Pioneers Open NEC Play With Doubleheader Sweep At Fairleigh Dickinson

TEANECK, N.J. – The Sacred Heart baseball team opened Northeast Conference play Saturday by sweeping a doubleheader against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights by scores of 6-2 and 4-2 at the Naimoli Family Baseball Complex.

Game 1 – Sacred Heart 6, Fairleigh Dickinson 2

Saturday's opening game was a pitcher's duel early between Sacred Heart's (12-9, 2-0 NEC) Kody Kerski (Waterbury, Conn.) and Fairleigh Dickinson's (6-13, 0-2 NEC) Nick Cuono. Both starters did not allow a run through the first four innings. The Pioneers got on the board in the top of the fifth. Derick Horn (Valatie, N.Y.) led off the inning with a walk. After Dan Perez (Seymour, Conn.) flew out, freshman Ted Shaw (Southington, Conn.) hit his first career home run to give Sacred Heart a 2-0 lead. The Pioneers tacked on another run on an RBI single by Jayson Sullivan (Charlton, N.Y.) that knocked Cuono out of the game.

Kerski was dominant once again on the mound, retiring 14 of the first 16 batters he faced. Kenny Byram (Ponte Vedra, Fla.) put Sacred Heart ahead 5-0 in the top of the sixth inning, knocking in two runs with a triple to left-centerfield. Zack Short (Hurley, N.Y.) hit his first career home run leading off the seventh inning, making the score 6-0. The Knights finally got to Kerski in the bottom of the seventh, scoring two runs on five hits. The runs were Kerski's first earned runs allowed since the season opener at Tulane on March 1. James Cooksey (Norwalk, Conn.) pitched the final two innings, striking out three while not allowing a hit to preserve Sacred Heart's 6-2 win.

Sullivan was 3-for-5 in the game as Byram was 2-for-5 at the plate with two RBI. Kerski struck out three batters in seven innings while allowing two runs on seven hits. He is now 5-0 on the season.

Game 2  - Sacred Heart 4, Fairleigh Dickinson 2

FDU stuck early in game two, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Dylan Sprague led off with a double off Sacred Heart starting pitcher Jeff Stoddard (Branford, Conn.), then scored on a base hit by Riley Moonan. Ryan McGrath then drove in Moonan two batters later with  a single down the right field line to make the score 2-0.

The Pioneers tied the game in the top of the third. Keaton Flint (Charlton, N.Y.) drew a lead-off walk, then got to third on a Jake Friar (Westport, Mass.) double. After Shaw struck out, Byram hit into a fielder's choice and reached second. Flint was caught in a rundown and tagged out. With runners at second and third, Jesus Medina (New York, N.Y.) hit a single up the middle to bring in both runners, making the score 2-2.

Sacred Heart took the lead in the fourth. With two outs and a Conor McEvoy (Watertown, Conn.) on first, Keith Klebart (Orange, Conn.) hit a high pop fly that was dropped by the shortstop Matt McCann. McEvoy, running with two outs, scored on the play to give Sacred Heart a 3-2 lead.

Stoddard settled in nicely after the first inning, allowing just three hits in his next five innings of work. The Pioneers added an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning. Medina led off the frame with a double to right center. After Short drew a walk, Sullivan dropped a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. FDU then intentionally walked McEvoy with one out to load the bases. Klebart then drove in Medina with a sacrifice fly that was caught in foul ground by the second baseman Sprague, making the score 4-2. Stoddard made the lead hold up, working around a single in the sixth and a double in the seventh to earn his third win of the season.

Medina was 2-for-3 in the second game with two RBI and a run scored. Stoddard went the distance in the nightcap, striking out five batters in seven innings.

The two teams will play another doubleheader on Sunday, beginning with a seven-inning game at 12:30 p.m. with a nine-inning game to follow.