RINDGE, N.H. (May 3, 2018) – Five pitchers for the Franklin Pierce University baseball team combined to chalk up 24 strikeouts over 18 innings of work to lead the way in a doubleheader sweep of Saint Michael's at Dr. Arthur and Martha Pappas Field on Thursday afternoon. Junior right-hander Zach Hart (Wallingford, Conn.) started the first game and fanned 10 over six innings on the hill, while senior right-hander Ryan Covelle (Medford, Mass.) followed with eight strikeouts over 6.2 innings of three-hit ball in the second game of the Northeast-10 Conference, Northeast Division twinbill.
With the wins, Franklin Pierce improves to 31-12-1 (20-6 NE10, 15-5 NE Div.), while Saint Michael's falls to 9-31 (4-18 NE10, 4-16 NE Div.). Franklin Pierce has now won at least 30 games in 17 straight seasons.
The two teams will meet again at Pappas Field on Friday for a single game, beginning at noon, to wrap up the regular season. Saint Michael's played as the home team in both games on Thursday, and will do so again for Friday's game. Inclement weather necessitated the relocation of the entire three-game series, which was originally scheduled to be played at Saint Michael's.
The win in the first game allowed the Ravens to lock up a home game in the first round of next week's NE10 Championship, as they will finish second in the Northeast Division. Thursday's action also decided Franklin Pierce's first round opponent, as Merrimack locked up the division's third seed with a rain-shortened, 5-1 win in six innings at Stonehill. The Ravens will host the Warriors at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8 at Pappas Field to open the postseason. It will be the fourth meeting in the first round of the NE10 Championship in the last six years between the two, who also hooked up in the first round a year ago.
Franklin Pierce opened the scoring in Thursday's first game with a pair of unearned runs in the top of the third. With one out, sophomore shortstop Joe Napolitano (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) lifted a fly ball into shallow center field. Saint Michael's junior center fielder Joe Robertson got to the ball in plenty of time, but whiffed on the catch, which allowed Napolitano to reach on an error. Napolitano then scored all the way from first as junior left fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) followed and clubbed a double over Robertson's head and off the fence in deep center field. Roberto moved to third on a wild pitch and then stole home as part of a first-and-third double steal play.
Saint Michael's halved the deficit immediately, with an unearned run of its own in the bottom half of the third. With two outs, freshman designated hitter Joe Webber reached on an error by Napolitano at shortstop. Webber stole second and scored on an RBI single back through the middle by freshman third baseman Danté Moran.
Franklin Pierce made it 3-1 with a run in the top of the fourth. Napolitano started things with a two-out walk, and again scored from first on a Roberto double, this one driven into the gap in right-center. Roberto was thrown out at third to end the inning while trying to stretch it into a triple.
The Ravens added three more on a pair of long balls in the top of the fifth to push the lead as high as 6-1. Senior third baseman John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) led off and yanked the third pitch of the inning an estimated 330 feet down the left-field line for his fifth home run of the season. Two batters later, senior center fielder Adam Chase (Bridgewater, Mass.) doubled down the left-field line to set the stage for senior catcher Stephen Octave (New Windsor, N.Y.). Octave went with a 1-1 pitch and drove it an estimated 350 feet to straightaway right field for a home run, which was his eighth of the season to tie for the team lead.
Saint Michael's kept things interesting with a three-spot of its own in the bottom of the sixth inning. Junior first baseman Trevor Allen singled through the left side leading off, and then went first-to-third on a single into right-center by freshman left fielder Cameron Kroeger. Allen scored as freshman catcher Holden Jackman dumped an RBI single into left-center which would lead to further chaos. Kroeger attempted to go first-to-third on the single and the Ravens attempted to make a play on him. However, Napolitano threw the relay away and into the third-base dugout, which allowed Kroeger to score and moved Jackman all the way around to third. Jackman would then score from there on an RBI groundout by freshman shortstop Iset Maldonado.
Working against the bullpen, Saint Michael's would get the tying run to the plate in both the eighth and ninth innings, but never got him on base as sophomore right-hander Derek Duffy (Farmington, Conn.) nailed down his first collegiate save.
Hart (7-1) -- who is now seventh in the NE10 in ERA, as well as in the top-five in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins -- threw 94 pitches (65 strikes) over the first six innings on the mound for Franklin Pierce. He allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits, walked one and matched his career high with 10 strikeouts to pick up the win. Duffy allowed two hits and struck out three over the final three innings to close things out.
Meanwhile, freshman right-hander Zach Rodgers (2-8) needed 101 pitches (60 strikes) to get through five innings on the hill for Saint Michael's. He surrendered six runs (four earned) on seven innings, walked five, threw a wild pitch and struck out five while taking the loss.
In the second game, the two teams traded a run apiece in the first inning to open the scoring. In the top half, Roberto doubled over the head of the left fielder deep in the gap in left-center with one out and scored as Friday followed with an RBI single through the hole in the right side of the infield. In the bottom half, Webber wound up reaching at second base as graduate student first baseman Mike Coggeshall (Shrewsbury, Mass.) muffed a throw at first base. Webber would later steal third and scored on the play as well, as the throw of sophomore catcher Dylan Jones (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) skipped past Friday and down the left-field line.
Franklin Pierce took the lead for good with a run in the top of the third. With one out, Roberto pulled a single into right field, moved to second on a groundout and scored when Coggeshall pulled an RBI single into right field.
The Ravens added two in the fourth and another in the fifth to grow the lead out to 5-1. In the fourth, Octave -- who was the designated hitter in the second game -- doubled to left leading off, moved to third on a single by senior right fielder Zack Tower (Auburn, Mass.) and scored on an RBI single through the left side by Jones. Tower moved to second on the Jones single, went to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Napolitano.
In the fifth, Friday led off with a single up the middle, moved to second on a groundout, took third on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single the other way into right field by Octave.
Saint Michael's closed the gap to 5-3 with a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth. Webber and Moran each reached with one-out walks, and then scored two batters later. Allen chopped a ball on the right side, which was fielded cleanly by Coggeshall ranging to his left. However, his throw led the pitcher too far and escaped into foul territory on the first-base side, which allowed both runs to come across to score. Graduate student right-hander Sam Steeves (Dorchester, Mass.) got Kroeger to bounce out to third to preserve the two-run lead.
The Ravens tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth, as Roberto was hit by a pitch, went first-to-third on an errant pickoff throw and scored on an RBI single lined into right by Coggeshall. As in the first game, the Purple Knights got the tying run to the plate, but no further, in the last of the ninth, as Steeves chalked up his second save of the season.
Covelle (6-2) fired 101 pitches (59 strikes) over 6.2 innings, five days after going the distance against Bentley on April 28. He allowed just one unearned run on three hits, walked two, threw a wild pitch and racked up eight strikeouts on the way to the win. Steeves -- who threw 91 pitches over eight scoreless innings of relief just two days ago -- allowed two hits and struck out two over 1.2 scoreless innings to wrap things up and pick up the save.
For Saint Michael's, it was freshman left-hander Paul Prue (1-5) who took the ball in the second game and threw 88 pitches (58 strikes) over the first five innings. He was charged with five runs on nine hits, did not issue a walk, threw a wild pitch and recorded only one strikeout.
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).