WEST HAVEN, Conn. (May 11, 2017) – What was a 1-1 game temporarily turned into a baseball-themed circus in the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday afternoon at Frank Vieira Field on the campus of the University of New Haven. At one point, the Franklin Pierce University baseball team had 10 straight batters reach base without the ball leaving infield, thanks to a combination of walks, hit batters and defensive lapses. In all, the Ravens would send 19 men to the plate in the inning and score 13 runs on just five hits to break things open on the way to a 14-1 win on the first day of the Northeast-10 Conference Championship.
With the win, Franklin Pierce -- the Northeast Division's second seed -- improves to 32-13, while Southwest Division two-seed Pace falls to 29-18. Franklin Pierce advances to play at 12:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of Thursday's second game, which features the Northeast Division's top seed, Southern New Hampshire, and host New Haven, which is the Southwest Division's second seed. Pace will face elimination at 10 a.m. Friday against the loser of the game between SNHU and New Haven. At press time, the SNHU/New Haven contest was scoreless in the bottom of the second inning.
What had been a tightly-contested game got broken wide open in the bottom of the seventh inning. The inning started innocently enough, as senior second baseman Kyle Hood (Arlington, Mass.) bounced out to shortstop. Hood would go on to have the misfortune of making the first and last out of the inning, though he was hit by a pitch and came around to score in between, as he came to the plate three times in the inning.
After the first out, 16 straight batters would reach base before the second out was recorded. Junior center fielder Harrison Smoske (Burlington, Mass.) poked a ball towards first base. Pace senior first baseman Garrett De Lotto elected to play the ball off to the side, but came up empty, with the ball escaping into right field for an error. After Smoske stole second, senior shortstop Lucas Luopa (Keene, N.H.) was hit by a pitch, which spelled the end of the day for the Pace starter, sophomore left-hander Dan Wirchansky.
Junior right-hander Michael Amato took over on the mound and would go on to face seven batters without recording an out. After a successful double-steal moved the runners to second and third, junior right fielder Adam Chase (Bridgewater, Mass.) went the other way and lined an RBI single to right to plate Smoske and give the Ravens the lead. After junior third baseman John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) was hit by a pitch to load the bases, junior catcher Stephen Octave (New Windsor, N.Y.) looped a fly ball into shallow center field to drive home Luopa and make it a 3-1 game.
Things got weird from there, as none of the next 10 batters hit the ball out of the infield, though Pace was still unable to record an out. Junior first baseman Dalton Davis (Birmingham, Ala.) hit a sharp grounder to third, which could have been a double play, but at least should have been a force out at the plate. Instead, Pace junior third baseman Matthew Kurdewan spiked the throw to the plate, leaving everybody safe and the score 4-1.
Everybody would be safe on the next play as well, as senior designated hitter Chris LaVorgna (North Haven, Conn.) dribbled a soft grounder on the right side. He would wind up with an RBI single, as a miscommunication resulted in Amato and De Lotto colliding and going head over heels on the infield grass. Another infield single, on the left side this time by freshman left fielder Dylan Jones (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), made it 6-1, before back-to-back hit batsmen forced in runs, as the Ravens broke it open to an 8-1 lead. Hood and Smoske each picked up RBIs by being hit by pitches.
Later in the inning, Chase forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk. Davis eventually returned the ball to the outfield with an RBI single through the right side. LaVorgna picked up his second RBI of the inning and capped the scoring by reaching on another error by Kurdewan at third, before the inning finally came to an end, as Jones struck out and Hood fouled out to the catcher.
Earlier, Franklin Pierce opened the scoring with a run in the bottom of the first. Friday started things with two outs as he worked a six-pitch walk. Octave followed and drove a 2-0 pitch the other way, over the head of the right fielder for an RBI double.
Pace answered immediately, with a run in the top of the second to tie things up. Junior left fielder Michael Gulino opened the inning with a double the other way into the gap in right-center. He moved to third on a groundout and later scored on a sacrifice fly to left by senior right fielder Cory Capaldi.
Junior right-hander John Amendola (Wallingford, Conn.) started on the mound for the Ravens and threw 96 pitches (67 strikes) before departing after seven with a suddenly-gigantic lead. Over seven innings of work, he allowed one run on five hits, did not issue a walk and struck out five on the way to the win (7-3).
For Pace, Wirchansky (4-5) logged 6.1 innings on 118 pitches (68 strikes). He was ultimately charged with three runs (two earned) on three hits, walked four, hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and struck out seven while taking the loss.
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).