#3 Captains Sink #5 Salisbury in Extra Innings, 4-2
SALISBURY, Md. -- The highly anticipated regional battle between third-ranked Christopher Newport University (20-4) and fifth-ranked Salisbury University (19-4) went in favor of the Captains today, 4-2, after being forced to extra innings. Senior Ben Lenda drove in the game-winning run with a two-out RBI single in the top of the tenth to lead CNU to its sixth straight 20-win season.
The Captains won their fourth straight game and eighth in the last nine. The team will return home for a conference set against Averett University on Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1 at 1:00 pm.
In Thursday's game, though, it was sophomore lefty Nick Santalucia that got the call to start for the Captains. CNU staked him to a 2-0 lead early and Santalucia spun a gem against the tough offense. He didn't allow a runner to advance beyond second base in six innings of work, scattering five hits while striking out four.
Seniors Shannon Mark and Connor Madden combined with a pair of singles in the top of the first to give CNU an early 1-0 lead and an RBI double from Steven Keener made it 2-0 in the fourth. Salisbury cut the lead in half with an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh when Matt Verdillo gave up an RBI double.
The Captains called on junior closer Ryan Fleischmann in the eighth with a 2-1 lead, but the home team ended his 14-inning scoreless streak and handed him his first blown save of the year. Ken O'Neill led off with a double and moved up to third on a sacrifice bunt. Nick Gentry stepped in and smacked an RBI double to tie the game in the eighth.
Neither team could score in the ninth, forcing extra innings for the third time this season for the Captains. Senior third baseman Luke Saunders singled to lead off the tenth and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt from Matt Shoemaker. A couple batters later it was Lenda's hard shot to right field that plated Saunders for the eventual game-winning run. Rookie Preston Grissom surprised the Salisbury defense with a two-out base-hit bunt to plate one more run to make it 4-2.
Fleischmann made up for the blown save by striking out the side in the bottom of the tenth to pick up the win, improving to 2-1 this season after three innings of three-hit relief. Danny Druzgala suffered the loss despite four innings of strong relief for Salisbury.
Mark, Lenda and Chris McDougal had two-hit days for the Captains, while Keener finished 1-for-3 with a pair of walks. He scored once and drove in a run to lead the way for CNU.
Christopher Newport and Salisbury were supposed to play a home-and-home series this season, but the CNU home game was postponed due to rain. It may be made up later this season. The Captains next home game will be Saturday, March 31 at 1:00 pm against the Averett Cougars in a USA South matchup.