Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor
Giving up 36 runs in a span of 24 innings is generally not a recipe for success, even in a pitching-starved Northeast Conference.
The Blue Devils pitchers were rescued by timely hitting as they avoided a sweep at the hands of in-state rival Sacred Heart last weekend at Beehive Stadium.
Central was able to win the middle game of what became a three-game series with the Pioneers due to rain. After getting pounded 18-4 on Thursday afternoon, CCSU responded with a 10-9 victory in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader.
The nightcap went to Sacred Heart, as they once again lit up the scoreboard in a 9-5 win.
Pat Epps was the offensive star for the Blue Devils, going 8-11 over the course of the series with a double, triple, home run, and five RBIs. His two-run triple tied up game one on Friday in the bottom of the sixth, helping extend the game beyond the scheduled seven innings.
Following a Jeff Hanson home run in the top of the eighth, Epps’ RBI double once again tied the game and allowed Central an opportunity to win.
The Blue Devils had Richie Tri on first and Jay Schillaci on second with two out and the score knotted at 9-9 in the bottom of the eighth.
Tommy Meade hit a ground ball to Pioneers shortstop Phil Tantillo, who opted to go the short way to second to try and force out Tri. The throw was late, and Jay Schillaci’s aggressive base running paid off as he rounded third and came home on the play, narrowly avoiding a tag by Sacred Heart catcher Jeff Heppner to give Central a 10-9 win.
CCSU Head Coach Charlie Hickey recognized the efforts of Epps, but was left unsatisfied by the offense as a whole.
“These guys, we need them to become better,” he said. “And more consistent to have days like today.”
Pitching struggles have been the focus of the season for Central, and this weekend’s efforts were representative of such. The only hurler to escape the weekend without giving up a run was junior Tyler Riordan, who gave the Blue Devils two innings of relief, allowing no base runners and striking out two.
Junior Chris Chagnon was able to secure the lone victory on the weekend, improving to 4-0 on the season. The rest of the staff did not look sharp against a dangerous lineup, and they were aided by an inconsistent defense.
Tremendous outfield catches were juxtaposed against six errors by Blue Devil infielders. Those miscues resulted in 13 of the 36 runs given up by Central pitching on the weekend being unearned.
Half the runs given up by CCSU during the series came on Thursday night alone. The Pioneers combined for 22 hits off six different Central pitchers. Sacred Heart went deep three times in the game, driving in nine of their 18 runs via the longball.
In one of the few bright spots in defeat, Blue Devils freshman infielder Angelo Buscemi notched his first collegiate hit in the loss.
The problem for Central was giving up one big inning in each contest. In the first game, a nine-run eighth was the nail in the coffin. In game two, a five-run sixth inning allowed the Pioneers back into the ballgame. In the series finale, a five-run second inning put the Devils behind the eight ball.
“When the game’s not coming that easy, you’ve got to out-work, out-hustle, and out-scrap the other team,” said Hickey. “We were fortunate to get one today. They were the better team today, they were the better team yesterday.”
The Blue Devils travel to Quinnipiac this weekend for another scheduled four-game set against their in-state rivals.
The teams will play a nine-inning game at 3 p.m. on Friday, a seven-inning doubleheader at 12 p.m. on Saturday, and a nine-inning series finale at Noon on Sunday.
Quinnipiac is currently in last place in the Northeast Conference at 2-6.