New Hampshire Hardball

Franklin Pierce eliminated

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – The eighth-seeded Franklin Pierce University baseball team kept battling back from an initial 6-0 deficit after four innings, but could never completely close the gap and fourth-seeded Wilmington (Del.) ultimately prevailed in the back-and-forth affair with a 12-10 victory in an elimination game on the second day of the NCAA Division II East Regional.

Franklin Pierce completed its season with a 29-24 record.

Wilmington improved to 40-17, has won 40 games for the second time in program history, and advanced to the final round of the sub-regional, which is set for noon on Saturday. Wilmington will have to defeat NYIT twice to advance to next weekend’s Super Regional.

Wilmington, which had just avoided elimination by running up a 14-5 win over top seed and host Adelphi, kept the offense rolling to plate a run in the top of the first inning against Franklin Pierce. With one out, sophomore right fielder Quintin Ivy reached on an infield single, went first-to-third on a single to right by senior first baseman Kendall Small and scored on an RBI single to left by junior left fielder Eddie Nevins.

The Wildcats made it a party in the first-base dugout early on with four runs – only one of them earned – in the top of the second inning. With one out, freshman third baseman Brock Nowell dropped down a bunt single and wound up at third base as freshman third baseman Jethro Hurt (New York, N.Y.) threw the ball away. Nowell scored as freshman shortstop Derek Donastrong put a first-pitch single into right field. Senior center fielder Dakota Graham followed with a single to right, before Ivy reached on Hurt’s second error of the inning. A sacrifice fly by Small made it 3-0, before a double steal set the stage for Nevins, who pulled a two-run single through the left side of the infield.

Wilmington tacked on a run in the top of the fourth to push the lead out to 6-0. Graham led off with a single back through the middle, moved to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on an errant throw from the catcher on the same play, and scored on an RBI single to right by Ivy.

The Ravens would wake the bats up with a four-spot in the bottom of the fourth inning, to cut the gap to 6-4. Senior catcher Ural Forbes (Freeport, Bahamas) reached on an error leading off, before a five-pitch walk to junior first baseman Jonel Ozuna (New York, N.Y.) and a second-pitch single to left by senior second baseman Carmine Giordano (New Rochelle, N.Y.) loaded the bases with nobody out. Hurt cashed in a pair with a first-pitch flare into right-center field for a two-run single. Junior shortstop James Boria (Massapequa, N.Y.) followed with a sacrifice fly down the right-field line to make it 6-3. After a double deep into the left-field corner by freshman center fielder Joel Lara (Boston, Mass.) put runners at second and third, junior designated hitterDylan Jones (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) put the ball in play to the middle of the infield to drive in a run with a groundout.

Another run in the bottom of the sixth trimmed the lead down to a single run at 6-5. With one out, Boria beat out an infield single on a ball to third base, moved to second on a wild pitch and then scored on a two-out, RBI single back through the middle by Jones.

Wilmington turned around and picked up a pair of insurance runs with a couple of long solo home runs in the top of the seventh inning to push the lead out to 8-5. With one out, junior designated hitter Brooks Ryan drove the ball over the fence deep in the power alley in left-center field for his fifth home run of the season. Later, with two outs, senior catcher Luke Johnson went just to the right of straightaway center field for his team-leading 13th home run of the season.

Franklin Pierce picked up two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but also failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity to tie the game. After a leadoff single to right-center by junior right fielder John Mead (Washington Township, N.J.), Forbes launched a moonshot of a home run to straightaway left field, his team-leading seventh of the season. Ozuna was next with a single to right, and then a walk to Giordano and a pinch-hit, bunt single by graduate student Harrison Smoske (Burlington, Mass.) loaded the bases with nobody out.

Wilmington would put on a full-on Houdini act from there to get out of the inning without the tying run scoring. Boria lifted a fly ball down the right-field line, which drifted into foul territory. Ivy made the catch on the run near the fence, then was able to return the ball to plate in time to retire Ozuna, who attempted to tag and score from third base. Small – who had taken over on the mound earlier in the inning – then struck out Lara on six pitches to strand the bases full.

Once again, Wilmington turned around and picked up some more insurance, this time with four runs in the top of the eighth to stretch the lead back out to 12-7. Donastorg reached on an error by Ozuna, and a walk to Ivy put runners at first and second. Small lined an RBI single to right field to make it 9-7 and then, after a wild pitch, Nevins singled through the left side of the infield to plate a pair. Nevins moved up on another wild pitch and later scored on a single into right field by senior second baseman Max Carney.

Three runs in the bottom of the eighth for Franklin Pierce made things interesting again, and cut the gap to 12-10. Jones led off with a walk, moved to second on a single through the right side by Roberto and scored on an RBI single back up the middle by Mead. Later, with the bases full and two outs, it appeared as if Small would escape further damage, as he got freshman third baseman Jake Miller (Waltham, Mass.) to pop up on the right side of the infield. However, the ball drifted on Carney, and he wound up dropping the ball, which allowed two runs to score.

Junior right-hander Ben Mallet (Athol, Mass.) and senior left-hander Evan Glew (North Andover, Mass.) hung a zero in the top of the ninth to keep things at 12-10, but Franklin Pierce could not complete its rally in the bottom half. Jones reached with a one-out single back up the middle, but it would be the final baserunner of the season for the Ravens, as Small was able to close things out from there.

Graduate student right-hander Ryan Covelle (Medford, Mass.) started, threw the opening 2.1 innings for Franklin Pierce and suffered the loss (7-6), as the Ravens battled all afternoon, but could never level the score. He was ultimately charged with five runs (two earned) on eight hits and struck out two.

For Wilmington, junior right-hander Dan Hyatt (10-1) opened the game with 105 pitches (72 strikes) over six innings of work. He allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits, walked two and struck out six while picking up the win. Small survived the final three innings to notch his second save of the season, after allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits, walking three and striking out three.

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