NO. 5 HAWKS OUTLASTS NO. 6 MANHATTAN IN WILD MAAC CHAMPIONSHIP AFFAIR
LAKEWOOD, N.J. – In a contest that featured a combined 15 runs on 33 hits and 13 total pitchers over the course of a five hour and 10 minute game, which was suspended for nearly 12 hours due to heavy fog, the fifth-seeded Monmouth University baseball team outlasted sixth-seeded Manhattan, 8-7, in 15 innings, Friday morning in a MAAC Championship elimination game, held at FirstEnergy Park. Junior catcher Kyle Perry (Toms River, N.J./Toms River South) drove in Joe Bamford (Washington, N.J./Warren Hills Regional [Northampton C.C.]) with one out in the 15th to keep the Hawks’ season alive and advance to take on Quinnipiac in the second elimination game of the tournament.
Bamford worked a walk with one out in the 15th and moved to second on Jon Guida’s (Martinsville, N.J./Bridgewater Raritan) single to right. Bamford moved up to third on a wild pitch by reliever Chris Liquori which set up Perry’s infield chopper, plating Bamford for the walk-off. Sophomore Anthony Ciavarella (Phillpsburg, N.J./Phillipsburg) earned the victory for the Blue and White, tossing two perfect innings out of the pen.
The two teams exchanged opportunities in extras, as Manhattan’s Brendan Slattery and Christian Santisteban each connected on one-out singles in the 12th and after reliever T.J. Hunt (Wykoff, N.J./Ramapo) got Jason Patnick to fly out to right, Joe McClennan drove a pitch up the middle to plate Slattery with the go-ahead run.
Robbie Alessandrine (Sewell, N.J./Gloucester Catholic) started the Monmouth 11th with a single to right and moved to second on a Steve Wilgus (Woolwich, N.J./Gloucester Catholic) single. Jake Gronsky (Danville, Pa./Danville Area) laced a one-out double to right center field bringing in Alessandrine for the tying run, while Wilgus tried to score from first but Manhattan’s relay beat the junior home to extend the game.
The Hawks looked to end it in the 14th when Alessandrine worked an eight-pitch walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Cary Jacobson (Los Angeles, Calif./Palisades). Wilgus nearly beat out an infield single, which advanced Alessandrine to third, but Manhattan’s Casey Meyers got Craig Sweeney (Middletown, N.J./Middletown South) to ground out to end the threat.
The Blue and White threatened in the bottom of the 11th as Bamford hustled a base hit to left into a two-out double. After a wild pitch moved the senior to third, Guida worked a walk bringing up Perry who grounded out to short on the first pitch to end the inning.
Prior to the game being suspended due to fog on Friday night, Monmouth grabbed a 6-1 lead behind eight strong innings from junior Chris McKenna (Pine Beach, N.J./Toms River South), who allowed one run on five hits, striking out four. Manhattan stormed back, scoring five in the ninth inning to tie the game and force extras.
After two perfect innings on the hill, McKenna pitched himself into a jam in the third, walking Andrew Gorecki who advanced to third on a single by Mikey Miranda. Yoandry Galan laid down a bunt towards the first base line that McKenna pounced on and flipped to catcher Kyle Perry (Toms River, N.J./Toms River South) at home who hung on to put out Gorecki trying to squeeze. McKenna then induced back-to-back pop ups to keep the game scoreless.
Manhattan broke the ice the following inning as Slattery opened the frame with a single to left and following a walk to Santisteban, the Jaspers loaded the bases on a bunt single by Patnick. A batter later, Patnick plated the game’s first run with a sacrifice fly to center.
Wilgus singled to start off the sixth and moved to second on one-out single by Craig Sweeny (Middletown, N.J./Middletown South). After Danny Avella (Matawan, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) went down swinging, Bamford worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. With at bat, Manhattan’s starter Joe Jacques delivered a wild pitch, plating Wilgus, to even the score at 1-1.
The Blue and White scored four runs in the seventh on two of hits, while using the benefit of a pair of hit batsmen. Alessandrine and Connor White (Wall, N.J./Wall) worked back-to-back walks followed by Wilgus who connected on a single to center. Matt Simonetti enter the game in relief for Manhattan and proceeded to plunk both Jake Gronsky (Danville, Pa./Danville Area) and Sweeney, pushing MU ahead 3-1. After the another pitching change for the Jaspers, Bamford connected on a two-run single down the right field line to give the Hawks a 5-1 advantage. Monmouth added a run in the eighth on Wilgus’ double to center field, chasing in Perry who singled to start the inning.
In the ninth, Manhattan loaded the bases on reliever Stephen Frey (Washingtonville, N.Y./Washingtonville) and Evan Brown walked to force in a run to bring the Jaspers within four. Jose Carrera hit a fly ball to short left center that was lost in the fog and fell in, allowing two runs to score and make it 6-4. Slattery followed and went the other way, singling through the right side to plate a pair and tie the game at six. Santisteban connected on a single to left but Bamford cut down Slattery, the go ahead run, at home to enter the bottom half of the ninth knotted at 6-6.
Bamford pushed a bunt single up the third base line with two down in the ninth, and after walks to Guida and Perry, Alessandrine struck out to end the frame.
Wilgus, Bamford, and Perry each finished the game with four hits each, while Gronsky contributed a trio of hits that drove in a pair. Hunt started the suspended game and threw 2.2 innings, allowing a run on four hits, while striking out four, while Jeff Paglione (Mantua, N.J./Gloucester Catholic) worked a scoreless 1.1 frames.
The Hawks advance to take on Quinnipiac immediately in Lakewood in another MAAC Tournament elimination game.