(Norwich, CT) – Nick Leiningen (Millwood, NY) threw a complete game shutout, as the Sacred Heart University Pioneers advanced to Northeast Conference Baseball Championship game for the fourth straight year with a 6-0 win over the Monmouth Hawks Friday at Dodd Stadium.
The Pioneers will have the chance tomorrow at 3:30 pm to defend their title on the same field where they won the NEC Championship last year against the winner of Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickenson, who play in the loser's bracket of the double-elimination tournament at 12:00 pm.
Leiningen pitched brilliantly, allowing five hits and one walk with five strikeouts. His dominance started emphatically, as he struck out the side in the first inning. He finished with style as well, striking out Danny Avella to end the ballgame.
SHU took the lead in the second, grinding out two runs. Hunter Phillips (Monroe, CT) lined an infield single off the third base bag, and Conor McEvoy (Watertown, CT) worked a 12-pitch walk to put two runners on for Derick Horn (Valatie, NY). The sophomore catcher gave SHU the lead, lining an RBI single into left-centerfield. Kenny Byram (Ponte Verde, FL) drove in the second run, lining a two-out single up the middle after falling behind in the count 1-2.
The Pioneers put the pressure on the Hawks defense to add another in the fourth. McEvoy singled to lead off the inning. With one out and the hit-and-run on, Troy Scribner (Washington Depot, CT) hit a groundball to the shortstop John Guida. With his momentum taking him towards second as he went to cover, he bobbled the ball and then fired it over the first baseman Owen Stewart's head in his haste, picking up two errors on the play to put runners on first and third. After Byram unsuccessfully attempted three times to bring home McEvoy on a safety squeeze, his dribbler down the third base line eventually did score him on an RBI groundout.
John Murphy (Seymour, CT) delivered two RBI singles to centerfield in the middle innings, driving in Dave Boisture (Highland Mills, NY) in the fifth and then bringing home Keaton Flint (Charlton, NY) in the sixth, who started a two-out rally with a walk. McEvoy added another in the ninth with, lining an RBI single through the drawn-in infield, finishing the game 2-4 with two runs and an RBI.
Like last year in the NEC tournament, Leiningen followed a complete game by Scribner with one of his own against Monmouth. Sacred Heart now has an opportunity to close out its third NEC title by repeating history with a win tomorrow.