NORWICH, Conn. – Trailing 4-3 entering the top of the ninth, the Sacred Heart baseball team rallied for the second time in four days, scoring two runs, and Dan Wertz completed the ninth to cap 5.1 innings of hitless relief, securing the Sacred Heart baseball program's fourth ever Northeast Conference Championship with a 5-4 victory over top-seeded and defending champion Bryant at Dodd Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Jayson Sullivan began the championship rally with a leadoff triple down the left field line. This set the stage for Tournament MVP Jesus Medina, who tied the game with a single over the drawn-in infield. Despite an out in the next at bat, Medina was able to move up to second on a wild pitch before Victor Sorrento came to the plate with a chance for the go-ahead base knock. The junior delivered, roping a single up the middle to score Medina standing up. PJ DeFIlippo singled to try and extend the frame for insurance, but Bryant was able to keep the score at 5-4 entering the bottom of the ninth.
Wertz would not need the insurance, sitting down the Bulldogs 1-2-3 to setting off the Championship celebration. After pitching two innings against Bryant on Saturday giving up four earned runs on six hits, the senior came back with the dominant 5.1 innings, in which he allowed just three base runners, none of which got into scoring position. Wertz relieved starter Robbie Maguire, who went the first 3.2 scoreless before allowing four runs, three of which were earned, in his 3.2 innings. He gave up eight hits and struck out three while walking just one.
Medina led the SHU offense that outhit the Bulldogs 13-8, finishing 3-5 with two runs and the game-tying RBI. DeFilippo also went 3-5 and added a RBI. Sullivan was the lone other Pioneer with two hits.
Bryant (29-25) had the first major opportunity of the ball game, advancing runners to first and third with two away in the bottom of the first. Brandon Bingel singled with one away and after moving to second on a fielder's choice, the inning was kept alive on an infield single that All-Tournament selection Zack Short dove to knock down to keep Bingel at third. This proved important, as Maguire beared down and escaped with a first pitch swinging foul out.
The Pioneers came back with the exact same situation in the top of the second, and Flint came through, driving in the first run of the game, unearned, by singling to left center. The first two batters struck out, but Shaw kept the frame alive with a first-pitch swinging single. He then stole second before an error on a potential inning ending groundout kept the rally alive for Flint.
For the second straight inning, the Bulldogs moved runners to first and third with two outs, and again Maguire got out of it. Zach Wood singled with one out and made it to third with on a two-out single by Dan Cellucci. Once more, this inning ended like the first, with a foul out on a 2-0 pitch.
Just as Bryant had similar at bats in back to back innings, so too did SHU in the second and third. Medina singled with one away but that was negated when he was caught stealing. Short came back to work a two out walk though, and Sorrento followed with a walk of his own. This gave DeFilippo an opportunity with runners in scoring position, and he delivered a RBI single to double the Sacred Heart lead 2-0. The Pioneers tried to rally with two outs again in the fourth, with Byram getting hit by a pitch with two outs and Sullivan singling, but Bryant reliever James Davitt was able to bounce back and induce a groundout to end the threat.
In that decisive fourth, Bryant scored all four of its runs with two outs. A one out walk and ensuing full count single by Wood put runners on first and second before a wild pitch allowed each to advance one base. Maguire was nearly able to keep the 2-0 lead in tact after getting the second out on a strikeout, but a wild pitch brought home the first run home. Cellucci then unleashed the first of three straight two-out hits, singling to right field to tie the ball game. Cole Fabio moved him up to third on a single and reached second himself on an error. This proved costly in the next at bat when Bingel drilled a single off the shortstop's glove, allowing both Cellucci and Fabio to cross home for first Bulldog lead of the ball game. This ended SHU starter Robbie Maguire's day, as Wertz came on retire the final out despite a balk.
Neither team had a runner reach scoring position from there until the top of the seventh when Zack Short double down the right field line. That knock provided crucial, as it scored Medina to cut the lead to just one, 4-3. Medina had singled with one out. Short batted 6-16 with seven RBI's, four runs scored, and two home runs in the tournament.
In addition to Medina, Sullivan, and Short, James Cooksey and Jason Foley were also selected to the All-Tournament after throwing nine innings of two hit baseball in Sacred Heart's first two wins of the tournament. Cooksey allowed just two hits and one earned run in the 3-1 win over Wagner on Thursday, while Foley threw a shutout in the 10-0 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday, going the first 5.2 innings perfect. Medina finished the four games 8-18 with six runs scored and two RBI's, and pitched seven innings in earning the loss to Bryant on Friday, scattering just three hits en route to one earned. Short batted 6-16 with seven RBI's, four runs scored, and two home runs. His two home runs in Friday's tied a tournament win, while his four hits and five RBI's were both one shy of tying a record. DeFilippo went 7-15 in his first career tournament appearance, driving in two runs.
Sacred Heart ends the regular season at 23-30-1, and will await its NCAA Regional destination, which will be announced tomorrow at 12 pm on ESPNU.