MERION STATION, Pa. – The Saint Joseph’s baseball team scored in all but two innings on Thursday as the Hawks rolled to a 20-7 win over La Salle in the first of a three-game series between the teams at Smithson Field.
Each Hawk in the starting lineup scored at least one run as the offense broke out for 16 hits and drew nine walks. The offensive output was backed up by another strong start from Jordan DiValerio, who worked past some early trouble to turn in a quality start and improve to 4-3 on the season.
La Salle (19-19 overall, 1-9 Atlantic 10) opened the scoring in the top of the second, as Ben Faso led off with a walk and Tatem Levins followed with a two-run home run. Jack Cuccinotta then made it back-to-back longballs to push the lead to 3-0.
The Hawks answered in the bottom of the inning, batting around and taking the lead with four runs in the frame. Dominic Cuoci started things off with a one-out walk and came around to score on a double by Jake Artz.
Two batters later, Matt Cuppari laced a single to score Artz and cut the deficit to 3-2. Then, after a walk to Brendan Hueth loaded the bases, James McConnon ripped a single up the middle to score a pair and put the Hawks on top, 4-3.
In the third, another one-out walk by Cuoci set the table for a Liam Bendo single to right; Faso struggled to corral it, allowing Cuoci to score and extend the margin to a pair.
Saint Joseph’s (13-19 overall, 6-4 Atlantic 10) extended the lead further in the bottom of the fifth. Nate Thomas led off with a single and came in to score on a double by Bendo; then, after a walk and a stolen base by Kadar Namey, Cuppari singled home both runners to make it an 8-3 ballgame.
The Hawks put the affair out of reach in the sixth and seventh, adding seven runs to the lead. Sebastian Martinez came on in relief to start the sixth for the Explorers, but walked all three batters he faced to load the bases for Cuoci, whose third walk of the day forced home McConnon. A sacrifice fly by Artz brought home Andrew Cossetti before Namey cleared the bases with a three-run home run, his fourth of the year, to make it 13-3.
Hueth led off the seventh with a single and went to third on a double by McConnon; Thomas followed two batters later with a ground-rule double to score both runs and extend the margin to 15-3.
Levins hit his second home run of the game, another two-run shot, in the eighth to cut the lead back down to 10, but the Hawks responded in the home half as Cuppari doubled and Hueth singled him home. An infield single by McConnon was then followed by Cossetti being hit by a pitch to load the bases. Brian Markoski pinch hit for Cuoci and wasted no time, sending the first pitch he saw into the Hawk bullpen beyond the right field fence for a grand slam and a 20-5 SJU lead.
The Explorers would score two in the ninth on an RBI groundout by Tommy Toal and a double by Levins, but would get no closer.
DiValerio settled in after giving up the three early runs; following Cucinotta’s home run, he allowed a walk to Ryan Guckin before sending down the next 13 hitters he faced and 16 of the next 17. He finished the day allowing three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out five in seven innings. Jackson Ray took the loss for La Salle, falling to 1-5 after ceding eight runs on eight hits and five walks in five innings.
The teams are scheduled to play the second game of the weekend series on Friday afternoon. First pitch is currently set for 1:00 p.m., but any changes due to inclement weather will be communicated on SJUHawks.com and the Hawks’ social media outlets.