CARY, N.C. (March 8, 2019) – The Franklin Pierce University baseball team opened a seven-day, eight-game trip to North Carolina with a bang on Friday afternoon, as the Ravens plated six runs over the opening four innings. However, it would not be enough in the non-conference tilt against Slippery Rock at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, as The Rock rallied with three in the seventh and four in the ninth to steal a 9-7 win from the Ravens. Junior first baseman Jonel Ozuna (New York, N.Y.) cranked his first home run of the season in defeat for Franklin Pierce.
With the loss, Franklin Pierce falls to 4-2, while Slippery Rock improves to 3-3. The Ravens will get two more cracks at Slippery Rock while in the Tar Heel State, as the two teams will meet again on Sunday, March 10 and Thursday, March 14.
Playing as the home team, Franklin Pierce opened up a 3-0 lead early, with two in the first and another in the second. In the first, senior left fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) led off with a walk, but was erased at second as graduate student center fielder Harrison Smoske (Burlington, Mass.) bounced into a fielder's choice. Smoske would score two batters later, when Ozuna clubbed his first home run of the season to open the scoring. In the second, freshman designated hitter Jethro Hurt (New York, N.Y.) opened the inning with a walk and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Roberto.
Three more runs on the fourth opened the lead all the way out to 6-0. Things got ugly for Slippery Rock freshman left-hander JT Wolke, as he loaded the bases by hitting senior third baseman Carmine Giordano (New Rochelle, N.Y.) and then walking freshman second baseman Joel Lara (Boston, Mass.) and Roberto. Wolke then walked freshman center fielder Graham Smith (Wilmington, Mass.) to force in a run, and junior shortstop James Boria (Massapequa, N.Y.) followed with a two-run single to plate Lara and Roberto.
It was all downhill for the Ravens from there though. Slippery Rock cut into the deficit with single runs in the fifth and sixth. In the fifth, sophomore designated hitter Bo Williams led off with a walk and later scored on an RBI double by senior shortstop Joe Campagna. In the sixth, junior first baseman Tyler Merigliano opened the inning with a single and scored from first two batters later on an RBI double by junior catcher Joe Sibeto.
Three in the seventh pulled The Rock within a run at 6-5. Senior left fielder Ray Scala reached on an error before a walk to Campagna and a single by sophomore third baseman Abraham Mow loaded the bases. Scala scored on an RBI groundout by Merigliano, and then freshman right fielder Luke Trueman provided the inning's big blow with a two-run double.
Slippery Rock completed the comeback with four runs in the ninth to claim a 9-6 lead. There were three doubles in the inning, all of which drove in runs. Mow doubled home Campagna to tie the game, after the latter led off with a single. Two batters later, Trueman doubled home Merigliano to give The Rock the lead. Sophomore catcher Kyle Bowser followed and provided the death blow, as he doubled home a pair to give Slippery Rock all the insurance it would need.
Franklin Pierce scratched out a run in the bottom half of the ninth, as senior catcher Ural Forbes (Freeport, Bahamas) singled with one out and later scored on a two-out sacrifice fly by Giordano, but the Ravens would ultimately strand the tying run at second base, as Lara grounded out to end the game.
Senior right-hander Zach Hart (Wallingford, Conn.) took the ball for Franklin Pierce and logged the first 5.1 innings. He allowed two runs on five hits, walked two, struck out six and did not factor in the decision. Senior right-hander Shane Kittila (Warwick, R.I.) took the loss (1-1) out of the bullpen, as he was charged with the ninth-inning damage. Over 1.1 innings of work, he surrendered four runs (three earned) on four hits and struck out one.
Senior right-hander Chris Anastas started for Slippery Rock, but was long gone by the time the team rallied, as he threw only the first three innings. He was charged with three runs (two earned) on two hits, walked three and struck out two. Freshman right-hander Colin Cain (1-0) was the beneficiary of said rally, as he worked a scoreless eighth with a strikeout and then picked up the win after the four-run ninth. Senior right-hander Wyatt Daugherty notched his first save of the season, despite allowing a run on three hits in the bottom of the ninth.
The Ravens continue the North Carolina trip on Saturday, with a non-conference contest against Cedarville. Game time is set for 2 p.m. at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
For more information on Franklin Pierce Athletics, please visit the official website of Franklin Pierce Athletics (https://www.fpuravens.com). 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 (https://www.fpuravens.com/store).