WORCESTER, Mass. – The Holy Cross baseball team entered the bottom of the ninth inning of the latter game down one run, but battled back as junior Brendan McCrea (Hicksville, N.Y.) notched a walk-off double, boosting his team to a two-game sweep against visiting NJIT by scores of 8-3 and 10-9 at Fitton Field. With the final scores of the day, the Crusaders improve to 6-8 on the season while the Highlanders move to a record of 3-13. McCrea and fellow junior Nick Ciardiello (Edison, N.J.) led the offensive front for their team, combining for eight RBI on the day. Ciardello went 4-for-7 at the plate with three runs and five RBI while McCrea also went 4-for-7, doubling for all of his hits and picking up the final three RBI.
The Crusaders jumped ahead early in the first game, getting three runs on three hits in the bottom of the first inning. Ciardello hit a double down the left field line to bring two runs home and was followed by the first career triple from freshman Stephen Wadsworth (Wayland, Mass.), scoring Ciardello. Senior Matt Perry (Sudbury, Mass.) would increase the team’s lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the second inning, hitting a double down the left field line for the second time in the game, scoring junior Jack Laurendeau (Sudbury, Mass.) who singled to start the inning. NJIT scored two in the top of the third inning, bringing the score to 4-2.
Holy Cross marked three insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth inning as the team collected four hits to regain a 7-2 lead. Ciardello and Wadsworth collected back-to-back hits to notch their third and second RBI of the day respectively. With two outs, McCrea doubled for the final hit, scoring Wadsworth. Ciardello tacked on his fourth RBI and second double of the day with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to round out Holy Cross’ runs on the day as the team advanced past the Highlanders 8-3 in the first game of the doubleheader.
Ciardello continued his hot hitting, knocking out a home run in his first at-bat of the second game, giving the Crusaders an early 1-0 edge after two innings. Holy Cross added two more runs in the bottom of the third before NJIT exploded for seven runs on six hits to take a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Crusaders would tack on two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, including a one-run double from Sills, scoring McCrea who led off the inning with a double. Sills then scored on a fielder’s choice for the second run as the team got within two runs of NJIT, 7-5, after five innings of play. A total of five runs were scored in the eighth inning as the Highlanders increased their lead to 9-5 after scoring on a double and an error. Holy Cross mounted a three-run comeback on four hits to get within one run in the bottom half of the inning, 9-8, after picking up an RBI from Sills and two runs on wild pitches.
The comeback came full circle for the Crusaders in the bottom of the ninth inning. Sophomore Steve Tkowski (Bourne, Mass.) led off with a double and advanced to third on a bunt single by senior Chris Blanchard (Norwich, Conn.). Freshman Patrick Puentes (East Greenbush, N.Y.) would tie the score at 9-9 after hitting a sacrifice fly, bringing Tkowski home. With two outs, junior Laurendeau walked and then advanced to second on a throwing error by the pitcher. McCrea then hit the go-ahead double to right centerfield, scoring Laurendeau for the winning run of the game. Holy Cross completed the sweep with a 10-9 victory.
Sophomore Nate Koneski (North Dighton, Mass.) pitched a complete game in the first outing, picking up his third win and improving to 3-1 on the season. He allowed just three runs on five hits and striking out seven batters in seven innings pitched. Fellow sophomore John Pedrotty (Portsmouth, R.I.) tallied his second win to improve to 2-0 on the season after earning the winning decision in the second game. He came in to pitch the final two innings, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out four. NJIT’s Mark Leiter took the loss in game one, falling to 1-3 on the season while junior Steven Ace dropped the decision in game two, going to 0-2 on the season.
On the day, Holy Cross combined for 18 runs on 28 hits while NJIT scored 12 runs on 15 hits. The Crusaders also stole five bases and marked four triples, both season-highs.
Holy Cross will complete the four-game set against NJIT at Fitton Field on Sunday, March 28. The doubleheader will begin at 12:00 p.m. in Worcester, Mass.