Rams tie game in ninth, win in 12th to defeat Bulldogs

Photo by: Rhett Hutchins
Photo by: Rhett Hutchins

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Rhode Island tied the game with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth and won on a walk-off hit by pitch in the bottom of the 12th to defeat the Bryant University baseball team, 6-5, on Friday afternoon at Bill Beck Field.

With the loss, the Bulldogs wrap up the regular season with a record of 29-24. The Rams (30-20) snapped a four-game losing skid with the victory. Bryant won the season-series between the two teams, 2-1.

Trailing 5-3 in the ninth, the Rams put two on with one out against Bryant's closer Logan Lessard (Cromwell, Conn.). Lessard got a pop out for the second out but uncorked a wild pitch to put the tying runs in scoring position. Jordan Powell then fell behind 1-2 but took a ball before hitting a game-tying two-run single through the left side. It was the first blown save of Lessard's career. He had been a perfect 12-for-12 entering the game.

The Rams then produced the winning run in the 12th. Matt O'Neill doubled to start the inning and moved to third on an infield single. A ground ball back to the mound put runners on second and third and the Bulldogs chose to intentionally walk Brett McManus to load the bases. Freshman Vito Morgese (Warwick, N.Y.) then hit Mike Foley with a 2-1 pitch to force in the winning run.

A day after coming from behind to defeat the Rams, it was the Bulldogs that jumped out to early lead. Freshmen Chris Wright (Cumberland, R.I.) and Gaby Cruz (Miami, Fla.) teamed up to give the Bulldogs the lead in the second as Wright singled and scored from first on a double to left center from Cruz.

The Black and Gold extended their lead in the third on an RBI single by junior Mickey Gasper (Merrimack, N.H.). A fielding error allowed a runner to reach and sophomore Nick Angelini (Bedford, N.H.) followed with a single. Gasper then drove the first pitch he saw through the right side for his 52nd RBI of the season.

URI got the run back in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double from Powell.

Bryant extended its lead with one swing of the bat in the fifth. Freshmen James Ciliento (Mahwah, N.J.) and Bryan Hart (Franklin, Mass.) both singled to start the inning but Ciliento was caught between second and third for the first out. Senior Joe Paparelli (Preston, Conn.) followed by hammering a 3-2 pitch over the right field wall for a two-run homer.

The Rams chipped into the deficit with two runs off sophomore reliever Nathan Wrighter (Windsor, N.Y.) in the seventh. Uliana doubled home Mike Corin for the first run and Greg Cavaliere scored Uliana with a two-out single to right center.

Gasper responded quickly for the Bulldogs, greeting URI reliever Blaise Whitman with a solo home run to right field. It was Gasper's seventh home run of the season.

The result of Friday's game overshadowed an outstanding start by sophomore Steve Theetge (Syracuse, N.Y.). The lefty allowed one run on five hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out seven on the afternoon. Morgese suffered the loss, allowing a run on five hits over 2 1/3 innings of relief.

Paparelli batted leadoff for the first time this season and finished with two RBI and two runs scored, while Angelini, Gasper, Titus, Cruz and Ciliento all finished with two hits. Titus hit two doubles in the game and now has a team-leading 15 on the year.

Vitaly Jangols allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings for URI. Six Rams relievers combined to allow just one run on five hits over the final 7 2/3 innings. Powell had three hits and three RBI and Uliana chipped in three hits as URI finished with 17 as a team.

The Bulldogs will now prepare for the 2017 NEC Baseball Championships that begin next Thursday, May 25 at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Conn. Bryant will serve as the No. 1 seed and is still awaiting its first-round opponent.