WEST HAVEN, Conn. – A two-run single by Andrew Johnson (Branford, Conn./Branford / Wheaton) highlighted a four-run fourth inning that propelled the University of New Haven baseball team to a 5-4 victory over Southern Connecticut State on Tuesday afternoon at Frank Vieira Field. Nick Nunziato (Setauket, N.Y./Ward Melville) hit his third home run of the season in the win.
With the Northeast-10 Southwest Division triumph, the Chargers improve to 15-5 overall to match the best start by New Haven since 2010. The last team with a better 20-game start was the 2004 squad that went 16-4, while the program record is a 21-0 mark to open the 1970 season that ended with a trip to the NAIA College World Series.
New Haven is also 8-1 against NE-10 competition overall and 4-1 in divisional contests. The Owls drop to 12-7-1 with a 3-3 NE-10 mark and 1-3 divisional tally.
The Chargers’ offense also got an RBI double from Zach Collett (Westbrook, Maine/Westbrook), while Chris DeMorais (West Hartford, Conn./Conard) singled to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and scored a run.
On the mound, Taylor Candage (Portland, Maine/Deering) started and earned his fourth win of the spring. The right-hander ceded four earned runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out a pair in 7.1 innings of work. Jason Lewicki (Milford, Conn./Foran) got the final two outs of the eighth inning and Peter Jay (Shelton, Conn./Shelton) tossed a perfect ninth to record his 10th save in 10 opportunities.
After Candage and Rocco Cundari traded zeroes through three innings, both offenses broke through in the fourth frame. A suicide squeeze laid down by T.K. Kiernan put Southern Connecticut on top, 1-0, before the Chargers’ outburst in the home half of the stanza.
After Brendon Buckley (Monroe, Conn./Masuk) led off the inning with a double, Brendan O’Reilly dropped down a sacrifice bunt that yielded no outs when Cundari sailed a throw into right field. The error allowed Buckley to score the tying run and put O’Reilly in scoring position on second base. DeMorais then walked, and Joe Romanelli (Baldwin, N.Y./Holy Trinity) sacrificed both runners over. Johnson followed with a bloop single that stayed just fair and plated both runners to give New Haven a 3-1 advantage. The Chargers tacked on a fourth run when Collett doubled on a hit-and-run to score Johnson all the way from first base.
Nunziato added an apparent insurance run that proved to be the game-winner with a deep home run over the wall in left centerfield. The roundtripper was the team-leading third long ball for the freshman shortstop.
Eighth-inning RBI from Nick Baviello, A.J. Rouleau and Kiernan cut the margin to one run at 5-4, but Lewicki made a heads-up defensive play to cut down the tying run at the plate on a slow roller and then pitched around an error to leave two runners stranded. Jay slammed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the victory.
Cundari took the loss for the Owls, surrendering three earned runs on five hits and three walks in 4.2 innings. The SCSU right-hander struck out six batters.
New Haven, ranked in three major regional polls this week, travels to the Granite State this weekend to meet two perennial regional powers. The Chargers visit Southern New Hampshire for a noon doubleheader on Saturday and complete the swing with a Sunday twin bill at Franklin Pierce. A four-game home stand begins next Wednesday, April 10 against NE-10 divisional opponent Pace.