Naughton's Birthday Shutout Puts Baseball In Win Column

Right-handed baseball pitcher warm-up
Rob Naughton pitched a seven-hit shutout on his 24th birthday on Feb. 23, 2018. (Dave Schofield)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Graduate right-hander Rob Naughton (Levittown, N.Y.) pitched a seven-hit shutout to lead the Felician University baseball team to its first victory of 2018, a 7-0 non-conference triumph over Mercy College on Friday morning at the Ripken Experience complex. Later on Friday, Felician (1-6) suffered a 12-8 non-league loss to nationally-ranked Southern New Hampshire University.

Senior shortstop Bruce Strickland (Hazlet, N.J.) went 7 for 10 with four extra-base hits on the day for the Golden Falcons. Felician is ranked No. 4 in the preseason NCAA Division II East Region writers' poll. Southern New Hampshire is ranked No. 8 in the preseason Division II national coaches' poll, No. 15 in the most recent national writers' poll, and No. 2 regionally.

Against Mercy, Felician, playing as the home team, left eight men on base in the first three innings while plating just two runs. Jason Polgano (Bronx, N.Y.) drove in a run with a ground ball in the bottom of the first, and Sean Downey (Elizabeth, N.J.) did the same in the third.

Meanwhile, all seven hits allowed by Naughton were singles. Golden Falcon catcher Brenden Cuni (New Rochelle, N.Y.) helped his pitcher by throwing out two would-be base stealers in the early innings and three for the game.

After an RBI single by Polgano in the fourth frame, the Golden Falcons broke the game open with three runs in the fifth. A Ron Sessa (Chester, N.J.) double brought home Downey, who had walked and advanced on a sacrifice, and Strickland followed with a two-run home run for a 6-0 lead.

Matt Diesel's (Massapequa Park, N.Y.) run-scoring hit in the seventh provided the final margin.

Pitching on his 24th birthday, Naughton (1-1) tossed his first collegiate nine-inning complete game. He struck out a career-high 10 batters and walked none. L.T. Struble (Hammonton, N.J.) joined Strickland, Diesel and Polgano with two hits apiece. Leadoff man John Mooradian (Marlboro, N.Y.) went 2 for 4 for Mercy (3-3).

Playing again as the home team against Southern New Hampshire, Felician took an early lead when Strickland, who had led off with a double, scored on a first-inning balk and Anthony Santoro (Freehold, N.J.) delivered a run-scoring groundout. But the Golden Falcons were done in when the Penmen (2-0) needed only four base hits to bring home 10 runs in the top of the third.

Three Felician pitchers issued six walks and a hit batsman in the stanza. The Golden Falcons committed an error, a wild pitch, and a passed ball, and allowed a sacrifice fly and three stolen bases.

Feilcian pushed its way back into the game, scoring a run in the third and two more on a Polgano home run in the fourth to trail, 10-5. SNHU sophomore third baseman Tom Blandini (Bow, N.H.) tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, but Santoro came up with a two-run single in the home half to pull Felician to within 11-7.

Penmen reliever Brendan Welch (Easton, Mass.) stabilized the game with two scoreless innings, and each team added one run to their total the rest of the way. Strickland finished 5 for 5 with two doubles and a triple, and catcher Armando Ovalles (Union City, N.J.) was 2 for 3 for Felician.

Blandini was 2 for 5 and scored three runs for the Penmen.

Felician is back in action in the Northeast Challenge on Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. contest against Southern Connecticut State University.