Naif Earns Win, Save As Baseball Sweeps Merrimack

Danny Naif earned a win and a save in a Mar. 24, 2016, home sweep of Merrimack, (Inside the Diamond Photography)
Danny Naif earned a win and a save in a Mar. 24, 2016, home sweep of Merrimack, (Inside the Diamond Photography)

LYNDHURST, N.J. – Senior second baseman Ralph Caccavale (Massapequa Park, N.Y./Plainedge) ended Game 1 with a walk-off single and junior designated hitter Brennan Price (Middlesex, N.J./Middlesex) lined a go-ahead two-run double late in Game 2 to lead the Felician University baseball team to a sweep of its non-conference doubleheader over visiting Merrimack College, 5-4 and 7-5, on Thursday afternoon at the Lyndhurst Recreation Complex.

Felician sophomore relief pitcher Danny Naif (Jackson, N.J./Jackson Liberty) (1-0) picked up his first collegiate victory in Game 1, and earned his third save of the season in the nightcap.

Merrimack (11-7) is ranked No. 5 in the most recent NCAA Division II East Region writers' poll. Felician (11-13) has won six consecutive games, including four in the last three days.

The Golden Falcons scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 1 to take a 4-3 lead. With two outs, Jason Polgano (Bronx, N.Y./Cardinal Spellman) grounded an RBI single through the left side to knot the score. Polgano then came all the way around from first to score the go-ahead run on a throwing error on Matt Kleinstein's (Marlboro, N.J./Colts Neck) grounder.

But Merrimack, which had scored single runs in the fifth and sixth frames, struck again in the seventh, evening the game at 4-4. Sean O'Neill (Norwood, Mass./Norwood) drew a leadoff walk and advanced on a wild pitch. Two batters later, he scored on a triple by Matt Nicholson (Rockland, Mass./Rockland). Felician reliever Jesus Colon (Brooklyn, N.Y./Phelps School [Pa.]) escaped further damage by inducing two pop-ups, and the game entered the bottom of the ninth still tied.

With one out, Golden Falcon junior Ronnie Grant (Burlington, N.J./Burlington Township) worked a walk. With an 0-and-2 count on Caccavale, a pickoff attempt by Warrior reliever Garrett Hudson (Greenfield, Mass./Greenfield) (0-1) was errant, allowing Grant to circle around to third base. Caccavale fouled off several pitches before clubbing a 1-and-2 offering inside the first-base bag to end the game.

Price started on the mound for Felician and turned in a solid outing in a no-decision. In five innings, he gave two unearned runs on one hit, struck out a career-high eight batters, and walked five. Polgano and Caccavale had three hits each, and sophomore Matt Diesel (Massapequa Park, N.Y./Massapequa) was 2 for 3 and scored twice. Nicholson finished 2 for 5 for the Warriors, who left 12 men on base.

Felician erased a 5-0 deficit in Game 2, a scheduled seven-inning affair. Polgano jump-started the comeback with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Later in the inning, Grant sent an RBI double down the left field line, and Bruce Strickland (Hazlet, N.J./Raritan) pulled the hosts to within 5-4 with a sacrifice fly.

Junior left-hander Tommy Giunta (Jackson, N.J./Marlboro) (1-0) tossed his second consecutive perfect inning in the sixth, and the Golden Falcons began the home half of the inning with consecutive infield singles by Matt Blandino (Bristol, Conn./Bristol Central) and Andrew LaMura (Brick, N.J./Red Bank Catholic). Price then sent a double into the right-center field gap, with LaMura racing around from first base to score the go-ahead run. J.R. Meneses (Lake Worth, Fla./Zion Lutheran) capped the rally with an RBI single.

Naif worked around a leadoff single to retire the Warriors in the seventh. Giunta earned the victory with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief. Grant and Price collected two hits each for Felician, as did Chris Cimmino (Orange, Conn./Amity Regional) for Merrimack.