(Norwich, CT) – Rob Griffith (Lake Ronkonkoma, NY) hit a grand slam and Liam Rafferty (Westminster, MA) saved a win for John Hermanson (Milford, CT) by stranding the tying and winning runs on base in the ninth inning, as the Sacred Heart Pioneers beat the UCONN Huskies 5-4 Tuesday afternoon at Dodd Stadium.
Trailing 1-0 in the fifth, Griffith delivered the big swing that followed bunt hits by MJ Schifano (Monroe, NY) and Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA) and a walk to John Murphy (Seymour, CT). He drove a 2-1 pitch that towered over the left field wall to give Sacred Heart a 4-1 lead. That put Hermanson in position to improve to 2-0 on the year. He allowed just one run on two hits through six innings, striking out seven and walking two. He retired the final seven Huskies he faced.
SHU added a huge run in the sixth thanks to an error that extended the inning. Schifano reached first on Tom Verdi's error with two outs. JJ Edwards (Endwell, NY) followed a walk to Tedesco with a line-drive single to left to score Schifano with what proved to be the winning run. Edwards went 3-4 with an RBI on the day.
UCONN fought back with a run in the eighth on a wild pitch, then scored twice in the ninth to cut the deficit to one. The Huskies loaded the bases with nobody out, bringing Lafferty in for the tough save. He retired John Andreoli on an RBI fielder's choice and then struck out Nick Ahmed. However, Mike Nemeth singled in a run with two outs to keep the rally alive, making it 5-4. But with the tying and winning runs on, he retired UCONN cleanup hitter George Springer on a comebacker to the mound to finish the game.
"That's a very solid UCONN baseball team that's picked to win the Big East, so that's a feather in our cap," said head coach Nick Giaquinto. "To beat Mississippi State on Sunday and UCONN on Tuesday says a lot about the way our guys are getting ready to play and showing up and just playing hard."
With consecutive wins against college baseball powerhouses Mississippi State and UCONN, the Pioneers improve to 6-6 and begin NEC play with a four-game series at Monmouth beginning Friday at 3:00 p.m.