WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – For the second straight season, the Suffolk baseball team used a walkoff run to take down Montclair State. This time it was sophomore Kevin Higgin's bat that brought in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th to lift the Rams to a 10-9 win Sunday morning as part of the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational.
SCORE: Suffolk 10, Montclair State 9
RECORDS: Suffolk (3-0) | Montclair State (3-9)
HOW IT HAPPENED
Montclair State carried a two-run lead into the bottom of the second where Suffolk trimmed the margin to one. Luke Ronchi led off with a double, moved to third on BJ Neil's single, and came home on Sean Cameron's single to plate the Rams' first run of the day.
The Red Hawks regained a two-run margin in the next half inning, but the Suffolk offense was just getting started. Kevin Belskie jump started the Rams' comeback with a double, advance to third on Greg Speliotis' single and came home on Ronchi's ground out to third. Tied at 2-all, the runs continued to come in for the Rams. Spelitois came home on Zach Grogan's single and Neil, who reached on a fielder's choice and shortly after stole second, scored the go-ahead run thanks to an RBI single from Cameron.
After retiring Montclair State in order in the top of the fourth, Belskie sent a solo shot over the right field fence to swing the deficit to two runs in Suffolk's favor, 5-3, after four complete innings.
Things remained interesting as a one-run game was restored in the fifth. Kevin Sinatra's day would come to an end on the bump for Suffolk after Montclair State loaded the bases in the top of the fifth. The Red Hawks scored one run off Tyler Zell courtesy of a sacrifice fly to center field from Dom Lampasona to make it a 5-4 game.
From there, a see-saw affair ensued. Suffolk went back up by two in the home half of the fifth with Cameron, who reached on a single, rounding home on a sac fly from Curtis Tirone. The Red Hawks responded with one run of their own in the sixth and put two away in the seventh to regain the advantage. Zell hit Philip Scott and Ian Lynch before Wyatt Stanley came out of the Suffolk bull pen. Lampasano's bunt loaded the bases off the senior south paw, and Scott evened the score on a fielder's choice. Lynch ran in the go-ahead run on Joe Norton's ground out to put the Red Hawks in front, 7-6.
Suffolk found itself in a 9-6 hole after a two-run top of the eighth from the Red Hawks, but the determined Rams trimmed the distance to one-run in the bottom half of the frame. With Ronchi on second and Zach Grogan, who singled, on first, pinch hitter Seth Coiley rocked a double down the left line to bring in the runners and move the score to 9-8. Zack Aresty took Coiley's place on the bags and moved over to third on an error by Red Hawks' third baseman. With Aresty in scoring position and two outs, Brady Chant grounded out to the pitcher sending Suffolk into the final inning down one.
Mark Fusco took over pitching responsibilities for the final regular inning. With help from Suffolk's fielders, the junior took care of business on the bump to set-up the thrilling Rams rally in the bottom of the ninth. Tirone belted a triple to lead things off and Matt Brenner brought in the tying run on an RBI single. The Rams stranded the winning run on as they would head to extra innings for the first time in 2017.
After a three-up, three-down top of the tenth, Suffolk stranded runners in the bottom half with both teams leaving runners on in their halves of the 11th to send the game to 12.
Behind Fusco it was a quick top of the inning as all three Red Hawks hit to second baseman Trevor Lee for three outs. Higgins' heroics came off his second hit of the day as he sent home Tirone for the game-winner.
- Five different Rams had multiple hit days paced by Belskie's perfect 4-for-4 showing at the plate featuring one double. The senior first baseman, who also drew three walks, brought in one run and scored two himself.
- Classmate Cameron also knocked four hits, including one double, in six at bats. The shortstop, who stole two bases, contributed two RBI and one run.
- Chant and Grogan each went 3-for-7 with a double apiece. The former registered one stolen base with the latter tallying one run, one RBI and sniped one bag.
- Coiley used a double to bring in two runs with Brenner, Higgins, Ronchi and Tirone all pitching in one RBI apiece.
- Ronchi and Tirone each scored two runs, with Neil (1) and Speliotis (1), who stole one base, rounded out the Rams runs scorers.
- Strong relief work from Fusco kept Suffolk in the game. The rightie, who worked the final 4.0 innings, kept the Red Hawks off the board, giving up just two hits and producing one strikeout to record his first win of the season.
- In his first start of the year, Sinatra threw 4.1 innings, while allowing four runs, three earned on five hits and striking out three.
- Zell (1.2 IP, 3R, 1H) and Stanley (2.0 IP, 2R, 3H) came on in relief as well.
- Montclair State also used four pitchers. Connor Lindsay opened the game and went the first 2.2, letting up four runs on seven hits and sat down two Rams.
- Anthony DeBalsio suffered the defeat in 2.1 innings with one run allowed on four hits.
- Suffolk out-hit Montclair State, 22-11.
- Suffolk has started the season 3-0 for the first time since going 3-0-1 to open the 1990 campaign. The three straight victories in the first three games of the season are the first for the Rams since rattling of six triumphs in a row in 1985.
- The Rams played in extra innings for the first time since capturing the 2016 GNAC Championship 5-4 in a 10-inning thriller over St. Joseph's (Maine) last season (May 8, 2016).
- Suffolk is 5-1 in extra innings under Anthony Del Prete winning four straight extra-inning contests under the skipper.
- In his first appearance in the starting lineup, Tirone produced a number of firsts including hits (1), which was a triple, runs (2) and RBI (1) as a Ram, all career bests for the sophomore.
- Higgins had a career-day in hits (2), match a career-best in total bases (2) and notched the first RBI of his collegiate career.
- Cameron's four hits marked a career-high for the senior.
- The Rams produced 22 hits, their third straight game with double figure hits, and first game with 20-plus hits since, racking up 23 in an 18-4 win over Clarkson March 13, 2016.
Suffolk will face Dickinson tomorrow at 12:45 p.m.