PHILADELPHIA – Junior right-hander Alex Schwartz (Voorhees, N.J.) pitched eight strong innings and sophomore righty Nick Nardulli (Staten Island, N.Y.) broke the school single-season saves record as Felician University defeated host University of the Sciences, 4-2, in Game 1 of the teams' Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference baseball doubleheader on Wednesday afternoon at Richie Ashburn Field. USciences salvaged a split with a 6-5, walkoff win in Game 2.
Felician (27-18, 21-6 CACC) is the No. 8 team in the most recent NCAA Division II Baseball Committee East Region ranking.
Felician moved to within one game of hosting a CACC playdown round contest on May 4. With four league games remaining, the Golden Falcons lead the CACC South Division by two games over Chestnut Hill College and are ahead of third-place Wilmington by four. Felician, however, does not currently own tiebreaker rights over the Wildcats.
Runs were at a premium during Wednesday's opening contest, as both Schwartz (7-1) and Devil sophomore righty John McCrane (Philadelphia, Pa.) delivered quality efforts. USciences was the first team on the scoreboard when designated hitter Jordan Stennett (West Orange, N.J.) led off the bottom of the second inning with a double, moved up on a one-out Schwartz balk, and came home on a Nate Steele (Tabernacle, N.J.) groundout.
McCrane (3-2) issued walks to Felician's first two batters of the fourth and the visitors took advantage. Jason Aponte (Loxahatchee, Fla.) delivered an RBI single, and another hit loaded the bases. The Golden Falcons took the lead for good on a groundout by Gino Tortoriello (New Egypt, N.J.), but McCrane escaped further damage.
Both teams plated single runs in the sixth, after which McCrane, having thrown 105 pitches, was lifted. He gave up two earned runs on six hits, struck out eight batters, and walked three. The Golden Falcons picked up an insurance run in the ninth on an RBI single by Danny Healey Jr. (Brookhaven, Pa.), and Schwartz gave way to Nardulli.
The first two Devils in the ninth were retired. Following a walk, Nardulli induced a fielder's choice grounder for his 11th save of the season. Dan Naif owned the Felician record of 10 in 2016. Schwartz, who threw 98 pitches, struck out six Devils without a walk, surrendering six hits. Aponte and Healey each collected three hits.
Game 2 was scheduled for seven innings, and the seventh is were most of the contest's drama occurred. Trailing, 4-2, after six, Felician rallied to take the lead in the top of the frame. With one out, L.T. Struble's (Hammonton, N.J.) hit sent Ronnie Sessa (Chester, N.J.), who had singled, around to third base. Struble stole second, and Healey drove in a run with a groundout.
Anthony Condito (Nutley, N.J.) walked, leaving the game in the hands of junior Mike Martinez (Union City, N.J.). Condito swiped second, a key development when Martinez lined a 1-and-2 pitch to center field. Both runners scored and the Golden Falcons led, 5-4.
Felician again turned to Nardulli (2-2), but this time the closer consistently fell behind in counts. USciences freshman A.J. Pena (Mount Laurel, N.J.) singled and moved up on a walk and a flyout. A single by fellow rookie Chris Anderson (Upper Darby, Pa.) tied the score. Another walk filled the bags, and pinch-hitter Brian McGee (New Fairfield, Conn) pushed an 0-and-1 offering through the right side to score Joe Duffy (Freehold, N.J.) with the winning run.
Senior Andrew Szpindor (Pottstown, Pa.) went the distance on the mound for the Devils (17-25, 13-15). Szpindor (4-2) gave up eight hits with three strikeouts and three walks. Healey had a double and triple for Felician and Jordan Folgers (Moriches, N.Y.) was 2 for 4 with a home run.
Weather permitting, the Golden Falcons and Devils will conclude their four-game CACC season series with another twinbill on Friday at 1 p.m. in Lyndhurst, N.J.