Graham's three-hit shutout leads Franklin Pierce past top-seed Wilmington
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Junior right-hander Trevor Graham spun a three-hit shutout and struck out 10 on Thursday, as sixth-seeded Franklin Pierce posted a 7-0 win against top-seed Wilmington (Del.) in the first game of the East Regional. Senior shortstop Dan Kemp went 2-for-3 with a double, a triple and two sacrifice bunts in the win for Franklin Pierce.
With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 33-16, while Wilmington falls to 40-13. Franklin Pierce will play next at 3 p.m. on Friday against the loser of Thursday's 7 p.m. game, which features third-seeded New Haven and fourth-seeded Southern New Hampshire. Wilmington will face elimination at 11 a.m. Friday against the loser of Thursday's 3 p.m. game between second-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas and fifth-seeded Pace.
Graham was the story of the afternoon, as he took a no-hit bid into the seventh, faced only 31 batters and needed just 98 pitches -- 64 of those for strikes -- to dispatch the Wildcats. Among the three hits, two were seeing-eye ground balls which found their way through holes in the infield, one was a blooper into shallow right field, and two of the three were erased on two of the three double plays the Franklin Pierce defense turned behind Graham. He did hit three batters, and also issued a walk, but he struck out 10 for his fifth double-digit strikeout outing of the year. It all added up to his third complete game and second shutout of the season in the win (9-2). It was his first nine-inning shutout of the campaign.
The Ravens opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first. The first batter of the game, junior left fielder Calvin Graves, was hit by a pitch and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kemp. Graves went to third on a groundout and came home to score as senior right fielder Nick LaCroix reached on an error by Wilmington senior shortstop Jonathan Rodriguez behind the bag at second.
One of Wilmington's best early chances came in the bottom of the second, when a pair of hit batsmen put runners at first and second with one out for senior left fielder Brandon Payne. Graham got him off balance with a 2-1 pitch, and Payne bounced into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play.
Franklin Pierce tacked on a run in the top of the third to double the lead to 2-0. Graves opened the inning again, this time with a line-drive double into the gap in left-center. Again, Kemp moved Graves up, this time to third with one out, with his second sacrifice bunt of the day. Junior first baseman Zach Mathieu followed and lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to drive home the run.
A three spot in the top of the fourth broke the game open to 5-0 in favor of the Ravens. With one out, junior designated hitter Marty Dunlap was hit by a pitch and moved to second when sophomore center fielder John Razzino followed with a walk. A single through the left side by sophomore third baseman Matt O'Herron loaded the bases for freshman second baseman Justin Brock, who dropped down a squeeze bunt. Wilmington senior right-hander David Hatt came off the mound to field it and had only the play at first, but could not field the ball cleanly as Brock reached on an error and was credited with an RBI sacrifice bunt. Graves was next and struck out, leaving the bases loaded with two outs for Kemp, who turned on a 2-0 pitch and ripped a two-run double inside the bag at third and down the left-field line.
Another run in the top of the seventh made it a 6-0 game. With one out, Kemp drilled his second extra-base hit of the day, this one a line-drive triple into the gap in left-center. He would score during the next batter on a wild pitch.
Wilmington finally broke up the no-hitter in the bottom of the seventh, when junior third baseman Josh Hampton grounded a ball through the left side of the infield. He would advance no further, as he was erased on an inning-ending double play two batters later.
A run in the top of the ninth for Franklin Pierce created the 7-0 final. With one out, Graves worked a walk, stole second and scored three batters later on an RBI single to right by LaCroix.
The Wildcats would get only one batter to third base in the game, and that didn't come until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Ravens held a 7-0 lead. Graham stranded the runner there, by getting senior pinch hitter Joe El'Bisi to chase an 0-2 pitch in the dirt to end the game with a strikeout.
Hatt went seven innings on the hill for Wilmington. He allowed six runs (three earned) on four hits, walked one, hit four batters, threw a wild pitch and struck out three while throwing 109 pitches in the loss (7-1).