STANDISH, ME – Saint Joseph's (14-2, 2-0 GNAC) kicked off Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) play by sweeping Albertus Magnus College (2-10, 0-2 GNAC) at Larry Mahaney Diamond on Saturday afternoon. Freshman catcher Nic Lops (South Portland, Maine/Cheverus) registered three hits and two RBI in the two-game set.
The visiting Falcons took advantage of four seeing-eye singles to secure a two-run lead in the top of the first. Sophomore first baseman Zak Sokolis (Meriden, Conn.) reached first base on a pop up that fell between SJC shortstop Dan Achorn (Bow, N.H.) and left fielder Alex Markakis (Lynnfield, Mass.) and later scored on an infield hit by junior center fielder Robert Gambardella (North Haven, Conn.). Senior right fielder Kyle Calechman (North Haven, Conn.), who reached via fielder's choice, scored when freshman designated hitter Anthony Pellegrino (Branford, Conn.) singled through the left side.
The visitors' lead quickly vanished as the hosts managed to score two runs off three hits in the bottom of the opening frame. Junior center fielder Sam Butts (Saco, Maine) led off with a walk and moved over to third when the following hitter, Achorn, doubled off the left field wall. With two out, sophomore right fielder Alex Lorenc (Nanuet, N.Y.) laced a single through AMC third baseman Nick Sedia (Bronx, N.Y.), sending Butts scampering home, and Lops plated Achorn with a sharply-hit single through the right side, tying the contest at two-apiece.
SJC sophomore starting pitcher Lincoln Sanborn (Standish, Maine) settled in after a shaky first inning, scattering four hits for the remainder of his outing, which lasted six frames. In the meantime, the Monks scored single runs in the second and third innings to secure a 4-2 cushion. Freshman Joe Coyne (Duxbury, Mass.) drove in Butts, who reached via error, with a double in the second frame and Lops plated junior first baseman Mike Pratt (Dartmouth, Mass.), who also doubled, with a single to center in the third.
The Falcons would make the Monks sweat in the top of the seventh when they scored a run off three hits off SJC freshman reliever Alex Valenti (Lawrence, Mass.) to make it a one-run game. Freshman Andre Eason (Waterbury, Conn.) and Sokolis opened the final frame with back to back singles. With one out, senior catcher Malcolm Mendez (New York, N.Y.) sent Eason home with a single down the third base line, but Valenti would slam the door shut by striking out the next two batters on seven pitches.
For the Monks, Lops went 2-3 with two RBI, Achorn was 2-3 with a run and a double, Coyne added two hits in three at bats with a double and an RBI, and Butts scored two runs in the conference conquest.
For the Falcons, Sokolis was 3-4 with a run scored while Eason, Gambardella and Pellegrino all produced a pair of hits in a losing effort.
On the hill, Sanborn improved to 3-0 on the year after allowing two runs off eight hits and a walk with six K's in six innings. Valenti collected his first collegiate save after yielding a run off three hits while striking out the side in the seventh inning.
Albertus Magnus secured an early lead again in the nightcap, scoring a run off two hits in the second inning. Gambardella led off with a five-pitch walk, moved up a bag by way of a Sedia sac bunt, scampered to third when senior Jon Almonte (New York, N.Y.) grounded out to second, and scored on a Patrick Dornfried (Berlin, Conn.) single to right field.
Falcons starting pitcher Mike Barillaro (Meriden, Conn.) held the Monks' bats in check for the first three innings, a span during which the hosts failed to produce a baserunner. Butts broke the seal with a bunt single and walked to second when the next batter, Achorn, was plunked in the thigh while attempting to lay down a sac bunt. The Royal Blue would gain a 3-1 lead two batters later when Pratt sent a Barillaro offering sailing high over the left field wall for a three-run jack.
Saint Joseph's starter Nick Whittaker (Yarmouth, Maine) was not at his best, but battled through several rough spots and found his groove by recording harmless fourth, fifth and sixth innings of work. The sophomore righthander was lifted after the sixth in favor of senior slinger Andrew Devereaux (Hope Valley, R.I.), who induced a trio of harmless outs to earn his first save of the 2012 campaign.
Sokolis was the lone repeat-hitter of the contest, notching three of the Falcons' four hits in the nightcap. Butts, Lops and Sanborn rapped singles for the Monks in the sweep-clincher.
On the mound, Whittaker works six innings and allowed one run off four hits and five walks while fanning four to improve to 2-0 on the season. Barillaro, who gave up three runs off four hits and two walks and struck out a pair in six innings, falls to 1-2 on the year with the losing decision.
With the sweep, Saint Joseph's improves to 12-1 in the history of the series with Albertus Magnus College. The Monks have now defeated the Falcons in eight consecutive meetings dating back to the 2008 campaign.
St. Joe's will play at Suffolk University on Sunday in a conference twinbill set to begin at 12:00 PM, while Albertus hosts GNAC-rival Rivier College on Sunday at 1:00 PM.
Saint Joseph's College, founded in 1912 by the Sisters of Mercy, celebrates its Centennial year in 2012 with a theme of "Realize the Promise" – honoring our commitment to educating well-rounded graduates who combine career focus with classic liberal arts studies. A Private, Catholic, primarily residential, coeducational liberal arts institution, Saint Joseph's welcomes students of all ages and all faiths. The campus, located 18 miles northwest of Portland and just two hours from Boston, encompasses 350 acres along the shore of beautiful Sebago Lake in Standish, Maine. Enrollment ranges between 1,000 and 1,100 students annually. Saint Joseph's offers challenging academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education, nursing and business fields in a value-centered environment.