MANCHESTER, N.H. – Bentley University senior right-hander Jeff Croteau (Auburn, Mass./ Auburn HS) pitched a five-hit shutout and his teammates scored four times in the second as the Falcons topped Southern New Hampshire University, 4-0, in the opening half of a Northeast-10 Conference Northeast Division baseball doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Penmen Field.
Bentley was six outs away from completing a three-game sweep of the Penmen, but three eighth-inning errors allowed SNHU to tie the game and the home team went on to post a 5-4 13-inning victory to salvage one game in the series.
The game two loss snapped a five-game winning streak and knocked the Falcons out of a first-place tie in the division. Bentley, which stands a game back of Franklin Pierce, finished the day at 20-16 overall, 12-8 in the conference and 8-4 in the division.
In game one, senior right fielder Tom Nagy (Fairfield, Conn./Ludlowe HS) led off the top of the second with a single to center, and senior catcher Kevin Korwek (Madison, Conn./Daniel Hand HS) followed with a single to right. Consecutive walks to junior shortstop Will Brennan (Locust Valley, N.Y./ Locust Valley HS) and junior third baseman Nate Witkowski (Melrose, Mass./Malden Catholic HS), both on full counts, forced in one run, and freshman DH Bryan Rocha (Rehoboth/Dighton-Rehoboth HS) made it 3-0 with a two-run double to right center.
Later in the inning, after junior center fielder Sean Keady (Norwood, Mass./Norwood HS) recorded his school record 87th career steal, an errant throw enabled Rocha to score with Bentley's fourth run of the inning.
Croteau, who helped Bentley record its fifth win of the year over a top 25 team, didn't walk a batter and struck out two while recording his sixth win of the season. He left runners on the corners in the second, a man on second in the third and a runner on first in both the seventh and eighth.
Nineteen of the outs recorded by Croteau came via ground balls with his teammates playing errorless ball.
Keady had three of Bentley's eight hits and Rocha had two.
Taking the loss for Southern New Hampshire (26-13, 12-10 NE-10, 9-6 Northeast) was senior righty Jon Massad (Shrewsbury, Mass.), who entered the day with a 5-2 record and a 1.20 ERA. In seven innings, he yielded seven hits with three of the four runs earned.
In the nightcap, Bentley battled back from an early 2-0 deficit to take a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth. Witkowski doubled and scored on a single by junior left fielder Dante Padovani (Lynnfield, Mass./Lynnfield HS) for the first run, and Keady scored on a wild pitch for the second, after reaching on a walk, stealing second and moving to third on a grounder.
In the sixth, Bentley took the lead with doubles by Witkowski and Korwek, with a walk to Brennan sandwiched in between. The Falcons added what appeared to be an insurance run, but proved to be needed, in the eighth when Padovani led off with a single, was sacrificed to second and scored on a pair of wild pitches.
Southern New Hampshire, which had scored only three runs in the series' first 25 innings, took advantage of three Falcon miscues to score twice in the eighth. Freshman second baseman Zach Goldstein (Merrick, N.Y.) scored the first on a grounder after a single and two outfield errors put him on third to start the inning. Later in the frame, grad student Andrew Pezzuto (Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.) stole home with two outs to tie the game.
Bentley, which left 13 on base, managed only one more hit the rest of the game and struck out seven times in extra innings, pushing its game total to 22 off four SNHU pitchers. Winning pitcher Junior Mendez (Patchogue, N.Y.), who came out of the bullpen for the first time all season, fanned four in his two perfect innings of relief.
Goldstein ignited the game-winning rally with a lead-off single through the right side in the 13th. After a sacrifice, intentional walk and strikeout, junior third baseman Riley Palmer (Goffstown, N.H.) ended the night with a two-out single to right resulting in his third RBI of the game.
Spoiled with the loss were solid pitching performances from both senior John Yohe (Merrick, N.Y./St. Dominic HS) and sophomore Connor Root (Nashua, N.H./Nashua HS North). Yohe yielded seven hits and three runs in 7.1 innings, and Root fanned seven and allowed four hits in 5.1 innings of relief.
Padovani, Witkowski and Korwek each had two hits, with Korwek extending his hitting streak to 19. Brennan, hitless in the two games, saw his hitting streak halted at 16.
Bentley will next play on Tuesday when they'll complete a halted game at Saint Anselm. The Falcons will enter the fifth inning on the short end of a 5-2 score.