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Bulldogs stun Knights with unbelievable ninth-inning rally

Photo by: Dave Silverman
Photo by: Dave Silverman

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Sophomore Cole Fabio (Mahwah, N.J.) capped an improbable ninth-inning comeback by scoring on a throwing error after hitting a game-tying two-run triple to give the Bryant University baseball team a dramatic 8-7 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson in the opening game of a four-game weekend series on Friday afternoon at Conaty Park.

Trailing 7-4 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Bulldogs (21-20, 12-5 NEC) scored four runs with two outs to defeat the Knights (17-20, 8-9) for the 10th straight game. It marked the second time in three games Bryant has rallied with two outs in its final at-bat.

Junior Dan Cellucci (Sudbury, Mass.) opened the ninth with a walk and sophomore Brandon Bingel (Peabody, Mass.) worked a full-count walk two batters later to give the Bulldogs a pair of runners. A fly ball to center put runners on the corners with two outs and senior John Mullen (Walpole, Mass.) followed with an RBI single up the middle to make it a two-run game.

Fabio then stepped to the plate and laced the first pitch from FDU closer Eric Snyder down the right field line and into the corner. Cellucci scored easily and pinch-runner Jacob Marotta (Bridgewater, Mass.) raced all the way around from first to score the tying run, sliding in just ahead of the relay throw. The relay throw home, however, bounced away from the catcher and Fabio never stopped running, chugging home from third and sliding just ahead of the tag to win the game.

The late rally erased an outstanding performance from the Knights over the first eight and a half innings. FDU used an infield error in the first inning to score three unearned runs and take control of the game. Two walks coupled with the error led to an RBI infield single from Joel Roman and a two-out, two-run bloop single from John Giakas.

FDU extended its lead with three more runs in the fifth inning, chasing Bryant starter Kyle Wilcox (Sandy Hook, Conn.). Dylan Sprague opened the inning with a bloop to right-center that bounced out of the glove of a diving Jordan Mountford (Guelph, Ont.). After a walk and a sac bunt put runners on second and third, a wild pitch brought home a run and Roman knocked home another with a single. Bobby Romano's two-out RBI single up the middle scored the third run and knocked Wilcox from the game.

The Bulldogs began to chip away in the bottom of the fifth. Sophomore Joseph Paparelli (Preston, Conn.) slashed a double to left-center and then came around to score as junior Buck McCarthy (Saugus, Mass.) followed with a double into right-center.

In the sixth, Bingel was hit by a pitch and junior Robby Rinn (Warwick, R.I.) singled through the right side to put runners on the corners with no outs. FDU starter Joe Flack retired the next two batters but junior AJ Zarozny (Shrewsbury, Mass.) knocked a single through the right side to score a run. Paparelli and McCarthy then worked back-to-back walks to force in a run and make it 6-3. Cellucci nearly tied the game right there but FDU right fielder Shane Siebler raced in to make a diving catch and end the inning.

Bryant pulled within two with a run in the seventh. With one out, Bingel launched a first-pitch fastball over the left field wall for his league-leading seventh home run of the season.

In search of his seventh-straight win, Wilcox allowed six runs (three earned) on six hits over 4.2 innings. He walked four and struck out four. Freshman Justin Snyder (Georgetown, Mass.) came on in relief of Wilcox and was a big reason the Bulldogs were able to comeback. He allowed just two hits over 2.2 scoreless innings of relief, handing the ball to junior James Davitt (Wallingford, Conn.) with one out and a man on third in the eighth. Davitt got a strikeout and a fly ball to strand the runner and allowed an unearned run in the ninth. He earned his third win of the year thanks to the Bryant rally.

Rinn (2-5) and Zarozny each finished with two hits, while Bingel scored three runs on the afternoon. Fabio and McCarthy each drove in two runs.

FDU starter Joe Flack pitched seven strong innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. He walked four and struck out five. Snyder, the all-time NEC leader in saves, came on in the eighth but suffered his first loss, allowing four runs on three hits.

The Bulldogs and Knights continue their weekend series on Saturday with a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m.