2012 NEC Baseball Standings including contests through 3/20/2012
||Central Conn. St.
||Mount St. Mary’s
The Sacred Heart University baseball team finished their four-game weekend series against in-state/Northeast Conference rival Central Connecticut State University at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport with a split in Saturday’s doubleheader and a loss in Sunday’s finale.
Following Friday’s 9-0 win, Sacred Heart (3-12, 2-2 NEC) rode the left arm of sophomore starter Nick Leiningen to an 8-3 Game 1 victory.
Nick Leiningen's complete game effort gave SHU a 2-0 series lead.
Leiningen, last year’s NEC Rookie of the Year, threw a complete game, allowing four hits and two earned runs over seven innings for his first win of the season.
“That’s what [Leiningen’s] been doing since the beginning of last season,” said Sacred Heart head coach Nick Giaquinto, “keeping guys off balance. He’s been a heck of a pitcher for us.”
Leiningen was supported by eight Pioneer runs, coming in three multiple-run innings.
Sacred Heart opened the scoring with a three-run bottom of the first off Central Connecticut (6-7, 2-2) freshman starter Cody Brown. The leadoff man, senior second baseman Hunter Phillips, singled to center. With one out, junior shortstop John Murphy was hit by a pitch and sophomore left fielder Connor McEvoy singled, loading the bases. Senior first baseman Rob Griffith hit a sac fly to center, scoring Phillips, and sophomore designated hitter Dan Perez walked to load the bases again. The next batter, freshman third baseman Kenny Byram, singled up the middle for two RBIs and a 3-0 Pioneer lead.
Sacred Heart struck again in the third when Griffith reached on an error by Blue Devil sophomore shortstop Anthony Turgeon, stole second, and advanced to third on a Brown balk. Perez singled Griffith home and scored two batters later on an error by Central Connecticut junior first baseman Mike Washburn, giving the Pioneers a 5-0 advantage.
The Blue Devils would get their only runs off Leiningen in the next half inning. After a single and a double, Turgeon brought home the first Blue Devil run with a sac fly. The second run came across on a Phillips error and Leiningen promptly walked the next two batters, two of his three free passes on the day, loading the bases. Central Connecticut sophomore second baseman Josh Ingham plated the third run with a sac fly, cutting the deficit to two runs. Leiningen escaped further damage with a ground ball and, like his counterpart Brown, would cruise the rest of the way.
Sacred Heart would add three runs in the sixth off Central Connecticut sophomore relief pitcher Tom Coughlin with a RBI single by McEvoy and a two-RBI single off the bat of freshman Matt Charmello, putting the game out of reach.
As it happens in baseball, Game 2 of Saturday’s double dip would be quite different.
Phillips, Murphy, Griffith, Byram, and senior catcher Rocco Gondek would all make errors – leading to six unearned runs and a 7-0 defeat.
Sophomore righty Robbie Maguire got the start for the Pioneers, going 4.2 innings and only yielding two hits. However, shoddy defense and four walks resulted in Maguire giving up five runs; one earned, and kept him searching for his first win of the season.
The bats were quieted by Blue Devil junior starter Jack Greenhouse, who went the distance while allowing just six base runners. Freshman center fielder Keaton Flint reached twice for Sacred Heart, with a single and a walk.
“The first game [on Saturday] we came out swinging,” said Griffith, who leads the team with two home runs and 10 RBI. “The confidence was there and we felt good. In the second game, [Greenhouse] kept us guessing and on our front foot. He pitched well.”
Senior 1B Rob Griffith is back from injury and already has 10 RBI.
Looking to secure the season series, Sacred Heart took the field in front of 180 on a sunny day in Bridgeport, but fell 7-4.
Central Connecticut struck first off Pioneer sophomore starter Kody Kerski. In the second, with runners on second and third and one out, Kerski threw a wild pitch past sophomore catcher Derick Horn for the game’s first run. Two batters later, Blue Devil senior catcher A.J. Lowers hit a RBI single past Byram for a 2-0 Central Connecticut advantage.
The Blue Devils extended their lead in the third when sophomore right fielder J.P. Sportman hit a solo shot to left and added two more in the fourth with a Lowers RBI double and an Ingham RBI single, giving Central Connecticut a 5-0 lead.
The Pioneers would cut the lead by two in the bottom half of the fourth when Horn plated Griffith and McEvoy, who led off the inning with singles, with a two out, two RBI double to center.
After the seventh inning stretch, Sacred Heart reduced the Central Connecticut lead to 5-3. Murphy led off the inning with a double and Griffith singled him to third. Blue Devil skipper Charlie Hickey yanked freshman reliever Brendyn Karinchak, who would notch his first college victory in the game, and brought in Ingham from second to pitch. McEvoy reached on a Turgeon error, scoring Murphy, and junior right fielder Dave Boisture singled, loading the bases down by two with no outs.
Giaquinto went to his bench, sending Perez to pinch hit for Byram. Perez struck out on three pitches and Horn followed by hitting into a double play, ending the threat and leaving two on base.
The Pioneers stranded 13 runners on the afternoon, as they fell short by three.
13 LOB doomed the Pioneers.
“It was the deciding factor,” said Giaquinto of the baker’s dozen left on base. “The good news is we had a lot of guys on. What our chore is now, is to figure out how to get them in.”
Central Connecticut added one in the eighth when Lowers, who had three hits and three RBI on the day, hit a run scoring single off Sacred Heart junior reliever Liam Rafferty. Blue Devil junior first baseman Tyler McIntyre touched Rafferty up in the next inning with a solo jack to right for his second home run of the year and a 7-3 lead.
Although Rafferty, Kerski, who fell to 0-3, and junior John Hermanson each gave up runs, Pioneer pitching improved drastically in their return home. In the four games against Central Connecticut, Sacred Heart gave up 4.25 runs per game, a far cry from the 10.91 runs per game surrendered in the first 11 games.
“The pitchers competed all weekend,” said Giaquinto. “Everybody we threw out there left it on the field, so we’re happy about the way our staff has been competing. It’s another thing we can build on, but the pitching staff definitely has to be our strength.”
Pitching was a strength for the Blue Devils, as Ingham would earn his second save of the season with a three inning stint. He allowed one run in the ninth on a Griffith RBI single, but shut the door the rest of the way for a 7-4 win.
After missing four games due to injury, Griffith smacked four hits on the day and six in the series, raising his average to .294.
“I’m getting better,” said Griffith, who hit .400 in last year’s NCAA Tournament. “I’m doing rehab and working to keep healthy. It’s good to start swinging the bat.”
With the split, the Pioneers enter the NEC standings tied for fourth with Central Connecticut.
“We won the first two,” said Giaquinto, “so we’re disappointed, of course. But, Central’s a good team. Every weekend is a dog fight. Every weekend is a battle. You have to grind it out.”
The top four teams make the NEC Tournament, which Sacred Heart won last year, with the winner receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament field of 64.
“Overall,” said Griffith, “I think the confidence is building up. We know we can hit, we know we can field and pitch. Once we’re firing on all cylinders, we’ll be unstoppable.”
Mount St. Mary’s University (5-13, 0-4), last place in the NEC, comes to Harbor Yard for a four game weekend set, starting on Friday with a 3 p.m. first pitch. Saturday’s doubleheader begins at 1 p.m. and Sunday’s matinee at 11 a.m.
“We’re going to just stick with the process,” said Giaquinto. “Defensively, we know what we have to do, just keep plugging away and working hard at it. And, these guys do work hard at it. Pitching wise, the rotation for the weekend will be pretty similar to what we got this weekend because all the guys did pretty well.”
Before that, though, the University of Rhode Island visits Harbor Yard for a nonconference matchup on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
The University of Rhode Island visits Harbor Yard for a nonconference test on Wednesday at 3:30 pm.
“Rhode Island is a very good team,” said Giaquinto. “We got to bring our best Wednesday. It will be a good test.”