Bridgewater, NJ - Kyle Zarotney hit a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth to propel Central Connecticut State to a 9-6 win over Sacred Heart at the 2010 Northeast Conference baseball tournament. Freshman John Murphy went 4-for-5 and notched three RBI for the Pioneers in the loss. The loss was just SHU's first in the double elimination tournament as the Pioners and Blue Devils will square off in the final game of the championship tomorrow with the NEC crown on the line.
Sacred Heart (31-26) jumped on the Blue Devils early with a run in the top of the first. Mike Drowne (South Hadley, MA) ripped a leadoff double to left field to start the game. Two batters later freshman John Murphy (Seymour, CT) gave the Pioneers a 1-0 edge with his first RBI of the tournament on a base knock to left.
Central Connecticut State (32-21) immediately answered in the bottom of the opening inning getting runners on with a leadoff error and a one out walk. Pat Epps put CCSU on top with a two-run triple to straight away center field. He would get caught trying to score on a fielder's choice with MJ Schifano (Monroe, NY) cutting him down at the plate. But the Blue Devils weren't done in the frame as Mitch Wells hit a RBI double to the left field wall to give CCSU a 3-1 lead after the first.
The Pioneers cut the deficit in half in the top of the third inning as Drowne leadoff being hit by a pitch. Then Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA) and Murphy posted back-to-back singles on the first pitch of each at bat. Murphy's hit up the right field line was his second RBI of the day and made it a 3-2 affair. Drowne then started the bottom of the third inning with a spectacular diving catch at the warning track to rob Richie Tri of extra bases.
Murphy would plate his third run of the game in the fifth inning to knot the game at 3-3. Drowne reached base with a one-out single and quickly stole his 33rd base of 2010. Tedesco drove a ball to the warning track that was hauled in on the run by the left fielder allowing Drowne to tag and advance to third. Murphy improved to 3-for-3 and tied the game with a perfectly placed infield single to the right side.
Sacred Heart started the sixth with a walk from Rob Griffith (Lake Ronkonkoma, NY) and a single from JJ Edwards (Endwell, NY). After retiring the next batter on strikes CCSU starting pitcher Dan Markoya left the game for reliever Nick Neumann.
Neumann then walked the first batter he faced, Dave Boisture (Highland Mills, NY), on four pitches to load the bases with one out. Neumann then threw two balls to start the next at bat against Schifano before being taken out in favor of fellow reliever Donny White. White would fair no batter as he completed the RBI walk to Schifano, plating Griffith and putting SHU on top 4-3. Drowne, the next batter, extended the Pioneer advantage to 5-3 with a sacrifice fly. Tedesco would draw Sacred Heart's fourth walk of the inning to load the bases for Murphy. After fouling off a few pitches with two strikes Murphy would retired to the end frame.
The Blue Devils quickly atoned for the rough top of the sixth with two runs to tie the game in the bottom half. Pat Epps worked out a leadoff walk to set up a Tommy Meade two-run blast to straight away center field, his tenth of the season.
Boisture started the eighth for the Pioneers by ripping a double down the right field line. Schifano then laid down a great sacrifice bunt and reached first with an errant throw from White. The CCSU hurler then loaded the bases by issuing a walk to Drowne. Tedesco supplied the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly to drive in pinch runner Jonathan Servilla (Fairfield, CT) and give SHU a 6-5 advantage.
Murphy followed Tedesco with his fourth hit of the game, his second on a ground ball to the first baseman. Schifano would try and score from second on the play but was cut down at the plate. White then forced Jeff Heppner (Aqubogue, NY) to fly out and limit SHU to just the one run in the eighth.
The Blue Devils would dash the SHU hopes of a championship on Saturday with a four run half of the eighth. Tri opened the inning for Central with an infield single. After getting Epps to hit into a fielder's choice Scribner would leave the game after 7.1 innings of work and 121 pitches.
Relief pitcher Chris Dionisio (Smithtown, NY) got Meade to hit a ground ball to third but Schifano made a wild throw to second and Central Connecticut base runners were at first and second with still just one out. Wells drew a walk to fill the bases with Blue Devils for Zarotney. Zarotney battled through a nine pitch at bat and belted a grand slam to give Central Connecticut what would be the game winning runs.
Roy Natoli entered the game in relief and shut down Sacred Heart to pick up his second save of the year. White picked up the pitching win for the Blue Devils his fourth win of 2010.
The same two teams will meet tomorrow at noon in the seventh and final game of the 2010 NEC tournament with the championship on the line.