BASEBALL EARNS FIRST-EVER NCAA PLAYOFF VICTORY, 4-1, OVER ARKANSAS
MANHATTAN, Kansas – Senior Kevin Brown (Northborough, Mass.) broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI single in the eighth inning and the third-seeded Bryant University baseball team went on to score three runs in the inning on its way to a stunning 4-1 victory over second-seeded Arkansas on Friday night in the first round of the Manhattan Regional at Tointon Family Stadium.
The victory is the first-ever Division I NCAA tournament victory for not only the Bulldogs (45-16-1) baseball team, but the Bryant University Athletics Department. Bryant now advances to play in the winner's bracket final on Saturday night against top-seed and host Kansas State. First pitch is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. and can be seen live on ESPN3.
"I'm really pleased with our guys, they played a great game," head coach Steve Owens said. "They gave a very complete effort and I'm just pleased that they were able to perform well and play nine innings of good baseball."
With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the eighth, freshman AJ Zarozny (Shrewsbury, Mass.) started Bryant's big rally with a single up the middle. He then stole second and scored the lead run as Brown sprayed a 3-2 pitch in left-center field. The Bulldogs didn't stop there as sophomore John Mullen (Walpole, Mass.) drove the very next pitch to the base of the center field wall for an RBI triple, the first three-bagger of his career. Classmate Carl Anderson (Sudbury, Mass.) finished off the scoring as he sliced a single into left field to give Bryant a 4-1 lead.
The runs were more than enough for senior closer Salvatore Lisanti (Bronx, N.Y.). The veteran closer entered with two on and no outs in the sixth inning and proceeded to throw four innings of scoreless relief to earn his second win of the year. He didn't allow a hit, walked two and struck out two. He retired the side in the seventh thanks to a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play, retired the side in order in the eighth and then induced a game-ending 6-3 double play in the ninth to close the door.
In what could possibly be his final start in a Bulldog uniform, senior Peter Kelich (Jackson, N.J.) turned in one of the most masterful games of his career in the NCAA opener. The right-hander allowed just one run on two hits over five innings and struck out six batters. Kelich retired the first six batters he faced and didn't allow a hit until Dominic Ficociello led off the fifth with a double to right. Prior to that, the only runner Kelich allowed was a third strike wild pitch to Brett McAfee that started the third. He responded by striking out the final two batters of the inning to strand a runner on second.
Arkansas finally got to Kelich in the fifth but the veteran righty limited the damage. A bunt single followed the Ficociello double to put runners on the corners with no outs. Kelich hit the next batter to load the bases and walked Jake Wise to force in the first Razorback run of the game. Kelich wasn't flustered as he came back to strikeout the next two batters before inducing an inning-ending ground ball to short, ending the Arkansas threat.
Using the momentum, Bryant immediately rallied in the top of the sixth to tie the game. Zarozny reached on a throwing error at first with one out and scampered around to third as Brown smacked a single through the right side. Mullen followed suit as he chopped a ground ball to deep short for a game-tying infield single. Arkansas starter Barrett Astin limited the damage there, getting a fielder's choice ground out and a strikeout to end the inning.
The Razorbacks tried to steal the lead back in the bottom of the sixth but the Bulldogs were able to escape any damage. Sophomore Trevor Lacosse (Watervliet, N.Y.) came on in relief and allowed a single and walk to start the inning before Lisanti was called on to put the fire out. He did just that as Ficociello popped up a sac bunt attempt that junior catcher Jonathan Scott (Princeton, N.J.) caught in the air and then threw back to second to double off the runner.
Offensively, Brown and Mullen each finished with three hits, Mullen drove in two runs and Zarozny scored a pair of runs. For Arkansas, Astin earned a no decision, striking out seven and allowing just one unearned run over seven innings. Jalen Beeks suffered the loss, allowing three runs on four hits in the eighth.
Bryant will now play for a spot in the regional title game on Saturday night when it faces top-seeded Kansas State.