Sailfish Bitten by NSU Sharks with Ninth Inning Rally
February 16, 2010
Written By: Michael Brown, PBA Sports Information Director
LAKE WORTH, Fla.- A total of 10 pitchers took the hill Tuesday evening at Dave Manzo Field where the Palm Beach Atlantic University and Nova Southeastern University baseball teams got together for what would be the official 2010 home opener for the Sailfish. After taking a 7-6 lead into the ninth inning, the Fish would be stunned as the Sharks pushed across six ninth inning runs, clinching a 12-7 win on a beautiful evening for baseball.
Now 0-5 to start the season, Palm Beach Atlantic took on a Nova Southeastern squad that was coming off a split with Flagler College, a team the Fish will face three times beginning this weekend.
Both teams committed some costly physical and mental errors in the contest with NSU tallying 15 hits and two errors while PBA managed 10 hits and two errors. Neither starting pitcher lasted beyond the sixth inning.
PBA received a second straight solid outing from junior Chad Volbert who went the first 5.1 innings while allowing seven hits, three runs, one walk, and one strikeout before giving way to the bullpen. NSU countered with Sean Koecheler who allowed only a fourth inning single to Vasilios Mila before being lifted after four innings of work. Koechler finished with four strikeouts.
NSU tallied the game’s opening run in the first inning as slugging first-baseman Dusty Maggs delivered an RBI single that scored second-baseman Eric McCans who had reached earlier in the inning on a walk.
After another NSU run came around to score in the top of the fourth inning on a wild pitch by Volbert, it would be up to the Sailfish offense to respond. After struggling to figure out Koechler, the Fish jumped all over new pitcher Anthony Nalepa who allowed RBI singles from PBA shortstop Tommy Crews and Scott Urbanek to knot the score at 2-2 after four innings.
After NSU retook the lead in the top of the sixth inning that eventually ended Volbert’s night, the Fish would turn to freshman right-hander Peter Graffeo out of the bullpen. The Highlands Christian product responded with a pair of swinging strikeouts to end the inning.
After strong pitching dominated the first six innings on both sides, the final three innings would turn offensive. NSU plated three runs in their half of the seventh inning followed by PBA matching them with three of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Maggs delivered a two-run double for NSU while a two-run homerun from PBA’s Luis Mejia highlighted the big inning for PBA.
Trailing by one run entering the eighth inning, it would be the Fish who would jump on top with a two spot in the eighth as they benefited from another Mejia RBI, this time on a single up the middle, and then a line-drive by Urbanek that was dropped by the NSU right-fielder.
Nursing a one run lead into the ninth, the Fish elected to stay with Graffeo on the mound who had been pitching well in relief. NSU second-baseman Eric McCans led the inning off with a single that ended the night for Graffeo.
PBA head coach Gary Carter then made the move to sophomore right-hander Logan Thomas to attempt to close out the game with the 7-6 lead. After Rhys Roberts laid down an attempted sacrifice bunt that saw a miscommunication between the Sailfish infield put runners at first and second with nobody out, the Sharks then began to pile on.
A sacrifice bunt from Maggs put the potential tying and winning run into scoring position only to see both move ahead a base on a Thomas wild-pitch that tied the score at 7-7. Roberts came around to score the winning run on a pinch-hit walk from Alan Avila that forced home the eighth run of the game for NSU.
Graham White would relieve Thomas only to see pinch-hitter Matt Fisher deliver a soft single followed by a bases-clearing triple from Chris Hamper to put the game out of reach. Nikko Echevarria added in an RBI single as well to cap the scoring at 12-7.
Three Sailfish players registered multi-hit games against the Sharks with Mejia’s 2-for-3 performance with three RBI’s leading the way while Keith Clabaugh and Crews each registered two hits apiece.
Thomas tallied the loss for PBA which drops him to 0-3 on the season while Issac Hicks earned the win for NSU in relief with one inning of work where he allowed three hits, two runs, and struck out one.
PBA will have the majority of the week off from game action until they welcome in Flagler on Friday for the beginning of a three-game series at Dave Manzo Field at Dick Brown Park. The two teams will square of at 7 p.m. on Friday and then again for a double-header on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. All three games will be broadcast on the Sailfish Sports Network.