LYNDHURST, N.J. – Junior right-hander Alex Schwartz (Voorhees, N.J./Eastern Regional) pitched into the ninth inning and senior shortstop L.T. Struble (Hammonton, N.J./Hammonton) went 3 for 4 to lead Felician University to a 2-1 victory over visiting Wilmington (Del.) University in Game 1 of the teams' Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference baseball doubleheader on Tuesday afternoon at the Lyndhurst Recreation Complex. Wilmington rebounded for a 12-3 extra-inning triumph in Game 2.
Wilmington is ranked No. 5 and Felician No. 7 in the most recent NCAA Division II East Region writers' poll. The Golden Falcons (21-17, 15-5 CACC) maintained their three-game lead over Chestnut Hill College for first place in the CACC South Division. The Wildcats are one game back of Chestnut Hill and four behind Felician with 12 to play.
Junior Eddie Nevins (Fairfax, Va./South County) was a combined 6 for 9 for the Wildcats. Struble collected four of Felician's eight hits on the day.
All the scoring in Game 1 occurred in the first two innings. Wilmington (22-14, 11-9) used three singles, including an RBI hit by Nevins, to jump out to a 1-0 first inning lead. But Felician reached Wildcat starter Kyle Maxwell (Wilmington, Del./Conrad) for a pair of unearned runs in the second.
The Golden Falcons started the fateful frame with two singles. One out later, an infield grounder was thrown away in an attempt at the force at second base. Matt Downey (Elizabeth, N.J./Elizabeth) came around to score on the play. With two outs, Struble drove in what proved to be the winning run with a single up the middle.
Schwartz and Maxwell matched zeroes into the late innings. Wilmington put runners on first and third with none out in the seventh, but Schwartz escaped with a line-drive double play and groundout. A double play called on the NCAA force-play slide rule derailed another potential Wildcat rally in the eighth.
Schwartz issued his only walk of the game when Nevins reached on five pitches to start the ninth. Felician then opted for sophomore righty Nick Nardulli (Staten Island, N.Y./Tottenville). Nevins was sacrificed to second base, but Nardulli closed out his seventh save with a pair of strikeouts.
Schwartz (4-1) gave up seven hits and recorded two strikeouts in his eight-plus frames. Maxwell (0-2) took the hard-luck loss, yielding no earned runs on six hits in 7 2/3 innings with 11 strikeouts and one base on balls. Nevins and Dakota Graham (Dover, Del./Dover) had two hits each for the Wildcats. Felician's Mike Martinez (Union City, N.J./Bergen Catholic) was 2 for 3 with a double.
Game 2 was scheduled for seven innings, but the teams were even, 2-2, after that period. After both sides came up with a tally in the eighth, Wilmington exploded for nine runs in the top of the ninth. Nevins beat out a one-out infield hit, stole second base, and scored the go-ahead run on Brooks Ryan's (Westminster, Md./Winters Mill) single off Struble (1-1), who had taken the mound from his shortstop position an inning earlier. The Wildcats picked up four more hits in the inning and took advantage of two errors, a walk and two hit batsmen.
Felician led, 2-1, after six innings despite having been out-hit to that point, 8-2. In the bottom of the fourth, Danny Healey Jr. (Brookhaven, Pa./Monsignor Bonner) scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch and, following a walk, Jasson Corneil (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic/CENAPEC) drew another walk for a 2-0 lead. Wilmington left seven runners on base over the first four stanzas without scoring before Ryan's RBI double in the fifth.
The Wildcats evened the score in the seventh with consecutive doubles from Derek Donastorg (Fort Meade, Md./Meade) and Kendall Small (Dover, Del./Dover) off Nardulli, who was attempting a seven-out save. Julian Kurych (Middletown, Del./Appoquinimink) blasted a two-out go-ahead triple in the eighth, but Healey's sacrifice fly in the bottom half kept the Golden Falcons alive.
Wilmington's 17 hits included seven doubles and two triples. The Wildcats' 3-4-5 hitters – Small, Nevins and Ryan – combined to bat 12 for 18 with six runs and eight RBI. Each had four hits. Struble picked up the other Felician safety.
The Golden Falcons and Wildcats meet in another CACC doubleheader on Friday at noon in New Castle, Del.