MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Four Felician University pitchers combined to strike out 14 batters and freshman third baseman Sean Downey (Elizabeth, N.J.) hit a tiebreaking sixth-inning home run as the Golden Falcons defeated Southern Connecticut State University, 4-3, in non-conference baseball action during the Northeast Challenge event on Saturday night at the Ripken Experience complex.
Felician is ranked No. 4 and Southern Connecticut State No. 9 in the preseason NCAA Division II East Region writers' poll
Due to the length of previous games, Saturday's contest started nearly three hours late. The final out was recorded at about 12:20 a.m. on Sunday.
SCSU (2-2), playing as the visiting team, erased a 3-0 deficit by scoring three unearned runs in the top of the fourth inning. Ethan Joyce (Exeter, N.H.) had an RBI single and Jim Palmer (Milford, Conn.) a two-run single in the frame, during which Felician committed two throwing errors.
The runs were the only blemish on the record of Golden Falcon starting pitcher Will Kazura (Saddle Brook, N.J.). The right-hander gave up four hits, struck out eight batters and walked four in a five-inning no-decision.
With the score still tied, Felician (2-6) saw its first two batters retired in the bottom of the sixth inning. Downey followed with his first career home run, and the Golden Falcon bullpen made the lead stand up.
Freshman righty Michael Gutierrez (Garfield, N.J.) (1-0) earned his first career victory with 1 2/3 innings of one-hit relief. Gutierrez escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the seventh, and picked up three total strikeouts.
Sophomore Cristian Morales (Spring Valley, N.Y.) danced around a walk and a hit batsman in the eighth, and senior Dan Naif (Jackson, N.J.) worked the ninth for his first save of the season. Felician shortstop Bruce Strickland (Hazlet, N.J.) and first baseman Jason Polgano (Bronx, N.Y.) teamed up on a difficult defensive play for the final out, with the tying run about to score had Polgano failed to make the scoop.
Both teams had seven hits. Junior second baseman L.T. Struble (Hammonton, N.J.) was 2 for 3 with a triple and two runs scored for Felician. The Owls' Tyler Criscuolo (Branford, Conn.) went 2 for 4 with a pair of stolen bases.
Felician was the initial team on the scoreboard when Struble scored on a first-inning double by Matt Diesel (Massapequa Park, N.Y.). The Golden Falcons scored a pair of runs on the same passed ball in the third.
Felician concludes its five-game stay at the Northeast Challenge with a noon game on Sunday against the University of New Haven.