PLYMOUTH MEETING, Penn. – Four Pioneers, highlighted by John Sostarich, combined to go 18.1 innings, allowing just ten hits and two earned runs while striking out 18 in Sacred Heart's split of a doubleheader at Villanova on Saturday. Behind Sostarich, SHU won the first game 2-0 to extend its winning streak to four before falling in the nightcap 3-2 in ten innings to end the day 5-9.
Sacred Heart has one final tune up before Northeast Conference play begins next weekend, as it host Stony Brook in a rematch of last year's NCAA regional at the BallPark at Harbor Yard at 3 pm.
Two second inning runs would hold up as Sostarich took over from there, limiting the Villanova offense to just three hits, two of which did not leave the infield, over his 7.2 innings. 2.2 innings longer than his previous career-long outing, he struck out a career-high seven batters and did not allow a Wildcat to reach scoring position until the sixth inning. He also picked up off three runners and did not allow any to advance past second base.
A runner also reached scoring position in his final two innings of work, but he got out of the seventh by inducing a ground out with Wildcats on first and second. After walking his sixth hitter of the day with two outs in the seventh to put runners on first and second, he gave way to Alex Perry, who came on put an end to the threat with a strikeout. Perry then worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his first career save, putting an exclamation point on SHU's second shutout victory since the beginning of the 2015 season.
Catcher Jake Friar drove in the eventual game-winning run in the second on an infield single in what was part of a career-day for the junior catcher, as he registered the first three hit game of his career. He was the lone player with multiple hits in the opener, and he also threw out two runners trying to steal.
It was Zack Short who came into score on Frair's single. He had led off the frame with a single before advancing to third on Keith Klebart's double. Friar's single followed a strikeout and moved Klebart up to third for PJ DeFilippo, who would drive him in with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Villanova starter Mike Sgaramella produced a solid 6.2 innings of work, matching Sostarich's seven strikeouts and giving up seven hits that led to the two runs. Sal Fradella worked a perfect 1.1 innings before Jason Applegate came on for the scoreless ninth.
Two errors in the bottom of the tenth inning would cost Sacred Heart an opportunity for the sweep. After Adam Goss walked with one out, a throwing error gave Villanova runners on second and third, leading to SHU deciding to intentionally walk the next hitter to load the bases. Reliever Baylor Sundahl induced a ground ball, but yet another throwing error allowed the game-winning run to come home.
Sundahl had retired seven straight hitters prior to the tenth inning walk. The lone hit he gave up came with two outs in the seventh after he had hit a batter, giving Villanova the opportunity to retake a lead with two runners on. Sundahl got out of that jam with one of his four strikeouts and would go on to pitch two consecutive 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and ninth.
Sundahl relieved Jason Foley, who went the first six innings limiting the Wildcats to just two runs on six hits. He struck out six and walked just one in what was part of a stellar performance by the SHU pitching staff.
The Sacred Heart offense could manage just five hits in game two, with Short collecting two of them, including tying the game at two with an RBI single in the seventh. That base hit scored Jayson Sullivan, who had just stolen second base and who had also played a part in the game's first run. That came in the first inning courtesy of the execution of a double steal by Jesus Medina and Sullivan, who had back-to-back singles with one out. During the next at bat, Sullivan broke early for second, drawing a throw to second from the pitcher that allowed Medina to go home for the early 1-0 advantage.
Nova came back in the second, taking advantage of Eric Lowe's one out walk. He then stole second with two outs before coming around on Zander Retamer's RBI single.
Following six 1-2-3 innings in the next seven at bats for both teams, the Wildcats finally managed to break through in the sixth. Todd Czinege led off with a double and would score on Max Beerman's two out single.
After SHU tied it in the seventh and Villanova failed to take advantage of its scoring opportunity in the bottom half, it was the Pioneers who had the best chance to score a third run before the eventual game-winner. A wild pitch on a third strike allowed Victor Sorrento to reach base, and he attempted to make the Wildcats pay by stealing second and third with one out. Woody Bryson buckled down though, forcing a pop up to shortstop in the next at bat before sending the game to the bottom half with a strikeout.
Following a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth, again Sacred Heart threatened in the tenth. This time it came with two outs, as Perry singled and Ted Shaw walked, but again it was Bryson escaping with a punch out.
Those were two of his four strikeouts in his two innings of work, as he picked up the win. Trevino Rodriguez and Ryan Doty each provided a scoreless inning of relief to get the ball to him. Kagan Richardson started the game and went six strong, giving up just three hits and the two runs.