Baseball Clinches NEC Playoff Berth With Doubleheader Split at Mount
May 15, 2009
EMMITSBURG, MD - Junior Jared Balbach (Pine Bush, NY) threw his first career shutout in the opening game of a doubleheader as the Pioneer baseball team defeated Mount St. Mary's 6-0 and clinched a Northeast Conference playoff appearance Friday afternoon. The Mount won the second 5-4 on a homer in the bottom of the seventh by shortstop Jake Darr.
The win in the first game also established a new Division I record for the Pioneers with 27 victories. SHU is now 27-24-1 overall and in first place in the NEC at 16-9.
After three scoreless frames in the first game, junior Jeff Heppner gave the Pioneers a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a single that scored Phil Tantillo and Jeff Hanson. It was the fourth straight hit for the Pioneers off Mount starter Costa Kapothanasis.
The Pioneers scored four more times in the fifth on just two hits, thanks to three Mount errors. It started when third baseman Zack Helman dropped a popup, allowing Steve Tedesco to reach. He advanced to second on a ground out by Mike Drowne.
After Tantillo was hit by a pitch, Hanson ripped a double to score Tedesco. Tyler Santos drove home Tantillo with a single to left and Jeff Heppner plated another when he reached first on a play when Darr was charged with two errors - one for the play and one for an errant throw. Paul Schmidt drove home the final run of the inning with a fielder's choice grounder.
Balbach allowed just six hits in raising his record to 8-2 on the season. He struck out five and walked three.
In the second game, Drowne and Tantillo led off the first with back-to-back homers off starter Max Brittenham. After two more Pioneer hits in the inning, Brittenham retired the side without further damage. In fact, he got down right stingy, allowing just three more hits through the sixth inning.
Senior Ryan Lynch kept the Mountaineers off the board for the first four innings but ran into trouble in the fifth. Josh Winter singled and Joe Kavanaugh followed with a long homer to left center to tie the game at 2-2. He then gave up a single to Steve Benvenuto and Tommy Flynn sacrificed him to second. Bobby Fields ripped a double to left the scored Benvenuto and gave the Mountaineers their first lead of the series.
Chris Zaccherio came on in relief of Lynch and retired the next two batters.
Brittenham struck out MJ Schifano to start the seventh but Steve Tedesco singled to right center. Brittenham left in favor of Mount closer Mike Matta. Drowne greeted him with a single to center to put two on, and Tantillo tied the game with a single to left. Matta intentionally walked Hanson to load the bases and Tyler Santos made him pay when he beat out a potential double play grounder to score Drowne and give SHU a 4-3 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Flynn led off with a single and Fields sacrificed him to second. Darr then ripped a 2-1 Zaccherio pitch over the left centerfield wall to give the Mount the win and keep its NEC playoff hopes alive.
The Mount is now 14-11 in the NEC and battling it out with Central Connecticut for the fourth seed in the tournament.
The two teams will complete the four-game series tomorrow with a game starting at 10 AM.