Jared Balbach (Pine Bush, NY) held the fifth best hitting team in the country to just four hits, tossing a complete game as the SHU baseball team defeated Central Connecticut State 8-3 Friday afternoon to advance to the Northeast Conference championship game. Freshman Dave Boisture (Highland Mills, NY) cranked a three-run homer, the first long ball of his career, to lead the SHU offense's 11 hit day.
Central Connecticut (30-21) put the first runner in scoring position as Pat Epps led off the second inning with a double down the left field line. Mitch Wells hit a ground ball to short stop but John Murphy (Seymour, CT) air mailed the throw to allow CCSU to take a 1-0 lead. Back-to-back ground balls allowed the Blue Devils to build a 2-0 advantage as Wells crossed the plate on an Anthony Scialdone fielder's choice RBI.
Sacred Heart (31-25) had a chance to capitalize in their half of the second as CCSU third baseman Wells booted a double play ball that put Pioneers on first and second with one out. However, Blue Devil starter Tommy Meade worked out of the jam by retiring the SHU eight and nine hitters.
The Pioneers exploded onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth as Rob Griffith (Lake Ronkonkoma, NY) opened the frame with a single. Griffith was put in motion on a hit-and-run play that allowed JJ Edwards (Endwell, NY) to single on what would have been a ground ball to short. Hunter Phillips (Monroe, CT) slammed a double into left fielder center field to plate Griffith and cut the CCSU lead in half at 2-1.
Boisture got an RBI with a fielder's choice to tie the game at two, but he also reached base after a Central Connecticut error. Mike Drowne (South Hadley, MA) hit a sharp ground ball to third that Wells stopped with a diving effort. Blue Devil catcher Danny Hickey fanned on a swipe tag attempt as Phillips slid in safely to give SHU its first lead at 3-2. Meade limited the damage for his team with a strike out and first pitch foul out of the next two batters.
SHU added to its lead in the fifth as Jeff Heppner (Aqubogue, NY) led off with a hard hit double down the left field line. Two batters later Edwards picked up his second straight single as he deposited a hit down the right field line to pick up a RBI and stretch the Pioneer lead to 4-2. Phillips then worked out a walk to bring Boisture to the dish with two men on. The freshman right fielder, who did not start yesterday, hit a bomb to clear the bases and put his team up 7-2.
MJ Schifano (Monroe, NY) followed Boisture's homer by getting on thanks to Central's third error on the day. The junior then stole second and scored on a Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA) base knock to left that also chased Meade from the game. Murphy kept the inning alive against reliever Henry Glynne with an infield single. Heppner, who started the inning with a double, flew out to left as SHU's five run frame came to an end with the #1 seed on top 8-2.
The Blue Devils pieced together two hits in their half of the sixth, the first hits allowed by Balbach since the first inning, as CCSU scratched out a run to make it 8-3, SHU. Both pitchers responded to scoring innings by putting down the opposition in order their next time at bat. Central Connecticut State would not reach Balbach again as he shut the door and the Pioneers earned their spot in tomorrow's championship game.
The win was Balbach's team leading ninth of 2010 as he used 141 pitches to pick up his seventh complete game of the season. “Jared's great performance today was an accumulation of his four year's at Sacred Heart,” said head coach Nick Giaquinto. “He has worked hard since he was a freshman and I'm glad it paid off for him today.”
Sacred Heart will take on the winner of Central Connecticut State and Wagner game at 3:30 tomorrow with a chance to pick up the program's second Northeast Conference title.