Baseball Inches Closer To Top Spot in Conference

by Dillon Meehan

After Central Connecticut (21-16, 12-5 NEC) dropped the first two games of their weekend series against Bryant (17-21, 10-4 NEC) 6-3 and 7-0, a weekend series sweep seemed likely.

“On Friday were going against James Karinchak, who when healthy is one of the ten best pitchers in the country. It’s deflating from that standpoint, but thats what the game is,” said Blue Devils head coach Charlie Hickey. “This team at times struggles with it’s confidence and gets deflated; that’s the danger of running into a hot pitcher. And sometimes that can get contagious and impact other games and kick yourself.”

However, during the second game of this past Saturday’s doubleheader, freshman pitcher Mike Delease threw a two-hit complete game shutout en route to an 8-0 win against the NEC’s best team.

The Blue Devils rode the momentum from Saturday’s win to hold onto a 9-7 win on Sunday to split the weekend series, and are inching closer to the top spot in the conference.

“It was a good opportunity in the middle of our season to sort of access where we can play,” said Hickey. “Losing the first two of the series can be discouraging, but we get a good performance from Mike Delease yesterday and today was an old fashioned, gut wrenching win.”

Since Bryant has joined the NEC in 2008, the Bulldogs have only lost three series total in conference, with their last loss coming four seasons ago in 2013.

“The reality is, they beat us last year eight out of nine times, and they were the better team,” said Hickey in regards to the difficulties facing Bryant over the years.

It’s the first time since late-March that the Blue Devils lost consecutive games in conference play.

“There’s still a long way to go. We get an off week against Binghamton, an out of conference team next week, and then we finish with three series to go,” said Hickey on his team’s outlook for the rest of the season.

In the second game of the double header, Delease allowed a base hit to leadoff the game, but Bryant could only gather another two baserunners for the rest of the game.

The Blue Devils grabbed the lead in the third inning when junior Dean Lockery doubled down the right field line, with runners on second and third, to score the first two runs of the game. Later in the inning Lockery would score on a baulk etc make it 3-0.

In the fifth, the Blue Devils put the game out of reach. Freshman TT Bowens brought in two runs with a single to left field making it 5-0. On the next at-bat, junior Mitch Guilmette would launch a three run homerun to right field to make it a better 8-0.

On Sunday, Bryant jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first. However, in the bottom of the third, the Blue Devils would come back to take the lead when junior Nick Garland hit a solo homerun to left field to tie it. A few at-bats later, junior Ryan Costello would bring home his fellow classmate Nick Landell with a sacrafice fly to take a 2-1 lead.

The teams traded runs until the bottom of the eight inning, where the Blue Devils blew the game open. Up 5-4, Costello singled in Landell to make it 6-4. A ground ball by Guilmette would make it 7-4, with a single by senior Tyler Coleman that would bring home two more to give CCSU a 9-4 lead.

Bryant would attempt a comeback in the bottom of the ninth, having the first three batters reach base safely before scoring three runs.  However, Bryan’t comeback fell short and Blue Devils were able to walk out Sunday with a split series,

“The first game was where we didn’t realize compete as hard as we should of and were feeling sorry for ourselves. But to their credit to go out there and fight and get a win shows how mature they are,” said Hickey.

The Blue Devils will have a stretch of out of conference games away against Albany, Binghamton and Quinnipiac, before beginning a weekend series against Sacred Heart starting May 5.