New Hampshire Hardball

Franklin Pierce 8, Molloy 0

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – In its first game on Saturday, the lineup of the Franklin Pierce University baseball team needed to rally twice to avoid the end of its season at the NCAA Championship East Regional. In the second game of the day at Mitchel Athletic Complex, the pitching staff decided it was its turn, and never let host and No. 20/23 nationally-ranked Molloy in the ballgame. Three pitchers combined on a nine-hit shutout, as the sixth-seeded Ravens forced the regional to its limit with an 8-0 win over the second-seeded Lions.


Franklin Pierce, which won Saturday’s first game 11-4, improved to 31-16 and forced a winner-take-all game against Molloy at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Molloy fell to 38-13, and will have its program-record season hanging in the balance for the first time on Sunday. Sunday’s winner will advance to meet East Region top seed Southern New Hampshire in a best-of-three Super Regional next weekend.

Less than 48 hours removed from his 104-pitch outing on Thursday evening, sophomore Kyle Roche (Braintree, Mass.) took the ball and served as opener for the Ravens on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander set the tone right from the beginning as he struck out two and worked around a one-out single in the bottom of the first.

The offense responded immediately, and capitalized on a pair of Molloy errors to plate two runs in the top of the second. Sophomore Hunter Wilichoski (Hamilton, Mass.) opened the frame with a double to left and moved to third while sophomore Jose Savinon (Brooklyn, N.Y.) reached on an error at third by sophomore Chris Einemann. The next ball found Einemann as well, and again he could not handle it cleanly, though this one would go in the books as an RBI infield single for junior Max Gebauer (Guilderland, N.Y.). With still nobody out, sophomore Ryan Lavelle (East Longmeadow, Mass.) laid down a sacrifice bunt, but everybody was safe and Savinon came home to score, as the Molloy pitcher, graduate student right-hander Billy Wildeman, threw the ball away.

From there, the story was missed opportunities for Molloy and gutsy pitching from the Ravens. Sophomore right-hander Andres Auffant (Center Moriches, N.Y.) had the outing of his career, as he took over for Roche to start the second, worked in and out of trouble, and posted six scoreless innings on 82 pitches (55 strikes). Auffant scattered five hits, walked two, hit a pair, and would eventually get credit for the win (2-3).

Molloy loaded the bases with one out in the second, but Auffant got a ground ball from senior Robby Keane, and the middle infield turned an inning-ending double play behind him. The Lions had two in scoring position with one out in the fourth, but sophomore second baseman Randy Flores (Brooklyn, N.Y.) cut down a run at the plate, and then Keane hit another inning-ending ground ball. It was a runner at second with no outs in the sixth, and also with one out in the seventh, but Auffant stranded him out there each time.

Meanwhile, the Franklin Pierce offense tacked on one run in the sixth and two in the seventh to create a little breathing room. In the sixth, Wilichoski reached on a one-out infield single and eventually scored on an RBI single to left by Lavelle. In the seventh, graduate student Charles Lebron (Brooklyn, N.Y.) clubbed an RBI double to left and Savinon knocked a run-scoring single through the left side.

Junior right-hander Ryan Mueller (Lynbrook, N.Y.) took over for Auffant after a leadoff single in the eighth and stranded men on base in both the eighth and the ninth to close the door. The Franklin Pierce offense tacked on three extraneous runs in the top of the ninth to create the 8-0 final.

Wildeman (8-2) threw 113 pitches (81 strikes) over 6.2 innings for Molloy. He allowed five runs (four earned) on 10 hits, walked one and struck out five.


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