NORWICH, Conn.— The Sacred Heart baseball team was unable to hold the second seeded CCSU offense as the Blue Devils took the Northeast Conference Championship, 6-3, on Sunday afternoon at Dodd Stadium. SHU ended the season reaching its ninth straight NEC Tournament and eighth title game in the last nine seasons.
With the Pioneers season coming to a close, it brought an end legendary head coach Nick Giaquinto 29-year career with at the helm of the SHU baseball program. Giaquinto finished his career 631-752-3, with six conference championships, including four NEC Titles (2006, 2011, 2012, 2015) and seven NCAA regional appearances.
Senior Ted Shaw reached the 200-career hit milestone in the fifth inning of today's game. Shaw became the ninth Pioneer in program history to reach the mark.
Riding the momentum from last night's walk off win, the Pioneers would plate the first run of the game in the first as senior Keith Klebart crossed the dish on a balk by Blue Devils starter Ron Grant with runners on first and third.
CCSU was quick to answer in the bottom half of the first as they loaded the bases on three straight walks by sophomore Nick Rubino to lead off the inning. TT Bowens drove in the first run of the game on his line drive single to left field. Buddy Dewaine followed up with a RBI fielder's choice to take the lead 2-1. Tyler Coleman added a RBI single up the middle in the second inning to push the lead to 3-1.
The Pioneers looked to rally in the top of the fourth inning as PJ DeFilippo singled to center field to start the frame. Junior Anthony Capozziello worked a walk against Grant to put runners on first and second with no outs. The Blue Devils caught a break as junior Alex Perry popped up the sacrifice bunt attempt to the catcher Nick Garland. Junior Cody Doyle followed up with a single through the left side, DeFilippo was waved home but Buddy Dewaine came up with the big time throw in left field to to nail him at the plate for the second out. Senior captain Jake Friar went first pitch swining the next at bat to cut the deficit to one at 3-2.
That momentum carried over as Shaw led off the fifth inning with his 200th career hit. Freshman Elijah Brown followed that up with a walk. They both advanced into scoring position on a balk by reliever Kyle Anderson. Klebart the next batter, reached on a single to left field, but no runners advanced on the play. DeFilippo then grounded into a fielder's choice to second, scoring Shaw to tie the game at 3-3.
CCSU retook the lead in the bottom half of the sixth inning as Nick Garland drove an RBI single to center field, scoring Bowens from second. Garland was gunned down by Doyle trying to stretch it into a double.
Sacred Heart looked to answer in the top of the sixth, getting runners on first and third with one out. Tom Curtin got Shaw to groundout into a double play to end the frame. Coleman extended the lead to 5-3 with his RBI single in the sixth inning. Junior James Taubl came on in relief for the Pioneers after seven strong innings last night to hold the Blue Devils offense. He surrendered one run on Franklin Jennings RBI single to left center field in the bottom of the seventh in an inning and a third of work.
The Pioneers hoped to rally in the top of the eighth inning as they loaded the bases with no outs. Curtin then got Friar to strikeout swinging for the first out and freshman Stephen Thibault to foul out to right field. The Blue Devils made the call to closer Jared Gallagher, who threw the breaking ball for a called third strike against Shaw to escape the inning. Sophomore Baylor Sundahl who started yesterday's game for SHU, pitched a scoreless inning in relief in the bottom half of the eighth inning.
Faced with one final rally attempt in the top of the ninth inning, SHU looked to repeat its heroics from last night as Brown kicked things off with a walk. Klebart followed that with a single to left field. Gallagher was able to induce a 5-4-3 double play to DeFilippo to reach two outs and then strikeout Capozziello to clinch the NEC title for the Blue Devils.
The Blue Devils outhit the Pioneers 10-8 in the game, while SHU left 11 runners on base to the CCSU eight.
Shaw, Klebart and Taubl were honored with all-tournament honors for their performances in the tournament. Klebart earned the honor for the second time in his career.
The Pioneers finish the 2017 season 23-36 overall, 14-13 NEC.