SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University baseball team opens a season-long nine-game homestand on Friday afternoon when it welcomes Fairleigh Dickinson to Conaty Park for a rematch of last year's Northeast Conference Championship. The four-game series kicks off with a first pitch at 3:00 p.m.
James Karinchak (4-1, 2.45) vs. Evan Layne (2-1, 4.86)
Steve Theetge (5-5, 4.84) vs. Danny Demetrops (3-2, 4.29)
Jack Patterson (1-0-3, 4.08) vs. Logan Frati (1-4, 5.73)
Vito Morgese (3-5, 5.65) vs. Corey Zeller (2-4, 8.26)
Karinchak is coming off his third 10+ strikeout game of the season last Friday at Central Connecticut. He has struck out 31 batters in 21 innings during league play. Karinchak is 2-0 against FDU in his career, striking out 18 in 12 innings. He allowed one run on three hits, walked four and struck out 10 last season. Karinchak needs just three strikeouts to tie Craig Schlitter (245) for second in Bryant program history.
The Bulldogs will close the weekend with three-straight lefties. Theetge is tied for the NEC lead with five wins and has posted a 2.42 ERA in NEC play. Patterson, who has picked up three saves over the last two weekends, will make his first start since Apr. 29, 2015 on Saturday. He has struck out 10, walked three and allowed just two hits over his eight innings. Morgese will look to bounce back after a tough outing in his first-career NEC start last weekend. He has struck out 23 and walked 16 in 36 2/3 innings.
For the Knights, Layne will be making his sixth start of the year. He has surrendered 37 hits in 33 1/3 innings and has not pitched past the fifth inning in any of his previous starts. Demetrops has had a career-year, striking out 28 and issuing just 16 walks in 42 innings. He allowed just one run on six hits in four innings against Bryant last year. Frati is the staff workhorse, setting the FDU record for innings pitched in a career last weekend. He has struggled with walks, however, issuing at least three in all seven of his starts this year. Zeller has given up 18 extra-base hits this season.
Bryant holds a 27-4 lead in the all-time series, having posted a 15-1 regular-season record against FDU over the last four years. The Bulldogs and Knights met in last year's NEC Championship Game, an 8-3 victory for the Black and Gold. It was the third postseason meeting between the two teams in the past two seasons. FDU beat Bryant in the opening game of the 2015 tournament before Bryant eliminated the Knights two days later. In last year's series at FDU, Bryant hit .358 with 11 doubles and 10 home runs.
Then-freshman Steve Theetge tossed six innings of two-run ball and then-junior Cole Fabio (Mahwah, N.J.) hit a three-run home run to break the game open in the fourth as Bryant defeated FDU, 8-3, to earn its third NEC title. Fabio, who was named tournament MVP, had three RBI and three runs scored, while Robby Rinn had three hits and two RBI for the Bulldogs.
NOTES AND NOTABLES FOR FDU
After splitting last weekend at CCSU, the Bulldogs still have yet to lose an NEC series since Apr. 19-21, 2013. Bryant has won or split 53 of its 56 NEC series since playing a full league schedule in 2010.
Bryant's upcoming nine-game homestand will be its longest in DI program history and the longest since an 11-game homestand during 2003 season. The Bulldogs went 6-5 during the 11 games in 2003.
The Bulldogs had an eight-game homestand in 2013. Bryant won all eight games during the stretch as part of a 19-game winning streak.
The top-two run producers in the NEC will square off this weekend in Smithfield. Bryant's Mickey Gasper (Merrimack, N.H.) leads the NEC with 36 RBI, while FDU's Ryan Brennan is second with 35 RBI.
Karinchak has been dominant against NEC opponents during his career, going 15-2 with a 2.06 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings.
Freshman Jimmy Titus (Stafford, Conn.) has found his swing in NEC play, hitting .340 (17-50) in 13 games. He has six doubles, two triples, a home run, seven RBI and 14 runs scored.
SCOUTING THE KNIGHTS
FDU is hitting a league-leading .294 with a league-leading 26 home runs this season. The Knights feature six regulars that are hitting over .300 led by Matt McCann at an NEC-best .392. He has 47 hits, has scored 30 runs and has stolen 15 bases. Ryan Brennan, who many picked as the preseason player of the year, is hitting .336 with nine doubles, five home runs, 34 RBI and a .428 OBP. Bobby Romano is hitting .304 and leads the team with seven home runs.
The Knights' top options out of the bullpen have been Dillon Forsythe and James Sharkey. Forsythe has made 13 appearances and has posted a 5.59 ERA in 19 1/3 innings. Sharkey has walked 14 and struck out 19 in 18 innings.