FROM CBB NEWS SOURCES
PLEASANTVILLE, NY – Vaulted by a pair of late-inning Mark Dondero (Medfield, Mass.) singles Saturday afternoon, the Bryant University baseball team claimed the outright 2008 Northeast-10 regular-season title for the first time since 1998 with a pair of road wins over Pace University, 3-0 and 1-0.
The Bulldogs (38-16, 25-5 NE-10) had a share of the conference title in 2000 and 2002, but with the wins earn the undisputed top seed in the final weekend of play.
Bryant got the day going with a tight Game-One pitchers’ duel that saw pitchers Eric Loh (Old Greenwich, Conn.) and Dustin Corbett throw seven and six shutout innings apiece, respectively, keeping both teams off the board until the top of the seventh.
Sophomore Nick Campbell (Raynham, Mass.) led off the frame with a double into left field, moving to third on a wild pitch. But when catcher Jeff Vigurs (South Windor, Conn.) hit a grounder to second for the inning’s first out, Campbell came home to register the first of three single-run frames for the Bulldogs.
Campbell stayed hot in the eighth, singling again to left to plate leadoff man Jason Alexander (Simsbury, Conn.), who got on board via a free pass. And in the ninth, designated hitter Mark Dondero (Medfield, Mass.) sent a Michael Sciarretta offering back up the middle to score Taylor Ferguson (Charlton, Mass.) and move Bryant to a 3-0 lead which it would make final with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth from sophomore closer Eric Polvani (Wallingford, Conn.).
Dondero and Campbell each registered multi-hit Game Ones, going 2-for-4 (RBI, run scored) and 2-for-3 (RBI), respectively. Christopher Brown led the Setters (29-20, 17-11) at the plate in the early contest, going 2-for-4.
The Bulldogs scattered seven hits off the pitching combination of Corbett and Sciarretta and let up six hits to Pace. With the win, Loh moves to 9-2 on the year, striking out three and walking two in eight innings of work. Polvani registered one strikeout and earned his 10th save of the season. Corbett (6-3) took the loss for Pace, fanning four, but issuing six walks and allowing two runs off five hits in eight frames.
But it was the second game, another closely contested faceoff from the hill, that put the Bulldogs out of reach to the rest of the conference, and it was Dondero who proved the catalyst again.
With the score knotted, 0-0, entering the tenth inning, shortstop Pat McKenna (Orange, Conn.) drew a leadoff walk off starter Zach Dayton and stole second during the next at bat. McKenna advanced to third on a deep popup from Ferguson.
But the Setters would regret the decision to pull Dayton for Sciarretta to face Dondero, as the senior ripped an RBI single into right field to bring home McKenna and the first run of the night cap.
The Bulldogs would strand two in the tenth, but Polvani wouldn’t need more than one run, giving up just one hit and facing four batters in the bottom of the frame to hold on for his 11th save of the season.
Freshman David O’Brien (Whitman, Mass.) threw seven no-hit innings, striking out five, before being replaced by lefty Mark Andrews (Hillsborough, NJ), who got the win and moved to 2-0 with a perfect two innings of work, fanning one.
Dayton moved to 4-3 with the loss, allowing just two hits and one run with four strikeouts.
The Bulldogs will return to action Sunday, May 4 when they host Assumption College for a single non-conference matchup at the Bryant Baseball Complex. First pitch is 12:00 p.m.