BROOKLYN, N.Y.— The Sacred Heart baseball team held on for the 5-4 victory over LIU Brooklyn in the regular season finale on Saturday afternoon. The Pioneers (21-34, 14-13 NEC) completed the third straight win over the Blackbirds (22-28, 12-14 NEC) to clinch the series victory and secure a spot in its ninth straight Northeast Conference baseball tournament.
Sacred Heart's ninth straight appearance to the NEC tournament is longest active streak in the conference. The next closest team is Bryant, who has made five straight appearances. The fourth seed Pioneers will take on the one-seed Bulldogs in the opening round on Thursday at Dodd Stadium, game time will be 12:00 p.m.
SHU carried the momentum over from yesterday's doubleheader as senior Ted Shaw lined a double to left field to start the game. He scored three batters later on redshirt junior PJ DeFilippo's RBI single to left field. LIU got two runs back in the bottom half of the inning as Andrew Turner reached on a fielding error by freshman Stephen Thibault, scoring Charles Misiano to tie the game 1-1. Harrison Preschel gave the Blackbirds the 2-1 lead with his RBI single to right field.
After being blanked by LIU starter Jackson Svete in the second and third inning, the Pioneers heated up in the third thanks to their junior class as Anthony Capozziello led off the inning with a single up the middle. Capozziello then advanced to second on a wild pitch as classmate Dan Schock worked a walk. Alex Perry executed the sacrifice bunt to advance both runners to second and third. A second wild pitch by Svete allowed Capozziello to score from third base to tie the game at 2-2. Cody Doyle gave SHU the 3-2 lead on his sacrifice fly with Schock narrowly sliding under the tag from Preschel on the throw from Joe Mercadante in right field.
Junior James Taubl had a string of eight straight batters retired before Preshcel led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run over the left field fence. SHU regained the lead in the top of the fifth as Capozziello lifted the sacrifice fly to center field with the bases loaded to score Shaw. DeFilippo plated his second RBI of the game in the top of the seventh with his single up the middle giving the Pioneers the 5-3 lead.
LIU looked to rally in the bottom half of the inning as Misiano was hit by pitch and Dominic Paiotti walked with one man out. Sophomore Nick Rubino entered the game for Taubl and yielded a walk to Mercadante to load the bases. A 0-1 fastball by the southpaw went too far inside to hit the right-handed Turner for the RBI and putting the score at 5-4. Head coach Nick Giaquinto brought in sophomore Jackson Aldam who picked up the huge strikeout to Preschel and ground out to Luis Arias to strand the bases loaded.
Trouble loomed for the Pioneers in the bottom of the eighth inning as Joe Curcio led off the inning with a double, he later advanced to third on a groundout by Andrew Smith. Misiano worked the full count against Aldam but the lefty won the matchup getting Misiano to strikeout to escape the inning. SHU failed to get an insurance run in the top of the ninth as LIU brought in closer Mike Kreiger to put away the Pioneer bats.
Déjà vu seemed to appear again for the Pioneer faithful as Paiotti led off the bottom of the ninth with a double down the right field line. Giaquinto made the call for sophomore Brent Teller, the starter from Thursday's contest. Turner, the first batter after the change reached on an error by Elijah Brown, also advancing Paiotti to third base. Teller nailed the big strikeout to Preschel to get to two outs. He then got Arias to reach out in front of the 1-0 pitch, popping up to DeFilippo at third base to end the game.
Shaw, Brown and DeFilippo each recorded two hits in the game as the Pioneers were held to seven total. Taubl struck out five batters over six and third innings of work. Teller earned his second career save with the stellar ninth inning.
The Pioneers first round matchup against Bryant on Thursday, May 25 will be televised on NEC Front Row at 12:00 p.m. The two vs. three matchup featuring CCSU and Wagner will follow at 4:00 p.m.