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March 9, 2012

Baseball hangs on for 5-3 win over RU

BULLDOGS HOLD ON FOR 5-3 VICTORY OVER RADFORD IN GAME ONE

RADFORD, Va. – Jump-started by a three-run first inning and buoyed by stellar pitching, the Bryant University baseball team held on for a 5-3 victory over Radford University in the first game of a three-game weekend series Friday afternoon at the RU Baseball Stadium.

The Bulldogs (4-6) didn't waste any time getting started against the Highlanders' (6-8) ace, Eddie Butler. Junior Dan Muscatello (Hopkinton, Mass.) started the Black and Gold with a leadoff single to center and classmate Kevin Brown (Northborough, Mass.) followed with a scorching line drive into the right field corner. Muscatello scored all the way from first and Brown ended at third with a triple. Butler regrouped with a strikeout but senior Mike DelPonte (Tewksbury, Mass.) was able to score Brown from third as he rolled a ground ball through the right side for an RBI single. Bryant's final run in the inning came across as junior Adam Claire's (Litchfield, Conn.) chopper up the middle was thrown wide at first, allowing DelPonte to score from second.

It looked like Bryant would keep it going in the second as freshman Jordan Mountford (Guelph, Ont.) reached on an error by first baseman Ryan Burgess. Butler would settle down after that, however, retiring the next eight batters until Mountford touched him for a two-out single in the fourth.

Making his fourth start of the season, junior Peter Kelich (Jackson, N.J.) battled through six strong innings on the mound for the Bulldogs. He worked through a quick 1-2-3 first and retired the first two batters of the second before hitting his first trouble. Consecutive two-out singles from Burgess and Cory Turner started the rally and the Highlanders scored their first run as Daniel Wright's pop fly to shallow right was dropped. Kelich didn't let the inning go any further, inducing a ground out to short.

Trailing 4-1, Radford began its comeback bid in the sixth inning with a pair of runs. Kemp was hit by a pitch with one out and Matt Hillsinger ripped a single off of Kelich to put two runners on. Following a fly out to right, Burgess worked a walk to load the bases. Turner followed and hit a sinking line drive towards the left field line that freshman Carl Anderson (Sudbury, Mass.) dove for and nearly caught. He made the grab but when he hit the ground the ball popped free, allowing two runs to score.

The Highlanders nearly completed their comeback in the seventh but the Bulldogs were able to escape the inning unscathed. Radford's first two hitters reached as Gardiner's hard grounder alluded Muscatello at short and Costello's liner to left was dropped by Anderson. A sac bunt moved the runners up to second and third and the Bulldogs walked Kemp to load the bases. Hillsinger appeared to tie the game with a sac fly to right field but DelPonte alertly threw back to third and senior David Soltis (Plainville, Conn.) tagged the bag to retire Gardiner who was ruled to have left early.

Clinging to the 4-3 lead, the Bulldogs tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth thanks a Brown solo home run to right. The left-handed slugger fought off three different two-strike pitches before stroking his second home run of the season into the darkness beyond the right field wall.

Following the close call in the seventh, sophomore left-hander Jonathan Cohen (Norwalk, Conn.) and junior right-hander Salvatore Lisanti (Bronx, N.Y.) combined to close the door. Cohen struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 eighth and Lisanti worked a perfect ninth to pick up his third save of the season and preserve Kelich's second win of the season and the 17th of his career.

Bryant scored its fourth run in the sixth inning thanks to an Anderson sac fly. Claire started the inning with a one-out single, senior Connor Carignan (Norwich, Conn.) dropped a double inside the right field line and Mountford was walked intentionally to load the bases for Anderson. The Sudbury, Mass., came through, sending a 2-1 pitch to left to score Claire.

Bryant put the pressure on the Highlanders in nearly every inning. They had Mountford on third with one out in the second but Butler struck out back-to-back batters to end the threat. The Bulldogs left Mountford on second in the fourth and Muscatello led off the fifth with a single, advanced to third with one out but was left stranded.

With a chance to extend their lead in the seventh, the Bulldogs squandered a first and third opportunity. Soltis doubled off the right field wall with one out and DelPonte singled up the middle to set up the scoring chance but Radford reliever Derrick Brewer picked Soltis off of third and snared a comebacker to end the inning.

Despite the dropped pop up in the second, Bryant's defense played well on Friday. Muscatello made a fantastic sliding play up the middle to rob Brett Mollenhauer in the third inning. He slide on his left side behind the second base bag and got the ball to first just in time. The Bulldogs' defense also helped put an end to the fourth inning as Anderson started an inning-ending double play in left field. He charged in to catch a shallow fly ball and then threw back to first base to double off Matt Mack to end the inning.

 Brown led the Bulldogs with two hits, two runs and two RBI and Muscatello, DelPonte and Claire each chipped in two hits. Kelich worked six innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out two. Turner led Radford with two hits and two RBI and Butler suffered the loss on the mound, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits over 5.1 innings. Brewer allowed a run on four hits over 3.2 innings of relief.

The Bulldogs and Highlanders continue their three-game series on Saturday with a 2:00 p.m. first pitch at the RU Baseball Stadium. Sophomore Joseph Michaud (Milford, Conn.) will get the ball for the Black and Gold.

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