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Fernandes Lifts Southern Maine Past Keene State, 14-6

MANSFIELD, Conn.. – Sophomore catcher Zach Fernandes (Eliot, Maine) hit a grand slam and added a fifth run batted in to power the University of Southern Maine baseball team over Keene State College, 14-6, in an elimination game of the 2010 Little East Conference Baseball Tournament hosted by top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University at ECSU Baseball Stadium in Mansfield, Conn.

The Huskies improve to 21-20 and will play the loser of the match-up between Eastern Connecticut State and number four seed University of Massachusetts Boston tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. in Mansfield, Conn.

Southern Maine faced an early 3-0 deficit in the bottom of the first inning, but sent 12 men to the plate
and exploded for seven runs to take a 7-3 lead. Sophomore left fielder Roberto Valenti (Lawrence, Mass.) led off with a single up the middle and sophomore shortstop Anthony Pisani (Cheshire, Conn.) gave the Huskies a pair of runners in scoring position with a double to right center. Junior first baseman Mike Eaton (Sabattus, Maine) pulled Southern Maine to within one with a two-run single up the middle. Freshman third baseman Nick Grady (Whitefield, Maine) drew a walk and senior designated hitter Collin Henry (Penobscot, Maine) became the fifth straight batter to reach base for the Huskies with a single through the right side to load the bases. Freshman center fielder Tucker White (Deerfield, N.H.) tied the game at 3-3 with a fielder’s choice and freshman second baseman John Carey (South Portland, Maine) singled up the middle to give Southern Maine a 4-3 lead and chase Keene State sophomore starting pitcher Jeff Pelkey (Fitzwilliam, N.H.) from the game in favor of senior reliever Mike Riley (East Hartford, Conn.). Sophomore catcher Zach Fernandes (Eliot, Maine) greeted the new pitcher with an RBI single and, after the second out of the frame, Valenti registered his second hit of the inning to give the Huskies a 6-3 margin. Pisani followed with a run-scoring single of his own to make it 7-3.

Southern Maine added two more runs with two outs in the third, getting one run on consecutive doubles by sophomore right fielder David Ricker (Winthrop, Maine) and Valenti and an RBI single off the bat of Pisani for a 9-3 advantage. The Owls got a run back in the fourth to make it 9-4 when senior third baseman Keith Patnode (Keene, N.H.) took an 0-2 pitch out of the park for his seventh home run of the season to lead off the frame.

The Huskies put the game away with a five-run sixth, fueled by a grand slam homer from Fernandes to drive in Eaton (single), Grady (hit by pitch) and White (hit by pitch). Ricker went yard for back-to-back homers and a 14-4 lead. Keene State put single runs on the board in the seventh and eighth to cut the deficit to 14-6. Sophomore second baseman Greg Bates (Salem, N.H.) singled to center and later scored on a two-out double to left by junior first baseman Tyler DiPrato (Suffield, Conn.) in the seventh and senior catcher Anthony Cipolla (Glastonbury, Conn.) doubled and later scored on a two-out single by sophomore designated hitter Erik Bergstrom (Enfield, Conn.) in the eighth.

The Owls opened the evening’s scoring with three runs in the top of the first when DiPrato and senior shortstop Jesse Cahill (Cranston, R.I.) drew back-to-back walks, prior to a two-run single off the bat of junior right fielder Bobby Doyon (Keene, N.H.). to chase Southern Maine senior southpaw Mark Schmidt (Gorham, Maine) from the game. Sophomore reliever Dustin Stanton (Cornish, Maine) got the call from the bullpen and fanned a batter before Patnode stung a single to center to bring home the third run of the inning for Keene State.

Stanton improves to 2-1 with the win for the Huskies after hurling nine innings in relief, allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk, while striking out four. Pelkey (2-3) takes the loss for the Owls, giving up six runs on five hits and a walk in one-third of an inning.

Valenti, Pisani and Eaton all registered multiple-hit and RBI efforts along with Fernandes to pace Southern Maine. Patnode led Keene State in his final collegiate game with a 3-4 outing, while knocking in a pair of runs. Doyon also drove in two runs with a hit.