covelle (Medford, Mass.) shut things down in the bottom half of the inning, as the Ravens dealt the Warriors a 2-1 defeat in non-conference play.
With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 8-6-1, while Merrimack falls to 6-5. The game was played on the campus of St. John's Prep, one of multiple home sites Merrimack will utilize this spring. The two teams will meet again on Saturday at the same site for another non-conference game. First pitch is set for noon.
Merrimack left a pair of runners in scoring position in the first inning and later opened the scoring against Amendola in the bottom of the third. Sophomore shortstop Nick Shumski went the other way and poked a leadoff double down the right-field line, moved to second on a groundout and scored when sophomore first baseman Thomas Joyce lifted a sacrifice fly to left field. Roberto had to run around the ball to line up his throw as the ball came down near the left-field line, but still made a strong effort. His throw would have been in time to make things close, but was offline towards the first-base dugout by five feet.
Franklin Pierce -- which, for its part, had left runners in scoring position in the first, third and fourth innings -- evened things with an unearned run in the top of the fifth. DiSarcina reached at second base leading off, as Merrimack junior second baseman Anthony Garbarino booted a ground ball and then threw it away while rushing to recover, for good measure. DiSarcina moved to third as sophomore center fielder Jack Duffy (Stratford, Conn.) dropped down a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Roberto, who would drive in both Ravens runs on the afternoon.
A failure to execute fundamentals would be the theme for the next few innings at the plate for the Ravens. Franklin Pierce got the leadoff man on in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but in each frame failed to get down a sacrifice bunt which would have advanced the potential tiebreaking run. The Ravens would leave the go-ahead run at second in both the sixth and seventh innings, and at third in the eighth frame.
Meanwhile, Amendola breezed through the fifth and sixth without a baserunner, though not without a little bit of drama. Leading off the bottom of the fifth, sophomore third baseman Joey Porricelli ripped a line drive back to the mound which caught Amendola in the upper body. The right-hander stayed with the play, collected the ball and threw out Porricelli at first for the first out. Head coach Mike Chambers came out to check on his hurler, but Amendola insisted he was fine, flashed a thumbs up to the dugout -- to their audible delight -- and went back to work, retiring the next five batters he faced.
After working through the rest of the middle innings without further incident, Amendola would be visibly and vocally fired up following the conclusion of both the seventh and eighth innings. In the bottom of the seventh, he got a popup and a groundout to escape a situation which saw the go-ahead run at second with one out.
Things got even hairier in the last of the eighth, after graduate student center fielder Tyler Lyne singled to center with one out and moved to second on a groundout. With senior left fielder Mike Hoalcraft at the plate and two out, Amendola skipped a pitch to the backstop, which allowed Lyne to move to third. Another pitch later in the plate appearance would get away as well, which sent senior catcher Stephen Octave (New Windsor, N.Y.) scampering after the ball and left both Amendola and Lyne charging towards the plate. Thanks to Octave, the ball met Amendola at the plate before Lyne did, and the pitcher slapped the tag on the diving baserunner to retire the side.
With adrenaline surely pumping, Amendola came screaming into the Ravens' dugout on the third-base side after the play. His day done after 105 pitches (77 strikes), he had surely done enough to deserve the win, as he held the Warriors to just the lone run on six hits over eight innings, walked two, threw a wild pitch and struck out six. Amendola, Chambers and others could be seen passionately, and loudly, imploring the team to finally find a way to bring home the go-ahead run.
Find a way they would, immediately, in the top of the ninth, to make a winner out of Amendola (2-0). DiSarcina led off and looped a fly ball deep down the left-field line. Hoalcraft gave pursuit, but could not track it down before the ball fell inside the line and went for an inning-opening double. Duffy, for the second time in three innings, failed to get down a sacrifice bunt, but this time, his teammate picked him up. Roberto followed and dropped an RBI single into left-center field to plate DiSarcina with the run the Ravens had been pursuing most of the afternoon.
Covelle took over and notched his first collegiate save in the last of the ninth. Hoalcraft reached on an infield single leading off, as senior third baseman John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) dove to his left and smothered a hot ground ball, but could not recover in time to make a throw. Covelle took care of the baserunner himself though, as he caught Hoalcraft leaning the wrong way and picked him off for the first out. Covelle got a comebacker for the second out and then fanned senior catcher Ricky Smith to close out the ballgame.
Emotions spilled over a little following the conclusion of the hotly-contested game. The two teams exchanged some pointed words as the Ravens went through their victory handshakes in the middle of the infield. Cooler heads would prevail though, as each team retired to its respective postgame huddle before anything more sinister broke out.
On the Merrimack side of things, senior left-hander PJ Browne started and went the first 7.1 innings on the mound. He allowed just one unearned run on eight hits, walked two and struck out two. Sophomore right-hander Stephen Fleury (0-1) took the loss while throwing the final 1.2 innings out of the bullpen. He allowed one run on two hits and struck out two.
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).