May 22, 2009
NEW BRITAIN, CT - Nick Pulsonetti drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th inning as the Monmouth Hawks defeated the Sacred Heart baseball team to advance to the Championship game of the Northeast Conference Tournament and send the Pioneers into an elimination game against Wagner College on Saturday. The winner of the game, scheduled to start at noon, will face Monmouth in the title game.
Monmouth, 31-23, took a 5-0 lead off SHU starter Jared Balbach (Pine Bush, NY) after the first four innings. The Hawks scored two in the first on an RBI single by Chris Collazo and a Balbach wild pitch. They made it 3-0 in the third when Brett Holland doubled and later scored on a Pulsonetti sac fly. Josh Boyd drove home the fourth Monmouth run with a fielder's choice in the fourth, and Holland made it 5-0 when he brought home shortstop Jamie Rosenkranz with a squeeze bunt.
Meanwhile, Monmouth starter Ryan Buch cruised through the first four innings, allowing just a third-inning single by Hunter Phillips (Monroe, CT).
The Pioneers, 28-26-1, finally got on the board in the fifth when Jeff Heppner (Aqubogue, NY) led off with a walk, went to second on a wild pitch and third on a single by Paul Schmidt (Amityville, NY). Freshman Mike Olszyk (Hamden, CT) drove home Heppner with a single to left but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double for the first out. Buch retired the next two hitters to keep his team in front, 5-1.
SHU got a pair of unearned runs in the sixth when Mike Drowne (S. Hadley, MA) reached on a throwing error and Phil Tantillo followed with an infield single. A Jeff Hanson single through the right side scored Drowne and sent Tantillo to third. Heppner drove in the second run with a fielder's choice grounder, making it 5-3.
The second-seeded Pioneers completed the comeback and took a 6-5 lead in the top of the eighth, finally chasing Buch from the game. Hanson led off with a single but was replaced on a fielder's choice grounder by Tyler Santos (Johnson City, NY). He went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a triple to right center by Heppner. Monmouth brought the infield in and Schmidt hit a ball right at first baseman Paul Bottigliaro who booted it for an error and allowed pinch runner Ryan Urso (Dorchester, MA) to score the tying run.
Schmidt then stole second and took third on a passed ball on ball four to Olszyk. Buch was lifted in favor of lefty reliever Nick McNamara. SHU head coach Nick Giaquinto brought in Robert Griffith as a pinch hitter and he lifted a sacrifice fly to right that scored Schmidt and gave the Pioneers the lead.
Monmouth got back-to-back singles from Collazo and Bottigliaro to lead off the bottom of the eighth, that put runners on the corners. That signaled the end of the game for Balbach and Olszyk came on in relief. David Jacob was the first batter he faced and he hit a ball to Santos at third who made a diving stop. He got up and made the throw home, trying to cut down the tying run, but Collazo slid in ahead of the tag to tie it at 6-6.
Olszyk got the next three in order to send the game to the ninth, and worked around a leadoff single by Holland in the ninth to send the contest to extra innings.
McNamara set down the Pioneers in order in the ninth and allowed just a one-out infield single by Frank Bainer in the 10th, keeping SHU off the board. Olszyk was equally as good in the 10th, setting down three straight Hawks.
SHU got a one-out double from Steve Tedesco in the 11th but he was stranded when Drowne grounded to third and Tantillo flied out.
In the bottom of the inning, Olszyk got the leadoff hitter to fly to right but then walked Holland, who promptly stole second. Olszyk struck out Ryan Terry but he reached, and Holland went to third, when swinging strike three went through the legs of catcher Frank Bainer for a passed ball. With runners on the corners and one out, Pulsonetti lofted a fly ball to left. Schmidt made the catch and fired the ball in, but Holland slid across the plate prior to the throw to give Monmouth the win.
Wagner eliminated Central Connecticut from the tournament in the first game of the day, 6-5 in ten innings.