SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Sophomore Robby Rinn (Warwick, R.I.) tied the game with a sac fly in the sixth and then scored the winning run on a Sacred Heart error in the bottom of the ninth as the Bryant University baseball team earned a 5-4 walk-off victory on Friday afternoon at Conaty Park.
The Bulldogs (32-10, 12-1 NEC) trailed 3-0 after the first and 4-1 after 4 ½ innings before a throwing error in the ninth allowed them to win their 10th-straight game. The Pioneers (20-21, 7-6) are now just 2-9 in their last 11 games.
With the game tied at 4-4, Rinn led off the ninth with a sharp single up the middle. Junior Daniel St. George (Shelton, Conn.) was summoned to pinch-hit but found himself in an 0-2 hole. Still, he was given the bunt sign and he came through as he laid it down the first base line to advance Rinn. After an intentional walk was issued to senior Tom Gavitt (North Stonington, Conn.), sophomore Dan Cellucci (Sudbury, Mass.) slapped a ground ball to deep short that SHU shortstop Zack Short fielded but threw errantly to second. Rinn alertly scampered home with the winning run as the ball rolled behind second base.
Friday's NEC championship rematch, however, didn't appear it would ever get to that moment. The Pioneers used an erratic first inning from junior Kevin McAvoy (Syracuse, N.Y.) to score three quick runs. A walk and two hit batters loaded the bases with no outs and Jayson Sullivan plated the first run with a single up the middle. Back-to-back sac flies from Matt Charmello and Derick Horn scored the final two runs to make it 3-0.
Facing the best pitch in the NEC, the Bulldogs were finally able to plate a run against Kody Kerski in the fourth inning. Junior John Mullen (Walpole, Mass.) singled and sophomore AJ Zarozny (Shrewsbury, Mass.) followed with a double off the left-center wall to score Mullen from first. The inning was cut short, however, as Zarzony was cut down trying to take third on the play.
Sacred Heart appeared to steal the momentum right back though as it responded with a single run in the top of the fifth. Victor Sorrento doubled to start the inning, went to third on a sac bunt and scored on a fielder's choice ground ball.
Bryant, however, rallied again in the bottom of the inning. Sophomore Buck McCarthy (Saugus, Mass.) singled and Cellucci walked before junior Carl Anderson (Sudbury, Mass.) hammered a 3-1 pitch to the base of the center field wall for a two-run triple.
The Bulldogs finally erased the difference the very next inning. Mullen singled up the middle to start the inning, stole second and moved to third on a Zarozny grounder. Rinn then followed with a fly ball to left that allowed Mullen to race home with the tying score.
The comeback was possible thanks to the dominant performance McAvoy turned in after the first inning. The junior right-hander settled down to work eight innings, allowing just three hits while striking out nine. McAvoy turned a line drive into a double play in the second, struck out Keith Klebart to strand a runner at third in the sixth and then struck out the side in the eighth to cap his performance. Classmate Trevor Lacosse (Watervliet, N.Y.) came on to strike out the side in the ninth to earn his third victory of the season.
Mullen (2-3, 2R), Zarozny (2-4) and McCarthy (2-3) all finished with two hits for the Black and Gold.
Bryant and Sacred Heart continue their series on Saturday with a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m.