NORWICH, Conn. – Junior Brandon Bingel (Peabody, Mass.) pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball and classmate Cole Fabio (Mahwah, N.J.) reached base three times and scored three runs to lead top-seeded and the No. 15/21 Bryant University baseball team to a 5-1 victory over second-seeded Sacred Heart on day two of the Northeast Conference Tournament Friday at Dodd Stadium.
The win sets a new program record for the Bulldogs (46-10) and also pushes them into the NEC Tournament Championship Round on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. They will face the winner of Saturday's first game between the Pioneers (30-27) and third-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson. The Knights fought off elimination on Friday with a 2-0 victory over fourth-seeded Central Connecticut.
Bryant will be making its fourth-straight appearance in the championship round and will be looking for its third title in that span. It is the second time the Black and Gold have advanced the final round with a 2-0 record (2014).
Batting leadoff, Fabio was a sparkplug all afternoon, reaching base three times with two singles and a walk, while scoring three runs. Senior Buck McCarthy (Saugus, Mass.) also continued his solid tournament, collecting two hits and two RBI.
Bingel was lights out for the second-straight year in the tournament, moving to 9-3 on the year. He allowed just four hits, walked two and struck out five on the afternoon. Last season, he pitched eight scoreless innings against FDU in an elimination game. Bingel got a strikeout to strand two runners in the first, struck out the side in the second and didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning. PJ DeFilippo picked up the first Pioneer hit in the fourth inning but Bingel got a strikeout to end any further threat and he then got help from an interference call at second base to face the minimum over the next three innings.
Trailing 5-0, Sacred Heart put together a rally in the eighth inning. Zack Short hit a sinking liner to center for a one-out double and Ted Shaw followed with a single to center to make it 5-1. The Bulldogs then went to sophomore closer Justin Snyder (Georgetown, Mass.) and he induced a ground ball to third that eluded senior Zach Wood (Griswold, Conn.) and senior left fielder AJ Zarozny (Shrewsbury, Mass.) to put runners on second and third. Snyder shut the door though as he induced a short fly to right before striking out Victor Sorrento swinging to end the threat. Snyder closed the door in the ninth as he struck out two before getting a fly ball to center to end the game.
Bryant got on the board in the first for the second-straight day and for the 29th time this season. Fabio started things with a walk and moved to second on a controversial line-drive single from senior Robby Rinn (Warwick, R.I.). Rinn hit a sinking liner to center that SHU's Jayson Sullivan dove for and appeared to catch. The umpires, however, ruled that he trapped the ball, putting runners on first and second with one out. McCarthy then lined a single to center that scored Fabio easily. Running from first, Rinn tried to take third and slid in safely as the throw skipped away, allowing him to score as well. Two batters later, Zarozny capped the inning with a two-out RBI single to right center.
The Bulldogs extended their lead with single runs in the second and the fourth. In the second, Fabio led off with a perfect bunt down the third base line and then stole second with two outs. It paid off as McCarthy scored him with a single to right center. Fabio was in the middle of things again in the fifth as he slapped a leadoff single to right field. Freshman Nick Angelini (Bedford, N.H.) moved him to third with a seeing-eye single through the right side and Rinn scored him with a sac fly to right.
James Taubl, who earned a complete-game victory against the Bulldogs during the regular season, allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits over six innings. He walked five and struck out just one to fall to 5-3 on the year. Alex Perry had two of Sacred Heart's four hits.
The Bulldogs will now await the winner of Saturday's first game and will have two chances to win their third NEC title.