WEST HAVEN, Conn. (May 12, 2017) – Three wild pitches in the top of the seventh helped put the Franklin Pierce University baseball team ahead to stay on Friday afternoon, as the Northeast Division's second seed scored a 6-4 win over the division's top seed, No. 4/5 nationally ranked Southern New Hampshire, on the second day of the Northeast-10 Conference Championship, hosted by the University of New Haven at Frank Vieira Field. Senior right-hander Miles Sheehan (Madison, Conn.) struck out three over two high-tension innings to nail down his first save of the season and send the Ravens through to the tournament's championship round.
With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 33-13, while SNHU falls to 41-8 and sees its 16-game winning streak come to an end. Franklin Pierce advances to Saturday's championship round, and will have two chances to win one game to claim the NE10 title. SNHU will face elimination on Friday evening against New Haven, though the game may not finish before darkness descends on West Haven. At press time, New Haven led, 2-0, in the top of the second.
Saturday's schedule is very much unsettled, as it depends on whether or not Friday's final game can be finished, as well as the weather in the area on Saturday. The plan is to begin play at 8 a.m. and continue until, and if, weather forces a stoppage. As a result, Saturday's game time for the Ravens is to be determined.
Franklin Pierce struck for the lead for good, with a run in the top of the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie, but squandered a golden chance to do more damage. With one out, senior shortstop Lucas Luopa (Keene, N.H.) lined a first-pitch single to center field and moved to second on a four-pitch walk to junior third baseman Adam Chase (Bridgewater, Mass.). After one wild pitch moved Luopa to third, and another moved Chase to second, the Penmen elected to put junior third baseman John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) on with an intentional walk to load the bases for junior catcher Stephen Octave (New Windsor, N.Y.).
SNHU went to the bullpen and turned the ball over to freshman left-hander Brendan Welch to face Octave. Welch eventually struck out Octave on five pitches, but not before uncorking the inning's third wild pitch, which scored Luopa with the go-ahead run. After a walk to junior first baseman Dalton Davis (Birmingham, Ala.) re-loaded the bases, Welch got senior designated hitter Chris LaVorgna (North Haven, Conn.) to fly out to center field to strand the bases full and hold the deficit at 4-3.
An unearned run in the top of the eighth inning pushed the lead out to 5-3. Freshman left fielder Dylan Jones (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) opened the inning with a single through the right side, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and went to third as junior center fielder Harrison Smoske (Burlington, Mass.) reached on an error by graduate student shortstop Zach Goldstein. The lineup flipped back to the top for Luopa, who lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to plate Jones.
Junior right-hander Ryan Covelle (Medford, Mass.), who had taken over in the fifth, got in trouble in the bottom of the eighth. SNHU sophomore center fielder John Stanton reached on an error by Friday at third leading off, and then Covelle hit junior shortstop Kyle Pangallo with a pitch, to put runners at first and second with nobody out. The Ravens turned to Sheehan out of the bullpen, and the senior came through in a big spot after entering with the tying run at first. Sheehan locked up senior catcher Cam Oliveira and then struck out sophomore second baseman Kyle Ruth swinging to open with back-to-back strikeouts. The lineup flipped back to the top, but Sheehan got Goldstein to foul out to first base to end the inning.
Franklin Pierce tacked on one last insurance run in the top of the ninth to make it 6-3. Friday led off and laced a double down the left-field line. He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, before a walk to Davis put runners at the corners with one out. After LaVorgna struck out, the Ravens put on the first-and-third double steal play. SNHU elected to throw down to second base, which allowed Friday to swipe home.
SNHU picked up a run in the last of the ninth and threatened for more, but Sheehan slammed the door before any further damage could be done. Freshman designated hitter Tom Blandini led off with a single to right field and moved to second as senior left fielder Derek Bauer singled through the right side of the infield to make it runners at first and second with nobody out. Sheehan then popped up junior first baseman Ryan Sullivan and struck out junior right fielder Cam Potter on five pitches for the second out. After an RBI single to left by Stanton, Sheehan got Pangallo to bounce out to Luopa at short to end the game and send the Ravens pouring out of the first-base dugout and through to the title round.
Graduate student right-hander Tanner Bird (Adams, Mass.) had started the game earlier in the day, but was long gone by the time the contest was decided. He threw 68 pitches (38 strikes) over four-plus innings, allowed three unearned runs on three hits, walked two, hit three batters, threw a wild pitch and struck out two. Covelle (3-1) threw 2.1 scoreless innings and was ultimately credited with the win out of the bullpen, despite allowing inherited runners to score to tie the game in the fifth. He allowed just one hit, walked two, hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and struck out one. Over two innings, Sheehan allowed one run on three hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three to nail down the save.
On the other side of the ledger, senior right-hander Alex Person started for SNHU and also did not factor in the decision. He threw 68 pitches (43 strikes) over 3.2 innings, allowed three runs on six hits, walked two and struck out four. Freshman right-hander Nick Artymowicz (2-2) ultimately took the loss out of the bullpen. Over 2.2 innings of work, he allowed one run on one hit, walked one and struck out four.
Earlier in the day, SNHU threatened to put the Ravens in an early hole in the bottom of the first inning. Goldstein was hit by the first pitch of the afternoon from Bird, and Blandini followed with a third-pitch single through the right side of the infield to put runners at first and third with nobody out on just four pitches.
Bird was able to wiggle out of the jam though. First, he got Bauer to pop up to the shortstop in shallow left field for the first out. After Blandini stole second to make it second and third with one out, Sullivan went the other way and lifted a fly ball to right field. With the speedy Goldstein tagging at third, Chase lined the ball up, made the catch and fired an accurate throw on the fly to the plate, which was in plenty of time to cut down Goldstein for the inning-ending double play.
Franklin Pierce opened the scoring with a trio of runs in the top half of the fourth. Octave opened the inning with a single down the left-field line and moved to second two batters later, when LaVorgna lashed a single into left. The Ravens then loaded the bases with two outs, after senior second baseman Kyle Hood (Arlington, Mass.) smoked a ground ball to shortstop which Potter could not handle cleanly and reached with an infield single.
With the bases loaded and two away, things came down to Smoske, who worked a 2-2 count and then dumped a two-run single into right-center to drive home Octave and LaVorgna. Two pitches later, Luopa ripped a single over the head of Goldstein at third and down the left-field line to score Hood and make it a three-run inning.
SNHU later answered with three runs of its own in the bottom half of the fifth to tie the game at 3-3. Oliveira was hit by the first pitch of the inning and moved to second when Ruth followed with a single up the middle, as the bottom of the order set the table Goldstein and the top of the lineup. After a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, Goldstein took a five-pitch walk to load the bases with nobody out for Blandini. The walk spelled the end of the day for Bird, who gave way to junior left-hander Adam Goss (Waterford, Conn.) with back-to-back left-handed hitters due up.
Goss did his part, as he popped up Blandini on the infield and then struck out Bauer swinging to win an eight-pitch battle. With the bases still loaded and now two out, the Ravens turned the game over to Covelle to face Sullivan. Covelle got Sullivan to bounce a ball on the left side, but Luopa mishandled at shortstop, leaving everybody safe and a run in. The error proved even more costly, as Potter followed and dumped a single the other way into right field to chase home Ruth and Goldstein to tie the game. Covelle eventually got Pangallo to fly out to left field to strand the bases full and preserve the 3-3 tie, setting the stage for the events which unfolded from the seventh inning on.
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).