By Mike Radomski
( HAMDEN, Conn.) – The Quinnipiac Bobcats pulled ahead 6-0, and held on late for a wild and thrilling 11-10 win over Long Island University on Sunday afternoon.
Catcher Kyle Nisson went 2 for 5 in the game with three runs batted in and reliever Andrew Rinaldi pitched the last 3 1-3 innings for the save.
Quinnipiac won three games in the weekend series as the Bobcats showed their toughness and resiliency in securing the final contest.
“We battled the entire game,” said Quinnipiac centerfielder Brian Monack. “We kept our heads up and kept battling for the better of the two sides.”
Freshman Alex Russow started for Quinnipiac and found himself in trouble as he loaded the bases with one out. The pitcher retired Chris Kievit on a flyout and then faced shortstop Drew Walsh with a chance of getting out of the inning.
With the count 2-2, Russow threw a pitch inside that hit Walsh who went around halfway on the swing. Chaos ensued thereafter as Walsh wanted to take first base while Russow claimed that the hitter swung. The umpires conversed and ruled it a strikeout as Russow stranded all three runners.
Quinnipiac catcher Kyle Nisson singled home the first run of the game in the second inning and the Bobcats followed that up with a five-run third inning to take a commanding lead. The Bobcats batted around against Blackbird starter Chris Franzese as Brian Monack delivered with a two-run single to left field. Joe Poletsky and Gabe Guerino added RBI base-hits later in the inning as well as Quinnipiac surged ahead 6-0.
“I thought we were pretty good getting out in front,” said Quinnipiac head coach Dan Gooley. “The horse came out of the track first and we got out in front.”
Russow extended his scoreless streak to 18 innings as he shutdown Long Island over the first three innings. The Blackbirds wouldn’t stay quiet for long as Long Island rallied for four runs. Julian Castro snapped Russow’s streak with a three-run double to right field as the Blackbirds now trailed 6-4.
Quinnipiac stormed on back for another three runs in the bottom of the inning against two separate relievers. Emerson Morillo started the inning but after a four-pitch walk and a hit by pitch, the right-hander was taken out of the game. Lefty Paul Lopez came in to finish the inning but allowed a two-run infield single to Gabe Guerino as the Bobcats re-gained a five run lead.
Both teams went scoreless in the fifth inning as Alex Russow finished his outing. The pitcher allowed four runs on the afternoon. Long Island stuck around and mounted another comeback against reliever Kevin Castodio.
The Blackbirds added another four runs in the sixth inning and closed the gap to just one run. Albert Faz hit a double to deep right field and teammates Tyler Jones, Chris Kievit, and Drew Walsh all added RBI singles. Castodio left after just getting just two outs and handing the ball over to Andrew Rinaldi to finish off the inning.
Winning by only a run, Quinnipiac went back out on offense to build upon the 9-8 lead. Catcher Kyle Nisson blooped a fly ball just fair inside the right field line and legged it out for an RBI triple. Ryan Ullrich was the next batter and singled home Nisson for the 11-8 advantage.
As was the theme of the day, Long Island countered with another two runs as the tension started to escalate to unmeasurable proportions.
Ahead 11-10, Andrew Rinaldi hit Tito Marrero with a one-out pitch in the eighth inning. Marrero and Rinaldi then both exchanged words as the Long Island hitter was slow to go to first base.
This set off a whirlwind of events as most players started screaming at the opposing sides which resulted in Quinnipiac manager Dan Gooley sprinting out to settle down his ballclub. The skipper first went to the mound and then out to second base as order was soon restored.
“When I went out there I was going to make a change,” said Dan Gooley after the game. “He told me you can’t take me out because I’m going to win this game, so I went with my instinct and let him go back”
When play continued, Andrew Rinaldi got back to back outs to end the inning.
“They fired us up,” said the reliever. “Stuff like that doesn’t fly here and we needed to take care of business.”
Long Island reliever Evan Zerff continued his success as he pitched the last 2 1-3 innings and putting the pressure right back on Rinaldi for the top of the ninth inning.
Gerard Tingos led off with a single and Albert Faz tried to move the runner over but popped up a bunt for the first out of the inning. Catcher Tyler Jones lined out for the second out of the inning, but Long Island worked Rinaldi for a walk and a single to load up the bases with two outs.
The scene was then set with the bases loaded, two outs in the ninth inning of a one-run game with Rinaldi taking on Drew Walsh. The sophomore worked the count full to 3-2, fouled off another pitch and then lined out to shortstop Mickey Amanti to end the game. Rinaldi’s teammates stormed the field as Quinnipiac secured the 11-10 win and the overall series win against the Long Island Blackbirds.
“We battled through everything that went on with every inning,” added Rinaldi. “This puts us up higher in the standings, and gets us motivated and ready to go work harder.”
Quinnipiac coach Dan Gooley was very pleased with the way his team finished.
“We hung tough and it’s part of the metal you wear and the intrinsic strength that you have,” said Gooley. “It’s all about mental strength.”
Long Island falls to 9-24 on the season and 6-10 in the Northeast Conference. With the win, Quinnipiac improves their conference record to 6-6 and move their overall record to 6-23. The Blackbirds are back in action on Wednesday when Long Island travels down to New Jersey to play Rider. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 in the afternoon.
The Bobcats will also travel this week as Quinnipiac hits the road to play Hartford on Tuesday. The game will start at three o’clock from Fiondella Field. The next Bobcats home game will be on Wednesday as Quinnipiac will host Yale in a make-up game from earlier in the year.