BRYANT SCORES EARLY, KNOCKS OFF UCONN FOR THE FIRST TIME
STORRS, Conn. – The Bryant University baseball team scored six runs over the first two innings and senior Brian O'Neil (North Reading, Mass.) limited Connecticut to one run over 5 2/3 innings as the Bulldogs picked up a 7-1 victory over the Huskies in a matchup of regionally-ranked teams on Tuesday afternoon at J.O. Christian Field.
Ranked fourth in the most recent NEIBA poll, the Bulldogs (26-15) extended their winning streak to a season-high six games with their first-ever victory over the Huskies (23-18), the second-ranked team in this week's poll.
As they have all year, the Bulldogs got off to a great start. Senior Connor Carignan (Norwich, Conn.) started the game with a single through the left side and junior Dan Muscatello (Hopkinton, Mass.) followed with a single to center that was bobbled, allowing the runners to move up to second and third. Junior Kevin Brown (Northborough, Mass.) plate the first Bulldog run with a ground out to second base that brought in Carignan with the first run. Freshman John Mullen (Walpole, Mass.) then manufactured the next two runs. He beat out a dribbler down the third base line to score Muscatello and then used his legs to produce the third run. He stole second, read a ball in the dirt to take third and then scampered home on a pitch that bounced out in front of home plate to make it 3-0.
UCONN attempted to get the runs back in the bottom of the first but an amazing play by Muscatello at short kept the Huskies off the board. A leadoff single and a walk put the first two runners on base and LJ Mazzilli's ground ball to second resulted in a force out at second with the first out. Ryan Fuller then ripped a line drive in the hole between short and third that appeared destined for left field but Muscatello made an unbelievable diving play to snare the liner. He then got to his feet and threw to first to double off the runner and end the inning.
Bryant went right back to work in the second inning, scoring three more runs. Freshman Carl Anderson (Sudbury, Mass.) caught a break as UCONN starter Jared Dettmann slipped fielding his bunt attempt to start a Bulldog rally. Anderson would eventually steal second and walks to Muscatello and Brown loaded the bases with two outs and ended Dettmann's afternoon. David Mahoney was summoned to face Mullen with two outs and Mullen ripped a two-run single up the middle to make it 5-0. Senior Jamie Skagerlind (Holden, Mass.) followed that with an RBI single to right-center to finish the Bryant scoring in the inning.
The Bulldogs nearly put the game away in the third inning as junior Adam Claire (Litchfield, Conn.) reached on an error and Anderson and Carignan followed with consecutive bunt singles to load the bases with no outs. Muscatello then followed with a ground ball that was headed through the right side but it hit Carignan for the first out. A lengthy argument followed the ruling and when play resumed Mahoney was able to escape any damage by getting a ground ball in front of the plate and a fly to right.
Bryant was able to extend their lead in the fifth inning with a single run. Claire led off with a double to left-center, moved to third on an Anderson sac bunt and scored on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt from Carignan to make it 7-1.
All the while, O'Neil was putting together his longest outing of the season. After escaping the first unscathed, O'Neil allowed his only run in the second inning. A leadoff double and an error put runners on the corners with no outs but O'Neil induced a ground ball to third and Mullen started a 5-4-3 double play to thwart any rally. Billy Ferriter reached him for a leadoff single in the third but O'Neil got two fly outs and a pop out to end the inning and worked around a one-out walk in the fourth. The Huskies attempted a two-out rally in the fifth but O'Neil ended it with a fly ball to right and his afternoon finally came to a close in the sixth after consecutive two-out singles. Freshman Trevor Lacosse (Watervliet, N.Y.) was summoned and was able to end the inning by inducing a fielder's choice ground ball.
Lacosse would follow with two more scoreless innings before handing the ball to junior Salvatore Lisanti (Bronx, N.Y.) to close out the victory. Bryant registered 13 hits on the afternoon and has now collected double-digit hits in seven of their last eight games. Muscatello led the offense with a 3-for-3 performance and scored two runs. Carignan and Anderson each had two hits and Mullen had two hits and drove in three runs.
The Bulldogs return to Northeast Conference play this weekend when they open a four-game series with Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday, April 27. First pitch is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Friday. Prior to Saturday's doubleheader with the Knights, the Bulldogs will officially dedicate Conaty Park with a pregame ceremony beginning at 12:30 p.m. Parents, fans and alumni are encouraged to attend.