Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor
Pat Epps stared back at the home plate umpire after striking out looking on three pitches in the first inning of Sunday’s game at Quinnipiac.
The look on his face conveyed disgust and determination, as if saying “you just wait.”
The wait was worth it for the Blue Devils (16-12, 6-5) as Epps helped power Central to an 11-7 victory over the Bobcats (10-23, 3-9), collecting hits in each of his next five at-bats.
The CCSU designated hitter pounded out three doubles en route to five RBIs, adding to his team-high total of 33. “It was just our time to start hitting,” said Epps. “We hadn’t played well the last couple of weeks, and finally we’re just starting to click together like we should.”
CCSU head coach Charlie Hickey acknowledges the talent of Epps, but expects a high standard of performance out of him. “I may make it sound minimal, but that’s what you’re supposed to do,” he said. “I’m not giving him more credit than he deserves. He’s supposed to get up there in the middle of the order and hit the ball hard.”
Despite the final score that might suggest otherwise, the game was a pitchers’ duel for the first seven innings. Central rode the arm of senior and New Britain native Derek Roberts for seven and a third innings as the lefty struck out a season-high eight batters. He mixed his fastball and slider well in order to limit Quinnipiac to just two runs heading into the eighth inning.
“He’s a senior. There’s some accountability and some responsibility that goes with that,” said Hickey. “He had to come out here and give us a chance to play this type of game. And that’s what he did.” With the victory, Roberts improved to 3-1 on the season.
The southpaw allowed just two base runners in the first two innings, setting the tone for the rest of his outing. “I’ve been struggling in my last couple starts,” admitted Roberts. “It just gave me a lot more confidence.”
He would need that confidence in the fourth inning as shaky defense at the hot corner got him into a jam. With one out, Ben Farina hit a ground ball that took a nasty hop on Sean Allaire, resulting in a double down the left field line. The next batter, Brian Monack, hit a ground ball that would go right through Allaire’s legs for an error.
“Errors happen, they’re a part of the game,” explained Roberts. “I really never lost confidence in my defense, they’ve picked me up all year, so I tried to pick them up for a change.” With runners on second and third and just one out, Roberts did just that. He induced a ground ball right back to the mound, followed by a flyout to right field to escape the inning unscathed.
The defense quickly improved when Roberts was bailed out of a jam in the fifth inning by a Casey Walko running catch in foul territory. The following frame, Michael Amanti laced a sharp ground ball towards Blue Devils second baseman Mitch Wells. It took a bad hop on the infield dirt and changed direction, but the freshman infielder made a barehanded stab and fired to first for a highlight-reel out.
Heading into the eighth inning, the game was 4-2 in favor of the Blue Devils. Both teams would go to their bullpen with one out, and the results were similar. Offense, and lots of it.
Monack, who started in center field for the Bobcats came on in relief of starter Joe Duffy, who was saddled with the loss. He made an error on a come backer, and surrendered an RBI double to Epps.
Monack would face Epps again in the ninth with the bases loaded, and suffered a similar fate. Epps crushed a double deep to right center field to clear the bases and give Central an 11-5 lead.
Chris Chagnon came on in relief of Roberts in the eighth, but struggled to get outs. He gave up three hits in the eighth inning, and allowed a two-run home run in the ninth to Amanti, his second of the season. Despite the poor bullpen performance, Central was able to hang on for the victory.
CCSU dropped the first game of the four-game weekend series against the Bobcats 7-2, but rebounded to sweep Saturday’s doubleheader and take Sunday’s contest. This weekend, the Blue Devils head to Long Island University for a four-game set against the Black Birds.
LIU currently sits at sixth in the Northeast Conference at 5-7 behind Central who is in a tie for third with Sacred Heart University. The weekend series will kickoff at 3 p.m. on Friday.