April 24, 2010
CAMDEN, N.J. - One was a pitcher's duel and the other was marked by a combined 21 hits, but both games at Campbell's Field on Saturday afternoon had one common thread: the Saint Joseph's baseball team won them both, sweeping a critical Atlantic 10 weekend series from the rival La Salle Explorers. SJU took the first game, 2-1, in dramatic fashion and sealed the doubleheader sweep with a 10-5 victory in the second.
In the opener, Saint Joseph's (15-18 overall, 10-5 Atlantic 10) couldn't solve La Salle starter Kevin Christy, but Mike Coleman shook off a tough day at the plate to loop the game-winning single down the left field line with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to give the Hawks a 2-1 victory.
The teams combined for 12 singles and zero extra-base hits in the closely-contested game.
La Salle (13-24 overall, 8-7 Atlantic 10) scored right away in the top of the first as John Malloy led off the game with a single and came around to score on a base hit by Brendan Norton.
The teams traded zeroes until the bottom of the ninth. Ryan McDonald off with a single before Mike Plakis came on to pinch-run. Joe Cook attempted a sacrifice bunt, but the throw from first baseman Jon Gyles went wide and left runners on second and third with nobody out. Pinch hitter Ryan Kemp was intentionally walked to load the bases for pinch hitter Brian Hartsell. La Salle's Pat Christensen managed to retire Hartsell on strikes for the first out of the inning.
That set the stage for Coleman's heroics. The senior left fielder had struck out in his four previous at bats, but all was forgotten when he dropped Christensen's first pitch into left field to score Plakis and Cook and send the dugout and the assembled Alumni Day crowd into a frenzy.
SJU starter Kyle Mullen worked five innings and allowed just the one run on six hits while striking out six. Dominic Favazza sparkled in relief, earning his first win of the season after retiring all 12 hitters he faced over the last four innings of the game.
Christy was outstanding for the Explorers, going six and two-thirds and allowing just three hits and three walks against six strikeouts. Christensen took the loss, allowing both runs, one earned, on three hits and two walks while striking out three.
In game two, the Hawks posted a six-run third inning on their way to a doubleheader and series sweep of the Explorers via a 10-5 win. Adam Rivera came on with nobody out in the second inning and threw six superb innings for SJU, allowing one run and scattering five hits while striking out four.
La Salle took another early lead; this time it was Malloy who drove in Tony Negrin to give the Explorers the early 1-0 edge.
The Hawks bounced right back as Coleman led off with a single and came around to score on a two-out single by David Valesente, tying the game at one.
The Explorers answered immediately, scoring a run on a double by Chris Umstead and putting runners on second and third with nobody out to chase starter A.J. Holland. Rivera then came in from the bullpen and allowed a run-scoring single to Kevin Jones and a single to Adam Kammler. On Kammler's hit, center fielder Brett Tiagwad scooped up the ball and rifled it in to Drew Smith, whose tag was on the money and in time to retire Umstead at the plate for the first out. Kammler was then forced out at second before Rivera fanned Brian Meagher to end the inning.
In the third inning, Saint Joseph's roared back to take the lead with a six-spot, sending 11 hitters to the plate. Tiagwad led off with a ground-rule double and scored when Dewey Oriente ripped a two-bagger of his own. A single up the middle from Valesente scored Oriente before Valesente would advance to third on a pair of wild pitches by La Salle's Cody Weiss. McDonald ran Weiss from the game with an RBI single to score Valesente and put the Hawks on top, 4-3.
Kevin Fuqua entered for La Salle, but even though the pitcher was different, the results were the same as Cook singled and Quinn Renner walked to load the bases for Smith, who came through with a single to right to score McDonald and double the margin. Coleman then beat out an infield single and Tiagwad brought home the final run of the frame with a groundout to second.
SJU padded the lead in the fifth, going up 10-3 on a two-run single by Oriente and an attempted double steal; Oriente was thrown out at second, but Tiagwad safely crossed the plate to increase the lead to seven.
La Salle added single runs in the sixth and eighth on a single by Jones and a passed ball, respectively, but the Hawk bullpen closed the door and secured the twinbill sweep.
Every hitter in the starting lineup had a hit in the second game, led by Oriente's 2-for-4, three-RBI performance and a 3-for-5 outing with two runs scored from Coleman.
Dating back to last season, the Hawks have won six straight against their crosstown rivals, having swept this weekend's series and doing the same last March in the opening weekend of the 2009 Atlantic 10 slate.
The Hawks have won three consecutive home series in conference play for the first time in program history, and have won their fourth league series for the first time since 2003. SJU is now 11-4 at Campbell's Field this season with eight home dates remaining on the 2010 calendar.
Saint Joseph's will return to action for a pair of midweek games. The Hawks will travel to Rider on Tuesday for a 3:30 p.m. first pitch before returning home for a 7:00 p.m. tilt with Villanova on Wednesday night.