LEWISTON, N.Y. – St. Bonaventure jumped out to an early lead and never looked back on the way to an opening game victory before falling in extra innings in the nightcap for a doubleheader split Tuesday at Little Three rival Niagara.
The Bonnies grabbed a 5-1 win in the opener, but Niagara forged a split with its 2-1 decision in eight innings to finish out the day's twinbill.
St. Bonaventure moves to 14-12 overall on the season while Niagara stands at 17-11 with the Bonnies taking the season series, two games to one.
GAME ONE: St. Bonaventure 5, Niagara 1 | Box Score (PDF)
After singles from Aaron Phillips and Cole Peterson to begin the game, Vaccaro drilled a 2-2 pitch from Niagara starter Tyler Howard out for a three-run homer and his fourth blast of the year. On the very next pitch, Baker also went yard for the third time on the year, handing the Bonnies a 4-0 lead.
That score stuck until the seventh when Phillips plated another run on a double down the left field line to stretch the lead to five.
Niagara would threaten in the last of the seventh, however. The Purple Eagles loaded the bases with one out before Danny Urban picked up a strikeout of leadoff man Tanner Kirwer. Donovan Moffat was then called upon out of the bullpen and the Purple Eagles got a run home following a Bonnies fielding error. With the Purple Eagles looking to get back in the game, Moffat caught the outer half of the plate to catch Peter Battaglia, who entered the day second on the team with 24 RBIs, looking for the final out of the game.
Phillips went 2-for-4 out of the leadoff spot, batting atop the Bonnies order for the first time this season.
Brandon Schlimm started for the Bonnies in his first action since March 17 due to injury. The junior worked one scoreless inning, allowing two hits with a strikeout and stranded men at the corners in the first after throwing 20 pitches.
Brian Pulli (1-0) earned his first career win with three innings of relief, blanking the Purple Eagles while striking out one and allowing two hits. James Wetter also tossed two scoreless innings and Moffat picked up his third save with the final out of the game.
Howard (0-2) was charged with four runs on four hits for Niagara.
GAME TWO: Niagara 2, St. Bonaventure 1 (8 innings) | Box Score (PDF)
Niagara seized a 2-1 win on a two-out, walk-off single to center off the bat of Trevor McCauley. With darkness falling at Bobo Field, the Bonnies outfielders had trouble getting a read on the hit off the bat, allowing the ball to drop and score the game-winning run with men at first and second and two outs.
In the eighth, SBU had a chance to take the lead. Vaccaro singled to center to lead off and moved in to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Baker. Following a strikeout for the second out, Taishi Terashima was hit by a pitch and an infield single from pinch hitter David Hollins loaded the bases. Niagara picked up a ground ball out to second base to end the threat, however.
After getting the save in game one, Moffat started a game for the first time in his Bonnies career, throwing the first two innings. A second inning single by Michael Gabriele brought a run home for a Niagara lead in the early going.
St. Bonaventure had a golden opportunity in the fifth, loading the bases with one out. Reliever Alex MacKinnon was called out of the bullpen for Niagara, and coaxed a shallow fly to left forcing the runner at third to hold. Then he delivered a ground ball on the right side to end the threat and keep Bona scoreless.
The Bonnies forced home the tying run with a bit of help from Niagara in the sixth. Baker reached on an infield single with one away, moving to second on a walk to Phillips. A double steal moved Baker and Phillips up, then with two outs, MacKinnon spiked a pitch in front of home plate. That allowed Baker to race home with the tying run and a 1-1 score.
Niagara threatened in the home half of the sixth, putting runners at the corners with two outs before Ryan MacCarrick tracked down a deep fly ball to left to retire the side.
Moffat allowed a run on two hits in two innings while Scott Jerge picked up four outs, two by strikeout, without allowing a base runner. Roman Wild (3-3) worked the final 3.2 innings with a strikeout.
The Bonnies next travel to Wagner for a Friday doubleheader at noon.
- Vaccaro drilled his fourth home run of the year and pushed his season RBI total to a team-high 24. He finished the day 4-for-6 at the plate with a double and a homer.
- Pulli worked his career-long outing for the win in game one, also lowering his season ERA to 1.04 in five appearances out of the bullpen.
- Moffat again got out of trouble after entering the game in a tight situation – just five of 23 inherited runners have scored against him this season with a fifth coming home Wednesday due to an error.
- Ryan O'Connor made his second start of the season, getting the nod at second base in the first game. Ben MacDonald also made his second start, working behind the plate in the second game.
- Casey Vincent picked up his first career start in the field, playing third base in game two.
- The Bonnies won the first game of the season series, 7-2, last week at home.
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