SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 16 Salisbury University baseball team began play in the Capital Athletic Conference baseball tournament with a 21-6 win against the University of Mary Washington in opening-round action at the SU Baseball Field on Tuesday afternoon.
The top-seeded Sea Gulls played strong defense and had timely hitting to earn the opening-round win, showing off both in the first inning. After a one-out single for the Eagles in the top of the first, starting pitcher Pete Grasso got a grounder to second baseman Ron Villone, who started a double play to end the inning and the Salisbury offense got Grasso eight runs in the bottom of the inning.
Scott Ardoin got it started with a single up the middle before Grasso walked. Jack Barry brought home the first run off Mary Washington starter Bryant White, sending a ball through the left side for a 1-0 lead, with Grasso advancing to third. The lead doubled when senior Tom LaBriola singled through the right side, scoring Grasso before Barry scored on a wild pitch.
The lead grew to four runs with Brad Keith's single up the middle, bringing home LaBriola, but the Salisbury bats were not done, then going to the extra-base hits. Ron Villone drove a grounder over the first base bag, which went for a two-run double, scoring Keith and Kyle Canavan, who reached on an infield single. The scoring capped on Justin Meekins' two-run home run. The no-doubt shot to left field was Meekins' third of the year.
Salisbury sent 11 batters to the plate in the first inning, collecting seven hits, which kept coming through the contest. The Sea Gulls mashed 17 base hits on the afternoon, putting at least one runner on base in all eight offensive innings, while scoring in six of them led by Canavan's 3-for-5 effort.
The big first inning drove White from the game, with Alex Shapiro heading to the mound for two scoreless innings for the Eagles, long enough for the visitors to score one run in the top of the fourth inning.
It was one of three innings in which the Eagles scored, but each time Salisbury was able to answer with a run-scoring inning of its own.
In the bottom of the fourth, Barry came up with a ground-rule double scoring Grasso and Barry scored on a groundout.
Ardoin's single in the fifth brought two runs home and leading 13-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Salisbury got five more runs, highlighted by Canavan's three-run triple to left-center field.
Ardoin finished the game 3-for-6 and was one of six Sea Gulls with multiple hits and one of five to score at least five times.
The Eagles scored one run in the fourth and two in the sixth, but it was all they could muster against Grasso, who worked seven stellar innings, striking out a season-high-tying nine batters and giving up just six hits.
The senior put the exclamation mark on the victory, smashing a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to finish off his 2-for-4 day at the plate.
As the top seed in the field, Salisbury will host the six teams in the remainder of the double-elimination tournament Thursday, April 20 through Saturday, April 22.
With the win, Salisbury will play in Thursday's 12:30 p.m., contest against York College of Pennsylvania, which lost on Tuesday, 2-0, to Wesley College. The Eagles will appear in the 9 a.m., contest on Thursday, taking on Christopher Newport University in an elimination game.