SALISBURY, Md. – With two outs on the board, the score tied at 4-4, and runners on first and second in the bottom of the 11th inning, the second-seeded Salisbury University baseball team just needed a base hit to win its Capital Athletic Conference tournament first-round game against visiting Wesley College. Junior Alex Lipman came up with the hit, sending a bouncer through the left side to score senior Kyle Hayman who slid into home plate just before the tag to put the Gulls past fifth-seeded Wesley, 5-4.
The game, scheduled to be played on Tuesday but pushed back a day by rain, started with each team's defense turning a double play in the first inning, erasing both team's initial base runner, and it was the Wolverines who would strike first, in the top of the second inning.
Matt Domian drove a ball through the left side of the infield off Salisbury starter Dan Fein and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt before KeAndre Jones sent the first offering from Fein to right field. His looping liner dropped in, and Domian came around to score for the 1-0 lead.
The Wolverines (10-17) added two more hits in the inning, which would lead to another two Wesley runs and an early 3-0 advantage.
The defense came through behind Fein in the top of the third, to keep the Wesley lead at three runs. A leadoff double by Tyler Hunter was erased when catcher Austin Barefoot gunned down the Wesley base runner trying to steal third. With two runners on and one out, Fein got a grounder to shortstop. Pete Grasso smoothly fielded the ball, stepped on second, and fired to first for the inning-ending double play.
The Sea Gulls (22-2) would put runners on in five of the first six innings, but would fail to score. The first Salisbury runner reached scoring position in the sixth, when Hayman drew a four-pitch, leadoff walk, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and third on a groundout. But Hayman was stranded 90 feet away when Wolverine starter Eric Willey got another groundout.
In the seventh, Salisbury would again draw a leadoff walk from Willey, this time it was Lipman who reached. After a pop out, Lipman moved into scoring position when Tyler Hrycak walked and Danny Breen loaded the bases by legging out an infield single on his grounder deep in the hole on the left side. Hayman would make the work count, grounding a ball over the first base bag for a double, scoring Lipman and Hrycak, cutting the lead to 3-2.
The Wolverines got one of the runs back in the next half inning, scoring an unearned run off reliever Jeff Oster. Wesley loaded the bases in the inning against Oster, but a sharp liner to second, snared by Lipman, ended the threat.
The Sea Gulls were held scoreless in the eighth inning, but made noise in the ninth, scoring two runs to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
Hrycak reached first on a Wesley error to open the ninth inning, and Breen beat out a chopper off the plate to put two men on with no outs. They both moved up into scoring position on Jake Dmiterchik's sacrifice bunt and on the next at bat, Hayman was walked to load the bases. With one out and the bases loaded, Grasso came to the plate and was hit by a pitch from Willey, which forced Hrycak home, putting the score at 4-3.
After Willey's mistake, the Wolverines went with a pitching change, bringing Connor Springsteen to the mound. Springsteen walked his first batter faced, Jordan Gowe, on five pitches, which brought Breen home and tied the game at 4-4. But Springsteen notched a strikeout and got a pop out to the catcher to send the game into extras.
In the bottom of the 10th, Barefoot started things with a looping single to right field and moved up on a sacrifice bunt. Tyler Illian pinch ran for Barefoot, and it appeared he would score the winner when pinch hitter Kyle Goodwin hit a soft fly to shallow left field, but Wesley left fielder Ron Morello charged in to make the catch on the run, and doubled Illian off at second base to end the inning.
The Sea Gulls did not allow Wesley to score in the top of the 11th, before providing the late-game heroics in the bottom-half of the inning to win the game.
Senior Kyle Hamby earned his second win on the mound for SU with two innings of work in extras, allowing just one hit and tallying two strikeouts. It was the first appearance for Hamby since March 25.
Both teams hit the road tonight to western Maryland, for the remainder of the tournament, which will be hosted by Frostburg State University through Saturday, April 18. With the win, the Sea Gulls get to sleep in on Thursday, April 16, not playing until the final game of the day, at 4 p.m., taking on third-seeded University of Mary Washington, which defeated Marymount (Va.) University in the first round on Wednesday. The Wolverines will have an early wake-up call, playing the 9 a.m., contest on Thursday, against Christopher Newport University.