PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. (May 19, 2018) – With the season on the line, junior right-hander Zach Hart (Wallingford, Conn.) helped the fifth-seeded Franklin Pierce University baseball team take its first step back in the loser's bracket on Saturday night, on the third day of the NCAA Championship East Regional, hosted by University of New Haven, at Pace University. Hart collected eight strikeouts over seven innings of four-hit ball, as the Ravens eliminated third-seeded Le Moyne with a 6-2 victory at Peter X. Finnerty Field. In back-to-back at-bats in a pivotal, three-run fifth, senior center fielder Adam Chase (Bridgewater, Mass.) clubbed a two-run double and senior third baseman John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) provided an RBI triple.
With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 33-14-1 and extends its season another day. The Ravens will have to win a pair of elimination games on Sunday, beginning with a matchup against top seed and host New Haven, which is set for 3 p.m. at Finnerty Field. The winner of the game will play again at 7 p.m., against the loser of Sunday's first game, scheduled for 11 a.m., which features second-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas and fourth-seeded Southern New Hampshire.
With the loss, Le Moyne's season draws to a close at 34-17-1.
Needing a strong start with their backs to the walls, the Ravens got exactly that from Hart (8-1) on Saturday night. The right-hander fired 117 pitches (76 strikes) over seven innings on the mound. He ultimately allowed one run on just four hits, walked three and struck out eight. Hart worked into and out of trouble all through the middle innings, as he got a strikeout to strand a pair of runners in the fourth, used a strikeout and a pair of groundouts to work around a leadoff double in the fifth, and stranded a pair of two-out baserunners in the sixth. The outing was made all the more impressive by the circumstances of the day, which saw the Ravens originally scheduled to play at 3 p.m., but forced to wait out the weather at the hotel all day, for what turned out to be a 7 p.m. first pitch.
It would be Le Moyne which opened the scoring, with a run in the top of the second inning. Junior shortstop Ben Walsh opened the inning with a double to left, moved to third on a soft chopper on the left side and scored on an RBI groundout by sophomore third baseman Nicholas Jacques.
Franklin Pierce got the run back in the bottom of the third, courtesy of a Le Moyne miscue. Sophomore shortstop Joe Napolitano (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) took a leadoff walk and later stole second with two outs. Friday followed with what should have been an inning-ending ground ball on the left side. Walsh fielded cleanly at short, but his throw to first was low and could not be picked out by junior first baseman Andrew Taft. Running all the way, Napolitano easily came around to score as the errant throw left Friday safe at first.
The Ravens took the lead for good with three runs in the pivotal bottom of the fifth inning. Napolitano led off with a roller directly back over the rubber and out towards second. Walsh could not cut the ball off in front of the bag, which left the second baseman to field behind the bag, and his throw was not in time to get Napolitano at first. Graduate student first baseman Mike Coggeshall (Shrewsbury, Mass.) was next and dropped down a sacrifice, but wound up safe at second, while Napolitano moved to third, as Jacques threw the ball away low and it skipped past Taft.
Chase made the error costly, as he went with a 1-0 pitch and drove it deep into the gap in right-center field. Le Moyne senior center fielder Timothy Corapi could not run it down, and the ball hopped over the fence deep in the gap for a two-run, ground-rule double. Friday was next and lofted a fly ball to right field. Senior right fielder Brian Cox came charging in, but could not get there, and then the ball got behind him, all the way out towards the fence, which allowed Chase to score easily -- despite initially missing third base -- and Friday to pull into third with an RBI triple.
Franklin Pierce tacked on what would stand as an important pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh, working against the Le Moyne bullpen. With one out, junior left fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) walked and moved to second two batters later, as senior designated hitter Stephen Octave (New Windsor, N.Y.) took a two-out walk. Sophomore catcher Dylan Jones (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) followed with his biggest hit of the season, as he went with a 2-2 pitch and drove a two-out, two-run double deep into the gap in right-center.
Senior right-hander Ryan Covelle (Medford, Mass.) had come on to record the final two outs of the eighth, and was on the mound as things got a little hairy in the top of the ninth, against a flurry of Le Moyne pinch hitters. Senior JT Pittman led off with a pinch-hit single to center and was lifted for junior David DiNorcia, who then stole second. From there, Covelle got a pop up and a strikeout to quickly put Le Moyne down to its final out.
The Dolphins refused to go quietly into the New York night, however. Freshman Michael Smith poked a pinch-hit, RBI single through the right side to cut the gap to 6-2. Corapi was then hit by a pitch and Cox took a five-pitch walk to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate. The Ravens turned to junior right-hander Anthony Matarazzo (Medford, Mass.), who won a seven-pitch battle to strike out Taft swinging on a breaking ball out of the zone and end the ball game. It was Matarazzo's sixth save of the season.
For Le Moyne, junior right-hander Sam Walsh (4-3) started on the mound and suffered the loss after using 104 pitches (63 strikes) to get through six innings. He was charged with four runs (two earned) on five hits, walked three and struck out five.
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).