DANVILLE, Va. – The No. 9 Salisbury University baseball team took on Roanoke College in doubleheader action on Sunday, May 21 with a spot in the College World Series on the line. The Sea Gulls won game one by the final score of 7-6 but fell in game two 13-5 and are eliminated from the 2017 NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament.
Game one: Salisbury 7, Roanoke 6
Salisbury raced out to a 2-1 lead after one inning but would have to rally back late in the game and hold on for the win to avoid elimination. Pete Grasso opened the scoring for the Gulls, knocking an RBI single through the left side to plate Justin Meekins for the games opening run. Tom LaBriola pushed the lead to 2-0, looping an RBI single to right scoring Grasso.
After the Maroons ran off three straight runs to take a 3-2 lead Jack Barry pulled the Gulls even in the top of the fifth inning. Barry recorded his only hit of the game knocking a single through the left side of the infield to score Meekins.
In the top of the sixth Meekins went from run scorer to run producer tallying an infield RBI single plating Jay Perry to tie the game at four all. He answered the call again in the top of the eighth giving Salisbury the lead for good with his second RBI of the afternoon ripping a double down the left-field line scoring Robbie Jones for the 7-6 advantage.
Scott Ardoin plated Meekins later in the inning for what proved to be the game winning run when he knocked a single down the right field line to stretch the lead to two, 8-6.
The pitching staff of Connor Reeves, Andrew Kramer, and Grasso was solid throughout for the Sea Gulls. Reeves earned the start going two and two third innings pitched allowing three runs on five hits while striking out one. Kramer came in for one and two third innings surrendering just one run while Grasso completed the game throwing the final four and two third innings of the contest, surrendering two runs but picked up his ninth win of the season.
Game two: Roanoke 13, Salisbury 5
In game two the teams went back and forth but a seven-run sixth inning by Roanoke (33-17) sealed the win and Gulls (35-11) fate, eliminating them from the tournament. It was the second time in three games this tournament against the Maroons that Salisbury was held to just five runs and allowed double-digit runs against.
Roanoke jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning but Salisbury trimmed the deficit to one in the bottom half of the third. Ardoin reached base safely on an infield error by the Maroons scoring Jones and getting the Gulls on the board.
After Roanoke pushed the advantage to 4-1 in the top of the fifth the Sea Gulls rallied back to tie the game at four all in the bottom half of the fifth. Salisbury plated three runs via a walk, fielding error by the Maroons, and a Barry sacrifice fly to center that plated Meekins.
Just when it looked like the Gulls were back in the game the Roanoke offense erupted for nine runs over the final four innings including seven in the sixth to win the South Region and earn a berth in the 2017 College World Series, which will be played in Appleton, Wisc.
Micah Wells got the start for the Gulls, going five innings allowing three earned runs while striking out three and surrendering one walk. Jeff Oster, who took the loss, Brad Keith, and Jack Cheney completed the game combining to pitch the final four innings allowing eight earned runs while combining for one strikeout.
Overall, Meekins completed the day going 4-for-7 with four runs scored and two RBI while Ardoin went 4-for-9 with a team-high four RBI. Jones was the only other Gull to tally more than two hits between the two games finishing 4-for-9 with two runs scored.
For their efforts throughout the tournament Oster, LaBriola, and Jones were named to the South Region All-Tournament Team.
For his career Grasso will finish top-10 in multiple statistical categories for the maroon and gold including tied for fourth in games played (169); first in at-bats (690), hits (252), triples (13), and runs scored (198); second in RBI (177); tied for fifth in doubles (43); third in total bases (381); fourth in strikeouts (192); and third in saves with 10.