MERION STATION, Pa. – Mike Muha sent the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth inning over the fence in left field to break a 2-all tie and push the Saint Joseph’s baseball team past Dayton, 3-2, at Smithson Field on Friday afternoon.
After tying the game in the top of the eighth, the Flyers had a runner aboard with one out thanks to a single by Aaron Huesman. Huesman attempted to advance on a pitch that bounced away from Hawk catcher Brian O'Keefe, but O’Keefe rifled a throw to second base to retire Huesman and erase the late threat.
Muha then strode to the plate to lead off the bottom of the frame and took UD’s Noah Buettgen deep for his second home run of the season to give the Hawks the win.
Using double plays to end the first and fifth innings and keep the game scoreless, Saint Joseph’s (20-10 overall, 9-4 Atlantic 10) broke through offensively in the bottom of the fifth. Stefan Kancylarz led off the frame with a single and advanced to second two batters later when Taylor Boyd was hit by a pitch. After Buettgen recorded a strikeout for the second out, Chris Hueth ripped one to the gap in right center, sliding into third with a two-run triple to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
Daniel Thorpe was strong on the mound for SJU on Friday, but ran into trouble in the sixth. He allowed consecutive singles to Robby Sunderman and Sergio Plasencia to start the inning, but then induced a double play ball from Alex Harris for the first two outs. With Sunderman at third, Mark Podlas ripped a ball up the middle for what looked like a sure-fire single, but Boyd used a perfectly-timed leap to snag the ball out of the air and keep the two-run margin intact.
Dayton (17-18 overall, 9-5 Atlantic 10) finally got on the board in the eighth. Pinch hitter Matt Poland led off with a single before Sunderman doubled two batters later to put runners on first and second with one out. Steven Schuler came on in relief of Thorpe, but Plasencia lofted a sacrifice fly before Harris hit a double of his own to tie the score at 2-2.
Muha’s home run made a winner out of Schuler, who tossed an inning and two-thirds to improve to 5-0 on the season. Thorpe went seven and a third, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out five and walking one. Buettgen fell to 5-4 on the year, allowing three runs on seven hits to go with eight strikeouts in eight-plus innings of work.
The win is also the 20th of the season for Saint Joseph's, marking the fourth consecutive season the Hawks have reached that plateau.
The teams will play the rubber game of the series on Saturday afternoon. First pitch at Smithson Field is slated for 1:00 p.m.