May 23, 2009
NEW BRITAIN, CT - The Sacred Heart baseball team used a big comeback to reach the Northeast Conference title game, then used that emotion to build a 7-0 lead in the first three innings. The Pioneers ran out of gas, however, and fell to a very talented Monmouth team 14-8 Saturday afternoon.
Monmouth, the pre-season NEC favorites, used a five-run fourth and a four-run sixth to take a 10-7 lead that the Pioneers couldn't recover from. Monmouth will advance to the NCAA Tournament at a location to be announced on Monday.
SHU, which finishes the season with a Division I high 29 wins, scored three times in the first inning thanks to a two-run double by senior Jeff Hanson (Woodstock, NY) and an RBI fielders choice from freshman Robert Griffith (Lake Ronkonkoma, NY).
The Pioneers made it 5-0 in the second, and chased Monmouth starter Kyle Breese, on RBI base hits from Mike Drowne (S. Hadley, MA) and Phil Tantillo (Blue Point, NY). They stretched it to 7-0 in the third when Griffith singled, went to second on a wild pitch by reliever Nick Vallillo, third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on another wild pitch. Paul Schmidt (Amityville, NY) tripled to right and signaled the end of the game for Vallillo. It turned out to be the worst thing to happen to the Pioneers.
Freshman Matt Goitz, who had thrown just three innings all season, came out of the pen. He hit Steve Tedesco, the first batter he faced, and gave up a sacrifice fly to Drowne. From that point on he shut the Pioneers down. He gave up a few scattered hits, but threw 4 1/3 innings and allowed just an unearned run, and was named to the All-Tournament team for his efforts.
In the meantime, SHU starter Matt Fitton (Lebanon, CT) gave up five hits in the first two innings but managed to keep the Hawks off the board. Monmouth finally got to him in the third with a pair of hits to start the frame and sacrifice fly from David Jacob to cut the lead to 7-1.
The Monmouth bats exploded on Fitton, ripping out five hits and scoring five times to cut the lead to 7-6. Nick Pulsonetti drove in two with a single, and Jacob another with a double. Fitton left with two outs in the inning and Chris Barthel (Northford, CT) came on to get the final out.
After Barthel got the Hawks in order in the fifth hits and a Pioneer error to score four times. Second baseman Chris Collazo, who was named the Tournament MVP, drove home one with a single and Jacob yet another with a triple. Two unearned runs scored when, with two outs and Jacob on third, an error by SHU third baseman Tyler Santos with Jamie Rosenkranz batting scored a run. The second unearned tally crossed when Jared Balbach came on in relief and gave up a double to the first man he faced, Bobby Dombrowski, that scored Rosenkranz and gave Monmouth a 10-7 lead.
The Pioneers got one back in the top of the seventh when Tedesco and Tantillo singled with two outs. Tedesco scored on a throwing error by Rosenkranz that made it 10-8.
Pulsonetti got the run right back for the Hawks when he smacked a ball to deep left center that banged off the wall as Drowne went up to try to make the catch. It bounded away from him and Pulsonetti rounded the bases with an inside the park home run.
Thoughts of a second SHU comeback of the day were dashed when the Hawks scored three more times, two of them on a Josh Boyd single, to make it 14-8.
At the conclusion of the game, Hanson, Tedesco, and junior catcher Jeff Heppner were all named to the All-Tournament team.
The loss ended a record-breaking offensive year for the Pioneers. They set new school records for runs scored, hits, doubles and home runs.