March 24, 2009
NORRISTOWN, Pa. - For the fourth consecutive game the Saint Joseph's baseball team dug deep and came away with a one-run late-inning victory, this time defeating Lafayette, 3-2, on Tuesday afternoon in the first round of the 2009 Liberty Bell Classic at Latshaw-McCarthy Field. Joe Cook brought home the winning run on a squeeze play in the bottom of the ninth to break a 2-2 tie.
The win, the first for SJU in Liberty Bell Classic play since 2003, puts the Hawks in the winners' bracket, where they will face the winner of next week's contest between Delaware and Penn in the semifinals.
Saint Joseph's (8-10-1) got things started in the bottom of the first, scoring a pair of runs with two outs. Cook doubled and came around to score on a double by David Valesente. Valesente crossed the plate one batter later as Brian Hartsell hit a bloop single to right field to put SJU on top, 2-0.
SJU starter A.J. Holland got into trouble in the top of the second, loading the bases with two outs, but Lafayette center fielder Rob Froio lined out to Cook to end the inning.
Lafayette (8-10) looked to stage a rally in the fifth, but the Hawk staff shut it down. Reliever Dan DiOrio induced a ground ball right back to the mound with the bases loaded and one out and threw home to force out the lead runner. He was then replaced by Ryan Kemp, who struck out Lafayette's Justin Shepherd to keep LC off the board.
The Leopards finally broke through in the top of the sixth. Matt Hall led off the inning with a triple and scored two batters later on an RBI groundout by A.J. Miller. After Kemp walked the bases loaded, SJU catcher Phil Pursino threw the ball high back to the mound, allowing A.J. Pisarri to score the tying run as the ball rolled out to second base.
Lafayette looked to have the better of the opportunities as the Hawks were held scoreless for four innings by reliever Ian Dickson. In the top of the ninth, Jeff Butler led off with a single and was sacrificed over to second by Shepherd. With Hall at the plate, SJU head coach Fritz Hamburg ordered an intentional walk. However, Bryan Penalo (1-0) fired the second pitch well wide of Pursino, causing Butler to take off for third. Fortunately for the Hawks, the ball hit the backstop and came right back to Pursino, who threw Butler out at third to erase an important runner from the bases.
Mike Boyland then led off the bottom of the ninth with a single off of Brian Mostek (0-1). Pursino laid down a beautiful bunt to get him to second, and Mike Coleman followed with a bunt of his own, this one to second base. The Leopards were unable to throw him out at first, setting Cook up for the squeeze bunt that won the game.
Saint Joseph's will now head to Newark, Del. for a make-up game against Delaware. Game time between the Hawks and Blue Hens is set for 2:30 p.m.