Two-run homers pace upset of Liberty
BULLDOGS KNOCK OFF NCAA WINS LEADER LIBERTY, 6-2, ON TUESDAY
LYNCHBURG, Va. – Sophomore catcher Jonathan Scott (Princeton, N.J.) and freshman left fielder Jordan Mountford (Guelph, Ont.) each hit their first career home runs and senior Brian O'Neil (North Reading, Mass.) allowed just one hit in five-plus innings as the Bryant University baseball team knocked off Liberty University, 6-2, Tuesday afternoon at Worthington Stadium.
Mountford gave the Bulldogs (5-8) an early lead with a two-run home run in the second and Scott's two-run home run in the eighth put the game away as the Black and Gold handed the Flames (16-3) their second-straight loss. The Flames entered the afternoon tied with Kentucky for the most wins in the country and have defeated national power Virginia and BIG EAST member St. John's.
After going quietly in the first inning, senior first baseman Jamie Skagerlind (Holden, Mass.) and Mountford awoke the Bulldogs' offense. Skagerlind scorched a double down the right field line with two outs and Mountford followed with a towering two-run home run over the Bryant bullpen in right field. The home run was the first in Mountford's young career and gave the Black and Gold a 2-0 lead.
A senior right-hander, O'Neil was brilliant in his first start of the season, holding a Flames team that came in hitting .309 hitless until a one-out single in the sixth. He struck out the first two batters of the game and worked around walks in the first two innings to keep Liberty off the board. O'Neil produced a 1-2-3 third before running into trouble in the fourth. He walked the first two batters before Ryan Cordell bailed him out by popping out to third base on a 3-1 pitch. His defense did the rest, as junior shortstop Dan Muscatello (Hopkinton, Mass.) went to his backhand to start an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
O'Neil's afternoon came to an end in the sixth after Andy Smith broke up the no-hitter with a single up the middle and Bryan Anderud was hit in the head with one out. The Bulldogs summoned sophomore Jonathan Cohen (Norwalk, Conn.) from the bullpen but he walked the first batter he faced and Michael Robertson flared a pinch-hit two-run single into right field to tie the game, 2-2. Alex Close reloaded the bases with a single to right but Cohen escaped further damage with a pair of ground balls. Freshman third baseman John Mullen (Walpole, Mass.) fielded the first ball and forced the runner at home for the second out and Muscatello fielded the second ball and stepped on second to end the inning.
Unfazed by Liberty's rally, Bryant wasted no time to retake the lead, scoring a single run in the top of the seventh. Senior Mike DelPonte (Tewksbury, Mass.) was hit by a pitch with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch and came around to score as Skagerlind lined a first-pitch single into right field.
Sensing a monumental victory for the program, the Bulldogs put the game away with three runs in th eighth inning. Mountford greeted Liberty reliever Shawn Clowers with a single up the middle and Scott pulverized a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left for his first career home run. Scott fell behind 0-2 but worked the count full before sending the full-count pitch over the left field fence. The Black and Gold added a third run with a two-out rally. Junior Kevin Brown (Northborough, Mass.) walked and Soltis scored him with a deep drive to center field. Smith raced back and had the ball in his glove but the ball fell free as he collided with the wall. Soltis tried to stretch it into a triple but was cut down to end the inning.
Cohen and junior Salvatore Lisanti (Bronx, N.Y.) made the lead stand over the final 3.2 innings. Cohen notched a 1-2-3 seventh and Lisanti allowed just an eighth-inning double over two scoreless innings. The story was O'Neil, however. Making his first start of the season, he lasted 5.1 innings and allowed two runs on just one hit. He walked four and struck out three. Cohen earned his first win of the season with 1.2 scoreless innings.
Skagerlind and Mountford each finished with two hits for the Bulldogs. It marked the first multi-hit game of Mountford's career.
Making just the second start of his career, Liberty starter Jared Lyons pitched a career-high seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
Bryant will have two days off before they begin Northeast Conference play this Friday, March 16 in Emmitsburg, Md., with a four-game series against Mount St. Mary's. Game one is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Friday and the series continues with a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game on Sunday. The Bulldogs were selected to finish fourth in the NEC preseason poll, while the Mountaineers were slated to finish sixth.