Lakewood, NJ – The Sacred Heart baseball team defeated the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds, 8-7, Friday night to advance to their fifth straight NEC Championship game in Lakewood, New Jersey. SHU improves to 34-22 on the season and is just one win shy of their third straight NEC Championship.
Junior Kody Kerski (Waterbury, CT) rebounded from a rough first inning, striking out 12 en route to his seventh win of the season. The hard throwing righty allowed just four hits in 7.2 innings of work. The 12 punch-outs were a season high for Kerski.
Freshman Dan Wertz (Cross River, NY) notched the save for Sacred Heart, getting the final out of the game.
Junior Nick Leiningen (Millwood, NY) struggled in relief of Kerski, allowing four runs in the ninth after striking out () to end a threat in the 8th.
It didn't take Sacred Heart too long to take the lead on LIU. Junior Dan Perez (Seymour, CT) hammered a two run, two out home run over the right field wall to give SHU the 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Senior Dave Boisture (Highland Mills, NY) led off the first with a base hit to left and came around on the Perez blast.
Down 2-0 after just a half inning, LIU Brooklyn immediately fought back, scoring three in the bottom half of the first. Center fielder Pete Leonello blasted a lead off triple into the right center field gap. Leonello would score on a pass ball for LIU Brooklyn's first run of the game. Kevin Needham knocked in LIU Brooklyn's tying run, smacking a single into right center field, scoring Kyle Demarco. Demarco reached on a walk. The Blackbirds took the lead on a Chris Untereiner single to center field to score Needham from second.
SHU tied it right back up in the third inning. Perez led off the inning with his second hit of the day. FreshmanJesus Medina (New York, NY) followed Perez with a base hit of his own. Both Perez and Medina moved over to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Keaton Flint (Charlton, NY). Perez would then race home on a wild pitch to tie the game up at three.
In the fourth inning, Sacred Heart once again took the lead. Murphy smacked a two out base hit to left field to score senior captain Jonathan Servilla (Fairfield, CT) from second base. Servilla led off the inning with an infield hit and then stole second base to get into scoring position for Murphy.
Sacred Heart would break it open in the fifth, scoring four more runs. Flint started the rally with a one out single down the right field line. Freshman Jayson Sullivan (Charlton, NY) followed Flint, reaching on a Blackbird error after laying a bunt down. Senior catcher Rocco Gondek (Glastonbury, CT) followed Sullivan, smacking a single through the right side to score Flint from second. The Pioneers would load the bases thanks to an infield hit by Servilla. Boisture followed Servilla with an RBI fielder's choice to score Sullivan from third. Sacred Heart would load the bases for the second time in the inning after freshman Brian Lamboy (Manalapan, NJ) was hit by a pitch. Following Lamboy, Murphy once again came up with the big hit, this time smacking a fastball through the right side to score two Pioneers, giving SHU the 8-3 lead.
LIU Brooklyn rallied in the bottom of the ninth off Leiningen, scoring four runs to get within just one run. Ziznewski singled to right center field to score Leonello and Melvin Rios. Untereiner came up with the second big hit for LIU, knocking a two out base hit to left field to score Ziznewski and Demarco. LIU Brooklyn had the tying run on first but Wertz got Mike Garcia to weakly ground out to get the final out of the game.
Sacred Heart will play the winner of Bryant and LIU Brooklyn as they go for their third straight Northeast Conference Championship. We will have the call on the Pioneer Sports Network at 3:30 pm.