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February 25, 2012

Ninth-inning rally stuns Bulldogs

BULLDOGS GIVE UP ONE-RUN LEAD IN THE NINTH, LOSE 5-4 

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Leading by a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Bryant University baseball team committed two infield throwing errors that allowed Florida Gulf Coast University to tie the game and eventually win the game, 5-4, on a sacrifice fly Friday evening at Swanson Stadium.

Friday's series opener had gone exactly the way the Bulldogs (2-2) had hoped it could have gone until the final inning. Bryant had overcome deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to take a 4-3 lead into the final frame but the Bulldogs would not be able to hold off the Eagles (2-3).

Facing Bryant closer Salvatore Lisanti (Bronx, N.Y.), Michael Suchy worked a leadoff walk before sloppiness took over. Alex Diaz put Lisanti's first pitch in play in the form of a sac bunt but the Eagles got much more as Mike DelPonte's (Tewksbury, Mass.) throw got away, putting runners on second and third with no outs. The Bulldogs decided to intentionally walk Ryan Gebhart and the move appeared to pay off as Brandon Bednar hit a ground ball to third baseman David Soltis (Plainville, Conn.). The throw to the plate from Soltis pulled DelPonte away from the base, however, allowing Suchy to score the tying run. Sean Dwyer completed the walk-off victory by sending a 2-2 offering into right field for the game-winning sac fly.

The ninth inning meltdown spoiled what had been a solid all-around game from the Bulldogs. After spotting the Eagles a 2-0 lead after the first inning, the Bulldogs battled back to tie the game in third. Dan Muscatello (Hopkinton, Mass.) started the rally with a leadoff single to center, Jordan Mountford (Guelph, Ont.) walked and Carl Anderson (Sudbury, Mass.) loaded the bases with a bunt single. It looked as if FGCU would get out the inning with limited damage as Connor Carignan (Norwich, Conn.) grounded to second, but the relay throw to first was wide, allowing both Muscatello and Mountford to score, tying the game, 2-2.

The deadlock did not last long as the Eagles quickly responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the third. Bednar singled and Dwyer walked to start the inning and Mike Reeves broke the tie with an RBI single to center. The Eagles had a chance for more but Bryant starter Peter Kelich (Jackson, N.J.) left two runners on by inducing a ground out and pop out to end the inning.

After giving up three runs on four hits over the first three innings, Kelich settled to allow just two hits over the next three innings. His final three innings were scoreless thanks to a pair of double plays from his infield. The Eagles put two runners on with one out in the fourth before Muscatello started a 6-3 inning-ending double play, and Kelich started a 1-4-3 twin-killing to end the fifth. The right-hander allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits and struck out six over six innings, earning a no decision.

Bryant grabbed its first lead of the game with two runs in the seventh inning. Muscatello's second hit of the evening started the frame but consecutive outs had him on second with two down. The Bulldogs received the big two-out hit they needed, however, as Carignan laced a single up the middle to score Muscatello and tie the game, 3-3. Carignan's single started a string of three consecutive hits that knocked FGCU starter Jason Forjet out the game and put the Bulldogs ahead, 4-3. The tie-breaking hit came off the bat of Soltis and represented his first hit and RBI of the season.

Entering the game right after the Bulldogs took the lead, Jonathan Cohen (Norwalk, Conn.) turned in another dominant performance out of the bullpen. The left-hander worked around a one-out single in the seventh by striking out a pair of Eagles and then set down the side in order in the eighth on just eight pitches.

FGCU scored two runs in the first on a pair of hits and a Bulldogs error. Bednar reached on a throwing error with one out, advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a Zack Tillery single through the right side. Dane Wisneski made it 2-0 two batters later, finding the same hole as Tillery.

Bryant had an excellent opportunity to put runs on the board in the fourth but they left runners on second and third. DelPonte was hit by a pitch and Jamie Skagerlind (Holden, Mass.) reached on an error to start the inning and Joseph Carcone (New Hartford, N.Y.) advanced both with a sac bunt. That was as far as the runners would get, though, as Forjet struck out the next batter and then induced a ground ball to end the inning.

Three players contributed two hits apiece to Bryant's nine-hit attack on the evening. Carignan, Muscatello and Skagerlind all had two hits and Carignan drove in a pair of runs. Anderson's bunt single in the third inning was the first hit of his collegiate career.

Tillery had two hits and Bednar scored two runs to lead the Eagles. Forjet lasted 6.2 innings on the mound, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits while striking out three. Jack English and Brady Anderson combined to keep the Bulldogs scoreless over the final 2.2 innings with Anderson earning his first win of the season.

Game two of the three-game weekend series is scheduled for a 2:00 p.m. first pitch on Saturday. Joseph Michaud (Milford, Conn.) and Andrew Polly are the probable starting pitchers for their respective teams.

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