NORWICH, Conn.— A one-out walk off single to right field by Elijah Brown in the bottom of the 12th inning gave the Sacred Heart Baseball team the 4-3 victory over Wagner in the elimination game on Saturday night. The Pioneers (23-35) battled back in the ninth inning to tie the Seahawks (22-28) before eventually clinching their eight Northeast Conference championship game in the last nine seasons.
The top of the order produced for the Pioneers with Ted Shaw, Brown and Keith Klebart recording multi-hit games. Sophomore Baylor Sundahl worked five innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out four. Junior James Taubl was phenomenal in relief, allowing just one run in seven strong innings and striking out six for his fifth win of the season.
SHU looked to take hold early in the contest as they loaded up the bases in the bottom of the second inning against Wagner starter Chris Mormile. But the right hander got some help from Anthony Pecora with the diving catch on the line drive by Shaw to end the inning. Wagner got on the scoreboard first in the top of the third inning on the RBI groundout by Anthony Godino.
Mormile settled in holding the Pioneer offense to two hits over the first five innings and striking out 10 batters in six and one third innings. The Seahawks took the 2-0 lead on the RBI single by Nick D'Amore in the top of the sixth inning off Taubl. Sacred Heart looked to rally as they loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning, prompting Wagner to bring in Steven Bowley in relief of Mormile. He was able to get DeFilippo to chase an off-speed offering for to escape the inning.Taubl worked four scoreless innings to keep the score at 2-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
The Pioneers looked to piece together one last rally on the brink of the season coming to a close. Shaw and Brown and Klebart delivered three straight singles to load the bases with one man out. Bowley got DeFilippo to fly out to shallow right field to bring the Seahawks within one out of a championship berth. Junior Anthony Capozziello stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and caught a break as D'Amore dropped the would be third out on a foul ball just outside the line to extend the inning. He turned that into an infield single to plate the Pioneers first run of the game. Junior Alex Perry followed with an RBI walk tie the ball game at 2-2. Wagner brought in Nick Robino to pitch, he got junior Dan Schock out on a called third strike to push the game to extra innings.
After a scoreless 10th inning, the Seahawks got going with a leadoff double by Kyle Brey in the top half of the 11th inning. Godino knocked him in two batters later with the single through the left side to give Wagner the 3-2 edge. Robino was firing as he struck out Brown to start the bottom of the 11th inning. Klebart then roped the one-out double to put the tying run on second base. DeFilippo reached on an error by Mazzio to put runners on first and third with one out. The next batter, Capozziello lifted a deep sacrifice fly to center field to bring in Klebart and tie the game at 3-3.
Wagner threatened with the go-ahead run on third in the top of the 12th inning, but Taubl shut it down with his sixth strikeout of the game, this time blowing a fastball by Sean Mazzio to escape the inning. Freshman Stephen Thibault got the rally going after reaching on a fielder's choice in the bottom half of the inning. He advanced to second on a passed ball, prompting the Seahawks to intentionally walk Shaw for the potential force out. A wild pitch in the dirt by Robino put runners on second and third for SHU. Brown worked a full count against Robino with the infield in and on the seventh pitch of the at bat he lined a single past D'Amore down the first base line for the thrilling walk off hit. Sacred Hearrt to 3-0 in extra inning contests on the season.
The Pioneers will square off against Central Connecticut on Championship Sunday at Dodd Stadium. First pitch is slated for 12:00 p.m. The Pioneers need to win game six of the tournament to force the winner-take-all game seven against the two-seeded Blue Devils at 4:00 p.m.