NORWICH, Conn.— The fourth-seeded Sacred Heart baseball team battled all nine innings to take home the 3-2 victory over the top seed, Bryant University in the opening game of the Northeast Conference tournament at Dodd Stadium. The Bulldogs (29-25) threatened with the tying and go-ahead run on base with no outs but the Pioneers (22-34) were able to shut the door in dramatic fashion.
Redshirt junior PJ DeFilippo led the Pioneers at the plate with his 21st multi-hit game of the season. Including a big leadoff home run in the top of the fourth inning to give SHU the early lead it never relinquished. Sophomore Brent Teller tied a career-high with seven strong innings for the opening victory. He allowed just one earned run on four hits while striking out three.
Pitching was king to lead off the game as Teller only yielded one hit through three innings of work. Bulldogs starter James Karnichack looked equally dominant, striking out five Pioneers through the first three frames. With the game deadlocked at zero heading into the fourth, DeFilippo went first pitch swinging against Karinchack, delivering the solo shot over the left field fence. DeFilippo, a two-time all-tournament team selection now has six career runs batted in at the tournament.
Bryant threatened in the bottom half of the inning with two runners on with one out, Teller got the pop out to Chris Wright before striking out Gaby Cruz to escape the jam. The pitching duel continued as both starters held both offenses in check. Karinchack with 11 strikeouts and Teller held the regular season champs to just two hits through six.
In the top of the seventh, junior Cody Doyle hit a one-out laser to third baseman Jacob Marotta who mishandled the ball and sailed it over Wright's head allowing Doyle to reach second base. Nathan Wrighter came on in relief of Karinchack and gave up a walk to freshman Stephen Thibault giving SHU two runners on for just the second time in the game. Senior Ted Shaw then hit a fielder's choice up the middle with Cole Fabio making the backhanded stop to second for the first out. Jimmy Titus overthrew first base trying to turn two, with the ball hoping into the stands. The errant throw allowed both Doyle and Thibault score on the play giving SHU the 3-0 lead.
The Bulldogs finally got on the board in the bottom of the seventh as Chris Wright lifted the 2-2 offering from Teller over the right field fence to put the game at 3-1. The Bulldogs added another run as DeFilippo mishandled the chopper by Fabio, scoring Tyler Panno from third base to put the score at 3-2. Teller got Nick Angelini to line out to Keith Klebart in left field to escape the jam to end his afternoon.
Sophomore Jackson Aldam relieved Teller in the bottom of the eighth inning, pitching a one, two, three frame to hold the score at 3-2. SHU looked for some insurance runs in the top of the ninth as Doyle lead off the inning with a hit by pitch. He advanced to second on the sacrifice bunt by Thibault. The Bulldogs put Shaw on with the intentional walk to put the force on any base. Freshman Elijah Brown smacked a deep fly to center field but Angelini was able to run it down for the second out. Wrighter got Klebart to chase on the 3-2 pitch to end the inning.
Cruz led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a double into the gap in right center field. Aldam then ran the 1-0 pitch in on Panno, putting runners on with no outs. Head Coach Nick Giaquinto made the call to sophomore Baylor Sundahl, who got James Ciliento to strikeout swinging on his third failed bunt attempt for the first out. Sundahl rung up Jacob Marotta looking at the 1-2 fastball on the inside corner for the second out. He proceeded to get Fabio to chase the 1-2 cutter to strikeout the side to give SHU the game one victory.
The Pioneers will take on the winner of the second-seed CCSU and third-seed Wagner tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m.