Sports

Baseball sweeps Bryant in three-game home series opener

Strong offensive performances lift Bruno above the Bulldogs in first contests at new facility

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 20, 2017

The baseball team swept Bryant University in a three-game, non-conference series this weekend, topping the Bulldogs by tallies of 4-3 and 5-4 Saturday and 5-3 Sunday.

After the Strikeout Cancer Classic Tournament at Seton Hall was cancelled, the Bears (3-6) opened their home slate Saturday with a double-header against the Bulldogs (3-13). The contests marked Bruno’s first games in the newly renovated Murray Stadium.

Saturday morning, Bruno scored two runs in the third inning to take an early lead, before adding two insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth to secure the victory. Outfielder Rob Henry ’17 led the Bears with three hits and one RBI, while third baseman Willy Homza ’19  contributed one hit and an RBI.

“We had a lot of great at bats, just up and down the order,” said Head Coach Grant Achilles.

Starter Christian Taugner ’17 threw seven innings, allowing two earned runs and posting nine strikeouts, before Calvin Farris ’20 and JJ Sliepka ’19 provided relief with an inning each.

With Brown leading 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth, shortstop Rich Ciufo ’20 scored on a triple to the right from Henry. Later in the inning, Henry slid home as outfielder Sam Grigo ’18 posted an RBI to widen the lead to four.

The Bulldogs responded with two runs in the top of the seventh and one in the top of the ninth, but  Sliepka retired Gaby Cruz with two runners on base in the final at-bat of the contest.

The afternoon’s matchup saw Bruno recover from an early three-run deficit. The teams entered extra innings deadlocked at four, before catcher Josh Huntley ’17 came through a two-out walk-off single to clutch the victory in the bottom of the 11th.

“It wasn’t pretty, but our guys hung in there,” Achilles said. “We gave them a lot of opportunities to score, but we were able to capitalize when it counted.”

Brian Ginsberg ’18 paced Bruno with two hits and three RBI’s, followed by Ciufo, who recorded two hits and one RBI.

The Bulldogs grasped the early lead, scoring three runs in the first two innings, but the Bears responded with four runs in the bottom of the sixth to reclaim the advantage. Ginsberg doubled to the left with the bases loaded — knocking in Farris, outfielder Garett Delano ’20 and first baseman Marc Sredojevic ’17 — before scoring on a single to the left from Ciufo.

Bryant evened the tally in the top of the seventh when Mickey Gasper crossed home plate on an RBI triple from Tyler Panno. The teams went scoreless for four innings before Huntley’s single secured the victory for Bruno.

“It’s definitely a source of confidence,” Huntley said. “We know that even when we’re down, we can come back when they get ahead early.”

Starter Reid Anderson ’18 allowed three runs in five innings, before Dante Bosnic ’18, Will Tomlinson ’20, Samuel Hauser ’17 and Bobby Leyman ’19 combined to allow one run over six innings.

“Our mental toughness was a big thing today,” Achilles said. “It was a collective effort — we just stayed with it and stayed true to play the game instead of the opponent.”

The following day, Bruno held onto an early lead 5-0 lead to complete the weekend sweep. Grigo notched two hits and one RBI, and Henry posted three RBIs to secure the victory.

“In the past few weekends, we just haven’t gotten that big hit, and this week we got big hits each day,” Huntley said. “We had all sorts of guys coming through — every game, it was a different guy.”

Max Ritchie ’17 started on the mound, allowing one earned run in 5.1 innings before Farris, Sliepka and Leyman combined to finish the contest.

“The past three weeks, the pitchers have done a great job keeping us in games,” Huntley said.

The series sweep has reinforced Bruno’s optimism looking toward Ivy League conference play beginning in April.

“We just built on the confidence that we had before when we didn’t have any wins,” Achilles said. “To finally see the product of numbers in the win column other than zero — that’s always a good thing for us.”

The Bears will return to action Saturday with a double-header against Georgetown. First pitch is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Murray Stadium.