South Orange, N.J. – The Seton Hall baseball team played game two and the rubber match of its three-game series with Xavier on Saturday. The Pirates fell to the Musketeers earlier in the afternoon, 5-3, but were able to respond and clinch their Big East-opening series with a 9-6 victory in the second game of the day.
With the score tied at two apiece in game one, the Musketeers broke the game open in the top of the sixth inning, as a fielding error by the Hall proved costly. With runners on first and second, Natale Monastra reached on an error that advanced both Nate Soria and Ryan Altenberger to second and third.
Altenberger and Soria then crossed home, with Altenberger scoring on a wild pitch from DeVito, while Soria got home via a sacrifice bunt by Chris Givin.
DeVito struggled with his command throughout the game, as a fourth-inning wild pitch advanced Conor Grammes and Nate Soria, with Grammes later scoring on an RBI-ground out by Monastra. Devito took the loss for the game, with his season record dropping to 1-1.
The Pirates retaliated in the bottom of the sixth, with Casey Dana driven home by Christian Del Castillo, following Dana’s lead-off double to left field. The run was not enough for the Pirates, though, and Xavier made sure of it, with an insurance home run in the ninth from Matt Warkentin.
Game two began rocky for the Pirates, as they surrendered three runs without recording any outs in the top of the first inning. Seton Hall starting pitcher Billy Layne, Jr. was able to work himself out of the frame, but did not return for the second inning.
The Pirates got one run back in the bottom of the first, following an error that allowed Sebastiano Santorelli to score.
In the top of the third, however, Xavier came right back, as Allbry Major homered over the left field wall.
The back-and-forth contest continued in the bottom of the fourth inning, when the Pirates were able to knock home two runs off of relief pitcher Trevor Olson. Al Molina doubled to center to begin the inning, and Mike Alescio followed suit with a single, giving Seton Hall runners on first and third with no outs. Ryan Ramiz then singled to right field to drive home Molina, and Nick Dabrio hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring home Alescio two batters later.
Head coach Rob Sheppard commended his team on their ability to overcome adversity and battle back.
“We battled back right away for one and kept on scratching and knocking runs in,” Sheppard said. “It was good that our guys continued to add to the lead, especially because today the conditions with the wind made it a crazy day.”
In the top of the fifth inning, Politi loaded the bases with no outs, but was able to escape unscathed due to three consecutive strikeouts. The senior Politi earned the win for his four innings, in which he allowed one run on two hits and three walks.
Ryan McLinskey found himself in the same scenario as Politi in the sixth inning, but also worked his way out of the trouble. Sheppard attributed these two half-innings as the turning points in the game.
“They were strong enough to get themselves through,” Sheppard said. “That’s probably the turning point in the game. From an offensive standpoint, you walk the bases loaded, and sure, Xavier thought they were in a really good position, but [Politi and McLinskey] were good enough to get the strikeouts.”
Sandwiched between those two plights was the bottom of the fifth inning, where Santorelli and Alescio both homered to give Seton Hall the 6-4 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Matt Leon came in relief for the Pirates, the beginning of a three-inning-save for the senior. Xavier was able to cut the lead to one on a sacrifice-fly by Nate Soria, but no further damage was done in the inning.
The Pirates were then able to blow the game open in the bottom of the seventh and eighth inning. Ramiz, who lead the team with four hits on the day, doubled to bring home Alescio. Then, a Santorelli pop-up was misplayed by the Musketeers, allowing two more runs to score, and the Pirates to gain a 9-5 advantage.
Xavier was able to get one back in the final frame due to an error, but the run support, ultimately, was enough for Leon to close the game out.
One game over .500 after its first series of Big East baseball, the Pirates will return to Owen T. Carroll Field for a non-conference match against Monmouth on Wednesday, April 18. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KMKTNF.
Andrea Keppler can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @keppler_andrea.