No. 12 Saint Joseph's (Maine) knocks off top-ranked Wheaton (Mass.) 2-1
LAKE WALES, Fla. -- Saint Joseph's (Maine) (5-0) edged Wheaton College (3-2) 2-1 in a battle between two of the top New England programs on Monday. Sophomore Alex Valenti tossed five innings of one-run, four-hit ball to collect the win.
Saint Joseph's, ranked 12th in the nation, outlasted Wheaton, the top-ranked team in the country and 2012 runner-up, with solid pitching and sound offensive execution.
The game was scoreless and the Monks were held without a hit going into the bottom of the fourth. Junior third baseman Alex Markakis ended the hitless drought when he led off the end of the fourth frame with a double down the left field line, but appeared to be doubled off second when the following batter, sophomore catcher Nic Lops, hit a sinking liner to first that was initially called a catch. St. Joe's head coach Will Sanborn asked for help from the home plate umpire and the call was reversed, giving the Monks runners on first and second with nobody out.
Both runners moved up a base when sophomore designated hitter Joe Coyne dropped down a sacrifice bunt and senior first baseman Mike Pratt followed with a sacrifice fly to center, plating Markakis and lifting the Royal Blue to a 1-0 lead.
The Lyons challenged in the top of the fifth when freshman Jimmy Smith walked, senior Eric Jensen reached on an error and senior Sean Ryan walked to load the bases with two out, but Valenti settled in and fanned sophomore first baseman Apolinar De la Cruz to end the threat.
Saint Joseph's tacked on another run in the bottom of the fifth to secure a 2-0 cushion. Senior left fielder Sam Butts led off with a walk and moved up to second on a David Nieves sacrifice bunt. Senior second baseman Brandon Chase knocked in Butts with a double to left-center.
As it played out, the second SJC run proved vital as Wheaton pushed a run across in the top of the sixth to cut the Monks' advantage back to one. Sophomore Tyler Contillo and senior catcher Dan Gusovsky led off the frame with base hits and coach Sanborn removed Valenti in favor of sophomore left-hander Dan Meeken as a result. Both baserunners moved up a bag on a Matt Lavanchy sacrifice bunt and Contillo tagged up and scored when Pratt made an over-the-shoulder catch on a foul fly ball hit by Justin Peluso.
Freshman reliever Corey McNamara replaced Meeken in the top of the eighth and, after a harmless eighth, ran into trouble in the ninth when Wheaton managed to load the bases on a hit batter, an SJC infield error and a walk. McNamara worked his way out of the jam with a fly ball to right to close out the game and record his second two-inning save in as many days.
Lops went 2-for-3 on the day while Coyne and Nieves both contributed a pair of sacrifice bunts in the victory. Meeken allowed one hit and fanned one in two innings of relief and McNamara closed the door while allowing a hit and a free pass during two frames.
Ryan went 2-for-4 with a double and finished as the Lyons' only batter to record more than one hit in the loss. Junior starting pitcher Nik Filloramo allowed two runs off three hits and three walks with five strikeouts to take the loss. Freshman Eric Dumas finished the game with two innings of two-hit relief. Offensively, Wheaton stranded 14 runners on base in the one-run setback.
Wheaton's run in the top of the sixth ended the Monks' scoreless inning streak at 30.2 innings.