DANVERS, Mass. (March 17, 2018) – First on Saturday afternoon, the Franklin Pierce University baseball team built a 4-0 lead on the road. Then it let it all get away. Next, it put itself in position to succeed, by loading the bases in a tie game in the ninth. Finally, the Ravens utilized a pair of Merrimack missteps to cash in two runs and let senior right-hander Ryan Covelle (Medford, Mass.) close the door in the bottom half of the inning. It all added up to a 6-4 win for the Ravens over Merrimack, in non-conference play on the campus of St. John's Prep.
With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 9-6-1, while Merrimack falls to 6-6. The two teams will meet for their three-game Northeast-10 Conference Northeast Division series on March 30-31 at Franklin Pierce.
For the second straight day, the Ravens came to the plate with the game tied in the top of the ninth, this time at 4-4. For the second straight day, they took the lead for good, this time with a pair of unearned runs in the frame. Franklin Pierce created its own luck in a sense, as the Ravens loaded the bases with nobody out. Junior center fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) cracked a double over the head of Merrimack senior left fielder Mike Hoalcraft leading off, and then senior right fielder Adam Chase (Bridgewater, Mass.) was hit in the head by a pitch. The helmet appeared to absorb the brunt of the impact, as Chase proved good enough to stay in the game. Senior third baseman John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) was next and dropped a bunt into no-man's land down the third-base line for a single to load the bases. Senior catcher Stephen Octave (New Windsor, N.Y.) had the first chance to drive in the go-ahead run, and hit a sharp ground ball towards the middle of the infield, but was foiled by the slick play of sophomore shortstop Nick Shumski, who flagged the ball down, spun and threw home to retire Roberto.
From there, things got a little weird, and the Ravens got a little lucky. Graduate student first baseman Mike Coggeshall (Shrewsbury, Mass.) hit a one-hopper back to the mound. Senior right-hander Joe Westerman fielded cleanly and made a throw to the plate which was on target, if maybe a little low. Senior catcher Ricky Smith could not handle the throw cleanly however, and the ball lay harmlessly on the turf, kicking between Smith's feet, as Chase slid home with the lead run.
Sophomore shortstop James Boria (Massapequa, N.Y.) was next and hit a surefire, inning-ending double-play ball back over the mound, but again the Merrimack defense could not convert. Shumski fielded cleanly, stepped on second to force out Coggeshall and threw on to first, his throw well wide of the base and forcing sophomore first baseman Thomas Joyce to stretch towards the outfield side of the bag. The initial call from the base umpire was "safe", but after seeking the counsel of the plate umpire, the two ruled Joyce had not kept his foot on the base, which left Boria safe on a fielder's choice and allowed Friday to score to make it 6-4.
Covelle, who had finished the seventh and pitched the eighth, came back out to finish things off with the lead in the last of the ninth. A one-out walk to Hoalcraft and then back-to-back two-out singles to left by junior designated hitter Matthew Ronai and senior right fielder Matt Nicholson loaded the bases with two away. Covelle immediately regrouped and struck out junior pinch hitter William Keegan swinging on four pitches to end the ballgame and give the Ravens the weekend sweep.
Covelle (2-2) was nothing short of lights out over 2.2 innings of scoreless ball out of the bullpen. He allowed three hits, walked one and balked once, but also piled up six strikeouts to buoy the spirits of a Ravens team which had seen a 4-0 lead evaporate.
Earlier in the day, Franklin Pierce jumped out front with a run in the second. Coggeshall walked leading off, moved to second on a groundout, went to third on a single through the right side of the infield by sophomore second baseman J.R. DiSarcina (Barnstable, Mass.) and scored on a two-out infield single chopped up the third-base line by sophomore outfielder Jack Duffy (Stratford, Conn.).
The Ravens picked up three more in the top of the third to push the lead to 4-0. Friday knocked a single to right leading off and went first-to-third as Octave followed with a single to right of his own. Coggeshall then socked a sacrifice fly to deep center field to plate Friday to make it 2-0. Octave moved to second on a single through the left side by Boria, before a groundout moved both runners up a base. Senior designated hitter Zack Tower (Auburn, Mass.) was next and provided a key two-out hit, as he drilled a two-run double into the gap in left-center, which would also chase the Merrimack starting pitcher, senior left-hander Anthony Lupi, from the game.
Lupi would not factor in the decision, but was ineffective over 2.2 innings on the hill for the Warriors. He was attacked for four runs on seven hits, walked one, hit a batter and struck out two.
On the other side of the ledger, the Ravens gave the ball to sophomore right-hander Zach Hart (Wallingford, Conn.), who, despite throwing just 93 pitches (64 strikes) and striking out the final two batters he faced, would not come back out for the bottom of the seventh. He was done after six innings of one-run ball, allowed five hits, walked one and struck out six. The lone run Hart surrendered came in the bottom of the fourth, when graduate student center fielder Tyler Lyne reached with a two-out single to left, stole second and scored on an RBI single through the left side by Ronai.
Needing nine outs from the bullpen after Hart's departure, the Ravens turned to junior right-hander Anthony Matarazzo (Medford, Mass.) to start the seventh, but things quickly unraveled. Matarazzo walked Smith leading off, and then hit junior second baseman Anthony Garbarino in the ankle. After a strikeout for the first out, the lineup flipped back to the top for sophomore first baseman Joey Porricelli, who singled to right-center to load the bases. Hoalcraft singled through the left side to plate Smith, and then Lyne did the same to drive home two runs and tie the ballgame. Covelle came on and struck out both Ronai and Nicholson to strand two runners and set the stage for the ninth-inning dramatics.
Westerman (0-1) was an extremely hard-luck loser out of the Merrimack bullpen. He picked up the pieces after Lupi departed and went 6.1 innings in relief without allowing an earned run. He surrendered just the two unearned runs in the ninth, allowed five hits, hit one batter, did not issue a walk and struck out six.
The Ravens return to the field on Wednesday, March 21, when they travel to St. Thomas Aquinas for a non-conference contest. First pitch is set for 3:30 p.m. at Palisades Credit Union Park in Pomona, 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).