AUBURNDALE, FL – Saint Joseph's (6-1) swept a doubleheader with Curry College (2-5), winning the opener by a 5-2 score before edging the Colonels, 2-1, in eight innings in the nightcap.
Senior utility player Kyle Neagle (Lisbon Falls, Maine) proved his worth with a variety of important contributions in the two victories. The team tri-captain logged time in left field before earning his second save of the season with a scoreless seventh in the opener and recorded the victory, as well as the game-winning hit, in the nightcap.
St. Joe's took advantage of six Curry fielding errors in the first game of the day as all five of the Monks' runs were of the unearned variety, including two in the second frame. With one out in the top of the second, freshman catcher Nic Lops (South Portland, Maine/Cheverus) belted a double to left-center and, after Alex Markakis (Lynnfield, Mass.) reached via error and Lincoln Sanborn (Standish, Maine) was plunked to load the bases, scored along with Markakis when junior second baseman Brandon Chase (Naples, Maine) reached on an error by Curry shortstop Carlos Cornejo.
The Colonels countered with a run off two hits in the bottom of the second and added another score in the fifth, but the Royal Blue answered with single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to earn the 5-2 triumph. In the fourth, Sanborn doubled and scored on an errant pickoff throw and Markakis plated junior center fielder Sam Butts (Saco, Maine) with a single in the top of the fifth. Right fielder Alex Lorenc (Nanuet, N.Y.) led off the sixth with a sharply hit single down the left field line and later scored on a Butts base knock to cap the game scoring.
SJC righthanded pitcher Jimmy Kennedy (York, Maine), making the second start of his career, allowed two runs off five hits and three free passes while fanning one batter over 4.1 innings to record the victory. Andy Devereaux (Hope Valley, R.I.) and Steve Carlberg (Dover, N.H.) both worked in relief before Neagle entered and tossed a scoreless seventh to record his second save of the young season.
With the bat, Butts, Markakis and junior first baseman Mike Pratt (Dartmouth, Mass.) all produced two hits in the triumph. Lops, Markakis and Sanborn chipped in with doubles in the Monks' fifth win of the year.
Curry starter Matt O'Neill was the hard-luck loser, as the righty allowed four unearned runs off five hits while fanning two batters in five innings of work. Corey Pierro allowed three hits and an unearned run in two innings of relief.
Right fielder Sam Barron, who went 2-4 with a run and a stolen base, was the Colonels' lone repeat-hitter.
The nightcap proved to be an old-fashioned pitchers' duel as Monks freshman Alex Valenti (Lawrence, Mass.), making his first collegiate start on the hill, and Colonels righty Joe Carrig combined to allow three runs off just eight hits.
St. Joe's produced the game's first run in the bottom of the third with the help of two perfectly placed sacrifice bunts. Sanborn led off the frame with a walk and moved to second when the next batter, senior second baseman Dan Brown (Portland, Maine/Deering), dropped down a sac bunt. Sanborn moved to third when sophomore catcher Willie Brown (Fayette, Maine) singled to right center and scored on a safety-squeeze bunt to lift the Royal Blue to a 1-0 edge.
The slim lead seemed to be enough with Valenti showing the ability and poise of a future staff stalwart over the next three innings, but the Colonels managed to knot the game with a two-out, seeing-eye single through the right side in the top of the seventh. Two turns followed as neither team was able to break the deadlock in the bottom of the seventh or top of the eighth.
The Monks' luck turned in the bottom of the eighth however, as Lops – pinch-hitting for Willie Brown – led off the inning by working a base on balls and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Chase followed with another free pass to set the stage for Neagle, who originally entered the game as a pinch runner for freshman designated hitter Joe Coyne (Duxbury, Mass.) in the bottom of the sixth and took to the hill in relief of Valenti in the top of the seventh. Neagle, who had not recorded an official plate appearance since the 2010 campaign when he hit .231 (3-13) in limited duty, squared up the second offering from reliever Thomas Faucett and drove the ball to center, plating Lops with the game-winning single.
With a 2-3 effort at the plate, Coyne was the Monks' only repeat-hitter in the victory. Valenti allowed one run off four hits and a walk while whiffing three over six innings and Neagle struck out three while allowing one hit and two free passes in two innings to earn his first win of the season.
Carrig suffered the loss after allowing two runs off four hits and three walks over 7.1 innings. Brian Morante was 2-3 with an RBI in the losing effort.
Saint Joseph's will face Keene State College in a single nine-inning game at 3:30 PM on Friday. The game will be played at Chain of Lakes field #1 in Winter Haven.