Matarazzo goes distance in second game
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (February 26, 2016) – Senior outfielder Max DiTondo (Marshfield, Mass.) and junior third baseman Jay Jabs (Schwenksville, Pa.) dialed long distance on the first day of the season and the No. 4/5 nationally ranked Franklin Pierce University baseball team plated 17 runs in a doubleheader sweep of Mercy to open the 2016 campaign. The Ravens defeated the Mavericks 9-4 in the first game and 8-1 in the second game in neutral-site, non-conference play at The Ripken Experience.
With the wins, Franklin Pierce opens its season at 2-0, while Mercy falls to 1-2.
In the first game, Mercy, playing as the visiting team, opened the scoring with a run in the top of the second inning. Junior third baseman Randal Mendez worked a leadoff walk, moved to second on a single by freshman right fielder Nicholas Chilson, went to third as sophomore first baseman John Young bounced into a fielder's choice, and scored on an RBI single by sophomore catcher Nick Daley.
Franklin Pierce answered with a three-spot in the bottom half of the second to plate its first runs of the season. Junior designated hitter Chris LaVorgna (North Haven, Conn.) ripped a double in his first at-bat of the campaign, before senior first baseman Matt O'Herron (Springfield, Mass.) was hit by a pitch. Both would come around to score two batters later on a two-run double by DiTondo, one of the few newcomers to the Ravens' starting lineup in 2016. DiTondo would ultimately come around to score on an errant throw, as senior shortstop Justin Brock (Latham, N.Y.) legged out an infield single.
After senior right-hander Miles Sheehan (Madison, Conn.) -- who got the Opening Day start for Franklin Pierce -- got through the third, fourth and fifth with minimal trouble, Mercy rallied for three runs in the top of the sixth to take a 4-3 lead. Sophomore second baseman Nick Arabascio opened the inning with a single, stole second and moved to third on a groundout by senior center fielder Scott Hagan. Arabascio would score on a wild pitch, as Mendez worked a walk, but was erased at second for the second out of the inning while Chilson reached on a fielder's choice. Chilson came around to score on a double by Young, which spelled the end of Sheehan's day. While junior right-hander Sam Steeves (Dorchester, Mass.) and senior right-hander Tanner Bird (Adams, Mass.) would eventually get out of the inning, they could not do so before combining for a pair of wild pitches, which scored Young.
Again, Franklin Pierce had the immediate answer, this time with a run in the bottom of the sixth to forge a 4-4 tie. LaVorgna led off with a walk, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and ultimately scored when senior second baseman Kurtis White (Nahant, Mass.) lifted a one-out sacrifice fly to center field.
The Ravens got into the Mercy bullpen to start the bottom of the seventh and would sting senior right-hander Blake Coalla for two runs in the frame to take the lead for good. Sophomore catcher Christopher Stanford (Quebec City, Quebec) was hit by a pitch leading off and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Brock. After senior center fielder Maxx Sheehan (San Jose, Calif.) was hit by a pitch and a successful double steal put runners at second and third, graduate student left fielder Matt Burns (Parkland, Fla.) -- an intra-conference transfer from Southern Connecticut State -- cashed them both in by clubbing a two-run double.
Franklin Pierce got its own bullpen three runs worth of insurance in the bottom of the eighth to create the 9-4 final. White started things with a one-out triple and would quickly score, as DiTondo followed with the first Ravens home run of the year, which was also his first collegiate extra-base hit. The long ball was the end of Coalla's day, as he gave way to sophomore right-hander Manny Velasquez on the hill for Mercy. Velazquez got the second out of the inning, but then surrendered a two-out double to Brock, who would ultimately steal third and score on a wild pitch. Velasquez would hit a batter and walk two to load the bases before inducing a flyout from LaVorgna to end the frame.
Freshman right-hander Tony Sylvester (Pepperell, Mass.) made his collegiate debut to start the top of the ninth, but was lifted after allowing a leadoff single. Sophomore left-hander Adam Goss (Waterford, Conn.) came on to clean things up, rolled up a double play and then got a lineout to finish off the 9-4 win.
Sheehan -- who posted Division II's lowest ERA since 1973 a year ago (0.29) -- threw 5.2 innings in his first start of 2016. He allowed four runs on five hits, walked two, threw two wild pitches, struck out four and did not factor in the decision. Bird (1-0) earned the win with 2.1 shutout innings of relief, as he retired the side in order in the seventh and eighth after finishing the sixth. In all, he did not allow a hit, walked one, threw a wild pitch and struck out two.
For Mercy, senior right-hander James Patterson logged the first six innings on the mound. He allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits, walked two, hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and struck out nine without factoring in the decision. It was Coalla (0-1) who would take the loss out of the bullpen, as he was touched for four runs on four hits and a pair of hit batsmen over 1.1 innings.
In the second game, a seven-inning affair, Franklin Pierce -- playing as the visitors this time -- opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back. Maxx Sheehan opened the game with a single, stole second and scored on an RBI double by Burns. Burns then moved to third on a LaVorgna groundout and scored on an RBI single by O'Herron.
Mercy plated its only run of the second game in the bottom of the second inning to cut the gap to 2-1. Junior catcher Charles Fina was hit by a pitch with one out, stole second and came home to score on an RBI single by senior first baseman Justin Palladino.
Franklin Pierce broke the game open with a four-spot in the top of the fifth inning, pushing the lead to 6-1. Stanford walked leading off, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Brock and scored on an RBI double by Maxx Sheehan. Sheehan stole third and scored on an RBI single by Burns, who then stole second. The stolen base proved unnecessary, as Jabs -- the reigning, consensus East Region Player of the Year -- walloped his first home run of the season, a two-run shot, to provide the inning's keynote address.
The Ravens tacked on a run each in the sixth and seventh innings to create the 8-1 final. In the sixth, DiTondo -- who finished 5-for-8, scored three times and drove in five runs in the doubleheader -- singled, stole second, and scored on an RBI single by Stanford. In the seventh, sophomore John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) had a two-out, pinch-hit triple and later scored on an RBI single by DiTondo.
Sophomore right-hander Anthony Matarazzo (Medford, Mass.) threw his first career complete game on the hill for the Ravens in the second game. He allowed just the one run on one hit, walked two, hit two batters and struck out a career-best nine on the way to the win (1-0).
Junior right-hander Matt Nalbone (0-1) started and took the loss on the rubber for the Mavericks. Over five innings, he allowed six runs on nine hits, walked one and struck out two.
The Ravens return to the field on Saturday, Feb. 27, when they play two games on the second day of their three-day South Carolina excursion. Franklin Pierce will face Queens (N.Y.) at 10 a.m. and Bridgeport at 1 p.m. at The Ripken Experience.
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).