Western rallies past Purchase with four-run eighth for 10-5 win
From the desk of Bobby Ciafardini, Purchase College SID
PURCHASE, NY (Apr. 4) — Purchase baseball swung back into action Wednesday, taking in a nine-inning, non-conference ballgame against visiting Western Connecticut State University.
WestConn has hosted the annual affair for several years and was slated to do so again until field issues shifted the game to Purchase, where the Panthers were made the home team in the late reschedule during the college's Spring Break week. A back-and-forth contest would go the visitors, who rallied late, winning 10-5. The Colonials scored four runs in the eighth to distance themselves in what was a close contest throughout.
WestConn (8-11) grabbed an early lead in the top of the first. After Panther starter Christopher Nast (SO/Pound Ridge, NY) struck out the game's first batter, Mike Yates followed with a double and came around to score on a Conor Bierfeldt RBI single. Nast settled in and retired the next two hitters.
Purchase (10-16) answered right back with a run of its own in the home half of the inning. Two hit batsmen and a walk by Mark Donahue (SR/Brookhaven, NY) brought up Kevin McQuade (SR/Mamaroneck, NY) with the bases loaded. McQuade grounded into a double play, but brought home the tying run.
The Colonials responded by recapturing the lead in the second as Chris Alberto singled in Bobby Coyne for a 2-1 advantage.
The see-saw affair continued in the bottom of the second. A throwing error by WestConn spelled opportunity for Purchase. Left fielder Colin Morris (JR/Bridgeport, CT), who reached on the error, stole second base and then scored as Panther co-captain Will Bernstein* (SR/Staten Island, NY) promptly tied the game on an RBI single.
True to script, WestConn scored the go-ahead run in the third. A leadoff double by Bierfeldt paved the way for another single run. Two sacrifice flies later and WestConn led 3-2. The Colonials increased their lead to two runs on back-to-back doubles, including an RBI two-bagger by Scott Conetta.
WestConn starter Zach Philippas recorded the game's first scoreless inning in the bottom of the third. Meanwhile, the Panthers notched a quick scoreless inning of their own in the top of the fourth. Nast got the first out and then was relieved by Miller Lulow (JR/New York, NY), who pitched around a two-out single, striking out two to close the inning.
But Lulow would not return. After trying some warm-up pitches, he stiffened up in the fifth and was relieved by Vince McCarty (FR/Huntington, NY). McCarty responded, hurling Purchase's second-straight scoreless inning.
Feeding off the bullpen's effort, Purchase would break through in the bottom of the fifth. Leadoff man and sparkplug Michael Sarni (JR/Shelton, CT) singled up the middle to kick start the inning. Jay Ruiz (FR/Bronx, NY) moved him to second base on a walk. One out later, a McQuade single brought home another run for the Panthers. Trailing 4-3, Purchase first baseman Phil Georges (JR/Brooklyn, NY) came up big once again. Georges doubled in the gap in right center, plating Ruiz and McQuade from first base, while chasing Philippas.
Now ahead 5-4, Purchase looked to secure the final 12 outs over the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth in the single, nine-inning matchup.
But pesky WestConn showed its mettle, tying the game up in the top of the sixth. A Panther error to start the frame opened the door to a manufactured run. Colonial second baseman Jeff John, who reached on the leadoff error, scored on an RBI groundout by Alberto.
The visitors tied the score at 5-5 and quickly went ahead in the sixth. Yates singled to ignite another rally. Bierfeldt smashed a single to left, but an error in the outfield allowed him to advance to second and third as the ball rolled to the wall. The hard-hitting Bierfeldt – the team's No. 3 hitter – tried to stretch it, but was gunned down at the plate on a nice relay.
McCarty recovered and finished off the inning. WestConn now had a 6-5 lead.
After the side was retired in the bottom of the sixth, the Colonials started with a double and then put a second runner on in the top of the seventh on another Panther error – their fifth of the afternoon.
With runners on first and second, a passed ball moved the runners into scoring position. But Purchase reliever Eric Cuadrado (SR/Yonkers, NY), who replaced McCarty, pitched well, stranding the two runners in scoring position. Cuadrado induced a grounder to short and Georges scooped the ball at first base on a ground out to end the top of the seventh.
The Panthers went one-two-three in the bottom of the inning and returned to the diamond, looking to keep the game within reach.
WestConn would load the bases in the eighth, but after a couple of pitching changes, the Panthers got to within one out of getting out of the jam unscathed. However, a bases loaded walk made it 7-5, prompting head coach Bill Guerrero to once again go to his bullpen. This time, he called on ace Matt Paz (JR/Bridgeport, CT), who limited the damage. The Colonials scored four runs in the inning, backed by four walks.
In the bottom of the eight, WestConn reliever Joe Fedak reeled off his fourth inning of work. The hard-throwing right-hander navigated around a leadoff double by Georges, retiring three straight.
Paz worked a perfect ninth, but the Panthers, although they put the first two runners on base, couldn't manage any more offense in the last of the ninth. Fedak would induce a key double play in the ninth en route to earning the win in relief – his first collegiate victory.
Purchase will now get a few days off, returning to the field next week at home on 4/10, when the Panthers welcome Baruch College for a single, nine-inning game.