WINTER HAVEN, FL – Saint Joseph's (7-1) defeated Keene State College (7-5), 8-2, in the RussMatt Invitational on Friday afternoon. Junior pitcher Chad Rafferty (Keene, N.H.) allowed one earned run off three hits over seven innings of work and collected his second victory of the year in the triumph.
The Monks trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the first but managed to score three runs in the opening frame to secure an advantage that would not be relinquished. St. Joe's went on to score single runs in the second, third, fifth, seventh and eighth innings and outhit Keene by a whopping 15-3 margin en route to the in-region triumph.
The Owls threatened to rally on several occasions but the Monks were bailed out of potentially hairy situations by way of the twin killing as the Royal Blue turned a season-high four double plays on the afternoon.
Rafferty's outing started off with a shaky first inning, as the Monks' staff ace walked the first two batters he faced and allowed a run-scoring single off the bat of right fielder Erik Bergstrom. The junior righty battled through the rough patch, yielding a fly out to left and inducing an inning-ending double play to minimize the damage.
St. Joe's quickly jumped on Keene pitcher Eric Perrault, as junior center fielder Nate Martin (Chebeague Island, Maine) led off with a single and scored when the Owls' southpaw fielded a Sam Butts (Saco, Maine) bunt and chucked the ball down the right field line. Freshman catcher Joe Coyne (Duxbury, Mass.) laced a single to right and junior first baseman Mike Pratt (Dartmouth, Mass.) reached via hit by pitch to load the bases for sophomore designated hitter Alex Markakis (Lynnfield, Mass.), who plated a pair with a sharply-hit single to right to lift his team to a 3-1 cushion.
The Monks added to their lead with a run off a Keene miscue in the bottom of the second. With two out, Martin was tagged by an errant fastball and scored when Coyne capped a seven-pitch at bat with a hard-hit groundball that squeaked through the wickets of KSC third baseman Greg Bates.
With one out in the bottom of the third sophomore right fielder Alex Lorenc (Nanuet, N.Y.) doubled to right field and managed to score when sophomore third baseman Lincoln Sanborn (Standish, Maine) reached on an error.
The Owls managed to cut their deficit down to 5-2 in the top of the fourth with the help of an SJC error, a hit batsman, and a single. First baseman Larry Longo reached via error and scored three batters later when left fielder Ian Seawards reached on a fielder's choice. Rafferty worked out of a bases-loaded jam by inducing a harmless pop out to center off the bat of Bates.
St. Joe's was able to regain the four-run cushion in the bottom of the fifth when Pratt led off with a double to left-center, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a Lorenc sacrifice fly to center field. The Monks tacked on insurance runs in the seventh, off a Brandon Chase (Naples, Maine) sac fly, and the eighth, off a Markakis sac fly, to cap the game scoring with Saint Joseph's securely on top.
Butts paced the Monks' offense, going 3-5 with two runs scored, while Markakis produced a 2-4 day with a run and three RBI. Martin went 2-4 with two runs, Pratt was 2-4 with a run and a double, Lorenc added two hits in three trips with a run, a double, and an RBI, and senior shortstop Dan Achorn (Bow, N.H.) went 2-4 on the afternoon.
Sophomore righthander Nick Whittaker (Yarmouth, Maine) was nearly flawless in relief, working two scoreless frames with no hits and a walk allowed while fanning three KSC batters.
Perrault suffers the loss for Keene State after allowing four runs off four hits with a pair of K's in 1.2 innings. Nick Winn was effective in relief, yielding two runs (one earned) off four hits and no walks in 3.1 frames and Pat Tempone finished the game for the Owls by tossing three innings with two runs allowed of seven hits.
With the win Saint Joseph's improves to 7-6 in the history of the series with Keene State College. The Owls edged the Monks during the teams' spring trip last year, winning 10-9 in a game played at Webber International University on March 15th.
Saint Joseph's will close out the 2012 southern swing tomorrow morning with a single nine-inning tilt versus #18 Western New England College at Lake Bonny Park. First pitch versus the defending New England Region champions is slated for 9:30 AM.