RINDGE, N.H. (April 23, 2019) – Heading into a stretch of seven games in six days this week, the Franklin Pierce University baseball team's first task was to get through a Tuesday afternoon doubleheader against Stonehill without burning through too much of its pitching staff. Consider the mission accomplished, as graduate student right-hander Ryan Covelle (Medford, Mass.) and senior right-hander Zach Hart (Wallingford, Conn.) each struck out eight while combining to twirl 12 innings of two-run ball and lead the Ravens to a twinbill sweep of Stonehill. The Ravens took the Northeast-10 Conference Northeast Division affairs by scores of 7-4 and 8-2.
With the wins, Franklin Pierce snaps a three-game losing streak and improves to 18-16 (11-7 NE10, 7-5 NE Div.), while Stonehill falls to 16-22 (7-11 NE10, 3-9 NE Div.) and has lost four in a row. The two teams both have games on Wednesday, but will meet again on Thursday at Pappas Field to round out the season series.
Game 1: Franklin Pierce 7, Stonehill 4
Covelle (5-3) set a strong tone on the mound to kick off the week for the Ravens, as he used 111 pitches (79 strikes) to post eight innings of six-hit, two-run (one earned) ball on the way to the win. He did not issue a walk and struck out eight along the way.
The two teams traded runs early, as the game was 1-1 through seven innings. In the bottom of the third for Franklin Pierce, junior right fielder John Mead (Washington Township, N.J.) cranked a leadoff, first-pitch home run an estimated 355 feet to straightaway right field, his third of the season. Stonehill answered with an unearned tally in the top of the fourth, as senior first baseman Harrison Sabo singled up the middle, moved to second on a wild pitch, went to third on an error and eventually scored on an RBI groundout by junior designated hitter Thomas Quinn.
Stonehill briefly pushed out front with a run in the top of the eighth. Freshman catcher Matt Donlan singled through the left side with one out and moved to third on back-to-back singles by senior second baseman Matthew Rocco and senior center fielder William Kelleher, before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Sabo.
The Ravens got into the Stonehill bullpen and answered in a big way in the bottom half of the eighth, as a six-spot put the crimson and grey out front to stay. Junior shortstop James Boria (Massapequa, N.Y.) had the RBI single which tied the game, while senior left fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) had the RBI single which put the Ravens out front, and then they added on from there. Junior first baseman Jonel Ozuna (New York, N.Y.) pulled a two-run double down the right-field line, and then senior designated hitter Ural Forbes (Freeport, Bahamas) provided the exclamation mark, as he clubbed a two-run home run an estimated 360 feet to straightaway left, his third of the season.
Stonehill put together two runs in the top of the ninth and got the tying run to the plate, but sophomore right-hander Jack Wallace (Winthrop, Mass.) came on and got the only batter he faced to fly out to end the game and pick up his first save of the season.
Senior right-hander Michael Young started, threw 116 pitches (72 strikes) over the first seven innings and did not factor in the decision for Stonehill. He allowed one run on four hits, walked four, threw a wild pitch and struck out five. Junior right-hander Jeremiah Vargas (0-2) took over to start the eighth and did not retire any of the four batters he faced as the Ravens mounted their rally. Vargas was ultimately charged with four runs (three earned) on two hits and a walk and took the loss.
Game 2: Franklin Pierce 8, Stonehill 2
In the second game it was Hart's turn on the hill. He went six innings on 90 pitches (62 strikes) and allowed just one runner to reach third base. Hart (3-0) did not allow a run on four hits, walked two and struck out eight as well. In what was a 3-0 game at the time, he was visibly fired up coming off the mound after the last of his eight strikeouts, which came against Rocco and stranded a runner at third base to end the fifth.
Franklin Pierce staked Hart to the 3-0 lead with a run in the second and two more in the fourth. In the second, Ozuna struck out but reached on a passed ball. He moved to second on another passed ball, went to third on an errant pickoff throw and scored on an RBI single by Mead, as the Stonehill defense gift-wrapped the first run of the game. In the fourth, Roberto walked, then scampered around to score as Ozuna laced a triple over the second baseman and into the gap in right-center. Ozuna then scored when Forbes – who caught the second game – dumped an RBI single into center field.
Stonehill tightened things up with a pair of runs against the bullpen in the top of the seventh. Senior right fielder Patrick Downey walked leading off and later came around to score on a two-out triple by Rocco, as Mead attempted a sliding catch while charging in but came up empty and allowed the ball to get behind him. Rocco then scored on an RBI single to right by Kelleher.
As in the first game, Franklin Pierce responded to the late challenge, as the Ravens sent all nine men to the plate and scored five times in the last of the seventh to break the game open and create the 8-2 final. Roberto provided the initial insurance with a sacrifice fly to right after a trio of walks had loaded the bases. Ozuna and Forbes then posted back-to-back RBI singles with two outs as the Ravens started to pull away. Freshman third baseman Jethro Hurt (New York, N.Y.) capped the inning with a two-run single to center field, as the Ravens plated their five runs on just three hits and the help of four walks.
Junior right-hander Michael White (4-2) took the ball for Stonehill in the second game and departed after being forced to use 95 pitches (57 strikes) to get through five innings. He allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits, walked two and struck out four while taking the loss.
The Ravens return to the field on Wednesday, April 24, when they travel to Saint Anselm for an NE10 Northeast Division contest. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. at Sullivan Park in Manchester, N.H.
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).