When and Where: May 11, 2017 – West Haven, Conn. (Frank Vieira Field)
Score: Southern New Hampshire University 1, University of New Haven 0
Records: SNHU 41-7, New Haven 26-11
In a game that saw 251 pitches thrown, all it took was one swing on one of those pitches to make the difference as redshirt-junior Ryan Sullivan (Hopkinton, Mass.) crushed an eighth-inning solo home run and the fifth-ranked Southern New Hampshire University baseball opened Northeast-10 Championship Weekend with a 1-0 win against the host University of New Haven on Thursday at Frank Vieira Field.
SNHU, the top seed in the Northeast Division, advances to the winner's bracket semifinal where it will meet the Northeast's second seed and in-state rival Franklin Pierce University on Friday at 12:30 p.m. The Southwest Division's No. 2 seed, New Haven will play Pace University, the fourth seed from the Southwest, in an elimination game at 10 a.m. Friday.
After seven-and-a-half innings of dueling pitchers, Sullivan decided it was time the bats received some of the spotlight. He greeted the new pitcher for New Haven by launching a 1-2 pitch deep to left and out of the spacious park to put the Penmen on top, 1-0.
Graduate student Stephen Fortuna (Metuchen, N.J.), who came on in relief of lights-out redshirt-junior starter Jake Stearns (Plymouth, Mass.) in the eighth, set down the first two New Haven batters of the ninth before Jack Zagaja extended the game with a single through the right side. Fortuna then came back to get Joe Caico swinging to end it.
Stearns retired the first six batters he saw and faced the minimum through three. New Haven was only was only able to get one base runner past first base against Stearns, who left the man stranded at second in the fourth. The Chargers were able to push another runner to second in the eighth against Fortuna, who recorded two quick outs before allowing back-to-back singles, but wound up leaving a pair in the inning.
Stearns twirled seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits, while striking out three and walking a batter. Fortuna (4-0) tossed a pair of shutout frames, striking out two and not issuing a walk, while allowing three hits.
New Haven's Tim Kennedy matched Stearns, blanking the Penmen for seven innings, relinquishing just four hits, while fanning 12 and walking three.
Sullivan finished 2-for-4 with the big home run, an RBI and run scored. Junior Caleb Potter (Mentor, Ohio) was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, while sophomore Joshua Zbierski (Stafford Springs, Conn.) and redshirt-sophomore John Stanton (Sandwich, Mass.) each went 1-for-3.
- SNHU has now won 37 of its last 41, including 30 of 33, 27 of 29, 20 of 21 and 16 straight.
- Southern New Hampshire won its NE10 Championship Weekend opener for the second straight season.
The Penmen are now 2-1 this season versus the Chargers after scoring a 7-6 win in 15 innings and suffering a 7-3 loss in 10 frames in an April 9 doubleheader in Manchester.
- The no-decision for Stearns snaps his streak of five straight starts with a win.
- In his last six outings, which include three complete games, Stearns is 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA over 48 innings, allowing 28 hits to hold opponents to a .172 average, while striking out 38 and walking just four.
- Sullivan's home run was his league-leading 11th of the year, which puts him one shy of matching SNHU's single-season record.
- The Penmen are 3-0 against Franklin Pierce this year, sweeping the three-game regular-season set from the Ravens for the first time ever.
The Penmen return to action Friday, May 12 (12:30 p.m.) when they take on Franklin Pierce for the right to advance to Saturday's championship.
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