SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Sacred Heart baseball team got 4.1 scoreless innings from its bullpen and threatened late with a bases loaded opportunity in the eight, but a three-run third inning ultimately prove to be the difference in a 3-0 loss at Bryant on Sunday afternoon at Conaty Park.
In a matchup between the top two teams in the Northeast Conference, Bryant clinched the series win and increases its cushion in the league standings to three a half games, moving to 16-2 in the conference and 33-8 overall. Although SHU loses for the fifth time in six games, falling to 13-6 in the NEC and 22-19 overall, the Pioneers still hold a three and a half game lead of their own over third place Central Connecticut State.
Entering the eighth inning without a hit, Sacred Heart finally got into the middle column thanks to Jake Friar's leadoff single off of Michael Marshall, who had just entered the game. Marshall would strikeout the next batter though before handing the ball off to Justin Snyder.
Snyder ran into some command issues, walking Ted Shaw for what was the first of two free passes in the frame. He was able to get the next hitter out but this time it was Zack Short working the count to load the bases and give the Pioneers their first runner to reach third on the day. With the tying run now on base, Victor Sorrento hit a ball in the gap between shortstop and third base that would have put SHU on the board if not for a heads up play by shortstop Dan Cellucci to narrowly get the force out at third.
After Alex Perry worked a 1-2-3 inning for Sacred Heart in the bottom of the eighth, Snyder came back out and struck out the side to give Bryant the series win with his seventh save of the season. That put an exclamation point on a combined one-hitter for the Bulldogs, who also struck out 12 against five walks and a hit by pitch.
It began with Brandon Bingel, who went the first 5.2 innings and allowed just four base runners on three walks and a hit by pitch. He was perfect through three before walking the leadoff hitter in the fourth and did not allow a runner to reach scoring position until there were two outs in the fifth. That is when he was lifted for Logan Lessard, who got out of Bryant's first jam of the afternoon and would go on to strikeout the side in the seventh.
Jeff Stoddard had a solid performance as well, throwing 3.1 innings of scoreless relief. He relieved starter John Sostarich with two outs in the fourth, and after stranding runners on second and third, proceeded to give up just three hits while striking out two and walking one.
Sostarich could just not work around control issues, as he walked six and gave up four hits in his 3.2 innings. He managed to strand two runners in the first two frames, but it finally caught up to him in the third.
The leadoff batter was retired but Nick Angeli began the only run-producing inning of the game with a one-out walk. Robby Rinn followed that with a single and Matt Albanese drew a base on balls of his own to load the bases. Sostarich looked to get out of the situation unscathed with a double play ball, but Zach Wood beat it out to keep the frame alive for Buck McCarthy. This proved vital when McCarthy produced the biggest base knock of the afternoon, doubling down the left field line to make it a 3-0 game and cap the scoring.
Pioneer pitchers held Bryant to just seven hits, four of which were by Angelini and McCarthy, who both had two each and also walked. Matt Albanese had three of the Bulldogs' seven walks on the day.
Shaw had three walks of his own and Short added the other two. Friar's hit in the eighth was his fifth of the weekend, which tied him with Sorrento to led all SHU hitters.
The end of a nine-game road trip for Sacred Heart, the Pioneers return home to host Mount St. Mary's for the first of four contests on Friday at 3 pm. The series has been relocated to New Britain Stadium in New Britain, Conn.