RINDGE, N.H. (April 16, 2019) – In a season which has been too short on big moments, the Franklin Pierce University baseball team finally got a big hit in a big spot on Tuesday night at Dr. Arthur and Martha Pappas Field, against one of the country's top-10 teams, no less. A pinch-hit RBI single by freshman Jethro Hurt (New York, N.Y.) with one out in the bottom of the ninth allowed the Ravens to tie the game at 1-1 and forced No. 4/8 nationally ranked Southern New Hampshire into extra innings. It was all for naught for the Birds though, as SNHU went on to plate a pair of controversial runs in the top of the 11th to pull out the 3-1 victory in Northeast-10 Conference Northeast Division play.
With the loss, Franklin Pierce falls to 16-16 (9-7 NE10, 5-5 NE Div.), while SNHU improves to 28-8 (14-3 NE10, 9-1 NE Div.). SNHU has now taken the first two games in the three-game season series. The two teams will meet again on April 30 at SNHU to round out the set.
For much of the evening, it appeared the only run of the game would be an unearned tally for SNHU in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs, junior third baseman Jake Coro took a walk. Senior catcher Joshua Zbierski was next and hit a hard one-hopper behind the bag at third, which was fielded cleanly by Franklin Pierce sophomore third baseman Josh Tower (Auburn, Mass.). However, Tower's throw across the diamond would pull the first baseman off the bag for a throwing error, which allowed Coro to advance to third. Sophomore center fielder Idelsohn Taveras then legged out an infield single on a soft ground ball which slipped under the pitcher's glove, over the mound and out into no man's land up the middle of the infield. Senior second baseman Carmine Giordano (New Rochelle, N.Y.) made a valiant, sliding effort to flag the ball down, but his throw to first was no match for the speed of Taveras, who picked up an RBI single.
SNHU stuck with its starter, graduate student right-hander Jake Walkinshaw, into the bottom of the ninth, looking for the shutout, but the Ravens would rally to tie the game and force extra innings. Senior left fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) led off with a single through the left side and moved to second when junior first baseman Jonel Ozuna (New York, N.Y.) took a walk. Ozuna was forced at second on a fielder's choice, which moved Roberto over to third and set the table for Hurt's pinch-hit appearance. Hurt took the first pitch for a ball and then laced the second pitch into left field for an RBI single to plate Roberto and tie the game.
The game would go without further scoring until the top of the 11th, when SNHU plated a pair of runs to take the lead for good. A pair of singles and an intentional walk set the table, with junior second baseman Joshua Goldstein at third, sophomore right fielder Sam Henrie at second, graduate student left fielder John Stanton at first and sophomore designated hitter Marcus Chavez at the plate with one away. The Ravens turned the ball over to sophomore right-hander Jack Wallace (Winthrop, Mass.), who came on and froze Chavez with a 2-2 fastball on the inside corner with the sixth pitch of the at-bat to record the second out.
With the bases still loaded, junior first baseman Phoenix Hernandez strode to the plate for what turned into the game's defining plate appearance. Hernandez would walk on four pitches to force home Goldstein with the go-ahead run, but the plate appearance was not without its controversy. The final pitch of the four was another fastball intended for the inside corner. After plate umpire Rick Emerson ruled it ball four, junior catcher Dylan Jones (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) visibly expressed his dissatisfaction as he stood up from his crouch. Before the ensuing at-bat could commence, head coach Mike Chambers was ejected after informing Emerson – in so many words – he felt the strike zone had shrunk in the pivotal spot.
The Penmen would later add an insurance run on a passed ball after things had settled back down.
Earlier in the day, freshman right-hander Danny Gracia (Wilmington, Mass.) took the ball as the first of six Franklin Pierce pitchers, who combined for 14 strikeouts on the night. He allowed just the unearned run in the fifth on three hits, walked two, hit a batter and struck out six while throwing 86 pitches (54 strikes). Sophomore left-hander Patrick Hannon (Willington, Conn.) was responsible for the runners who scored with Wallace on the mound in the 11th, and thus suffered the loss (1-1) out of the bullpen. Over 1.1 innings of work, he was charged with two runs (one earned) on two hits, walked one (intentionally) and struck out two.
On the other side of the ledger, Walkinshaw fired 128 pitches (86 strikes) over the first nine innings for a Penmen pitching staff which struck out 12 of its own. He allowed one run on seven hits, walked three and struck out nine. The 11th-inning runs made a winner out of sophomore right-hander Jeffrey Praml (3-0) who pitched a perfect 10th with a strikeout. Junior left-hander Brendan Welch retired the side in order with a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the 11th to nail down his first save of the season.
The Ravens return to the field on Saturday and Monday, April 20 and 22, for a three-game Easter weekend, NE10 Northeast Division series against Stonehill. The two teams are set to play a doubleheader beginning at noon on Saturday, followed by a single game at 3 p.m. on Monday, all at Pappas Field.
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).