LEWISTON, NY - The Iona College baseball team forged a split with Niagara in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference contest at Bobo Field. The Purple Eagles edged the Gaels 3-2 in the opener before junior RHP Mariano Rivera tossed his second straight complete game shutout in a 5-0 win in the night cap.
The Gaels trailed 1-0 after the first inning when Niagara scored with two out. Iona could not complete a double play ball off the bat of 1B Michael Fuhrman allowing a run to score from third base.
Niagara took advantage of a leadoff walk to go ahead 2-0 in the fourth. Fuhrman was sacrificed to second base and scored on a two-out single by RF Taylor Hackett.
The Gaels manufactured a run in the sixth inning and trailed 2-1. Junior C Carmine Palummo singled to lead off and was sacrificed to second base. Two batters later, junior RF Kyle DiVico picked up an RBI single.
The Purple Eagles scored a key insurance run in the eighth. With no outs and runners on first and second, Palummo had Fuhrman picked off first but his throw could not be handled and Julian Gallup raced home from second. After Iona starter, sophomore RHP Bill Maier, retired Anthony Firenzi with a ground ball, sophomore RHP Vinny Martin and sophomore LHP Andrew Camiolo faced one batter each to record the final two outs of the frame.
In the top of the ninth, junior LF Travis Mistretta singled and sophomore DH Alex Beckett doubled to lead off the frame. Mistretta came home on a ground out by Palummo but Beckett was forced to hold his base. After sophomore 2B Matt Byrne drew a walk, Niagara closer Matt McCuen induced a game ending double play to preserve the 3-2 win.
Mistretta led the Gaels offensively, going 2-for-4 with a run scored. Maier allowed one earned run over 7.1 innings, scattering seven hits with two walks and a strikeout in the loss.
Niagara SS Tanner Kirwer, DH Thomas Hackett and RF Taylor Hackett were each 2-for-4. RHP Zach Kolodziejski struck out five and allowed six hits and two runs over eight innings and 109 pitches.
Iona threatened early in game two, putting runners on second and third with one out in the opening inning but were unable to scratch a run across. The Gaels did get the only run they would need for Rivera in the second. DiVico led off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by the Niagara catcher. Sophomore 2B Tyler Bruno singled to center to drive in the run.
The Maroon & Gold scored again in the third. After a one-out walk to Beckett, rookie 3B Seth Hoagland reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt to put runners on second and third. With two out, Beckett raced home from third on a passed ball.
Iona added runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to round out its scoring. A two-out single by DiVico drove in the run in the fifth. A two-out ground-rule double by Mistretta in the sixth gave the Gaels a 4-0 lead. Junior SS Vinny DeMaria scored in the seventh after reaching on an error and then scoring on a second error on a failed pickoff attempt at first base.
On the other side of the ball, Rivera labored in the first three innings but still remained dominant. He allowed two of his three hits in the opening frame and the third came on an infield hit in the fifth on a near spectacular play by DeMaria on a ball hit to the right side of second base.
Rivera was helped out of a jam in the first inning after a relay throw home following a two-out double cut down a Purple Eagle runner trying to score from first base.
Two walks and an error loaded the bases with one out in the second inning. Rivera threw a nasty breaking ball on a suicide squeeze attempt, 2B Nick Bernick missed on the offering and the runner on third, 3B Owen Dziados was dead to rights on the steal attempt of home. Rivera needed two more pitches to end the threat on a strikeout of Bernick.
In the third, Niagara loaded the bases again with one out and without the benefit of a hit on strikeout and passed ball, a walk and a hit by pitch. Rivera bore down once again and got the force out at home on a comebacker from Hackett and a Dziados' pop out to keep the Purple Eagles off the scoreboard.
The infield hit in the fifth by DH Thomas Rodrigues would be the only Niagara player to reach base the rest of the game as Rivera retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced to earn his fifth win, sixth complete game and third shutout of the season.
Rivera's 11 strikeouts in the game improved his season total to 101. He is just the second player in school history to reach triple digits and is seven shy of John Novinsky's single-season record 108 set in 2000. Rivera lowered his overall ERA to 2.53 and batting average against to .202. In MAAC play the numbers are even stingier with a 1.47 ERA and .128 BAA.
Senior 1B Jimmy Guiliano was 2-for-5 with a run scored. DiVico posted two hits with a run scored and an RBI. Beckett reached base all four times with a hit and three walks in the win.
The two teams complete the three-game series with the rubber match at noon Sunday. Graduate LHP Eddie Macaluso gets the ball for the Maroon & Gold.