WATERBURY, Conn. – Graduate right-hander Rob Naughton (Levittown, N.Y./Chaminade) pitched a nine-inning six-hitter to lead Felician University to a 6-1 victory over Wilmington (Del.) University during the winners' bracket final of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Baseball Championship tournament on Saturday afternoon at Municipal Stadium. The tournament is being hosted by Post University.
Felician (30-23), the No. 1 seed from the CACC South Division, advances out of the winners' bracket to Saturday's championship round. At noon, the Golden Falcons will once again face Wilmington (31-19), the South Division's No. 2 seed. The Wildcats came out of the losers' bracket by winning an elimination game over Post, 11-4, later on Friday.
The Golden Falcons need only one victory on Saturday to claim their third CACC title, while the Wildcats would have to win twice to earn their seventh. Should Wilmington triumph in the noon game, a second contest would follow 30 minutes later.
Naughton (6-4) gave up a leadoff single to Brooks Ryan (Westminster, Md./Wintersmill) on Friday, but received a lift when catcher Carlos Bermudez (Miami, Fla./Tampa Bay Christian) turned a sacrifice attempt into a 2-6-3 double play. However, Max Carney (Wilmington, Del./Concord) was hit by a pitch, moved to second base on a wild pitch, and scored on Kendall Small's (Dover, Del./Dover) single to shallow center field.
Naughton, however, did not allow another runner to reach third base. He struck out seven batters without a walk, and threw 107 pitches, 69 for strikes.
"I was able to pound the strike zone, and our team played loose and defensively sound," Naughton said. "It was a great team win."
After Felician right-fielder Jason Aponte (Loxahatchee, Fla./Seminole Ridge) and shortstop L.T. Struble (Hammonton, N.J./Hammonton) combined to cut down a runner at third base to end the top of the third, the Golden Falcons tied the game in the home half. Struble laced a double into the right-center field gap with two outs, and scored on a single by CACC Player of the Year Matt Diesel (Massapequa Park, N.Y./Massapequa).
Felician took the lead in the next frame. Danny Healey Jr. (Brookhaven, Pa./Monsignor Bonner) reached on an infield hit and crossed over to third base on a Mike Martone (Brick, N.J./Brick Memorial) single. A groundout by Bermudez advanced both runners, and Martone scored on a single by Ronnie Sessa (Chester, N.J./Immaculata).
The Golden Falcons knocked out Wilmington starter Sean Deely (Wilmington, Del./Archmere) with two sixth-inning runs, and Bruce Strickland (Hazlet, N.J./Raritan) had an RBI single in eighth for the final margin. Deely (5-3) gave up five runs (three earned) on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Strickland and Martone were each on base three times with two hits and a walk. Martone scored twice, while Strickland drove in a pair of runs. Struble finished 2 for 4 plus a sacrifice. Small had a pair of hits for the Wildcats.
"Wilmington will be a tough opponent again tomorrow," Naughton said. "No matter who they pitch, it will be one of the better arms in the conference. Our hitters will have to be patient at the plate and work counts, and we will need to execute on both sides of the ball."