Game moved to Sweet Home goes Purple Eagles’ way
The Niagara University Purple Eagles baseball team beat the Saint Peter’s Peacocks 3-2 on Saturday, April 1. Originally scheduled to be the first home game of the season, the contest against MAAC opponent Saint Peter’s was moved to Sweet Home High School in Amherst, N.Y. early Saturday morning due to inclement weather.
It was a strong start for Niagara’s Cody Eckerson, who pitched 5.0 innings of one-run ball, yielding four hits and two walks to earn the win. He now has three straight starts of allowing one run or less, dating back to his March 19 outing against Bowling Green. Both team’s pitching staffs held each other to just six hits, with six of Niagara’s first seven batters finishing the day with exactly one hit.
The Purple Eagles jumped out to a 1-0 lead, with Peter Battaglia driving in Joel Brophy on a RBI single in the bottom of the first inning. In the bottom half of the next inning, Nick Bernick scored following a Tanner Kirwer single, thanks to a throwing error by Saint Peter’s shortstop James Spadaccini.
The Peacocks cracked the run column in the top of the fifth against Eckerson. First baseman Jesse Matos singled, followed by a groundout by Jake Regina which moved Matos to second. A single off the bat of Anthony Ramos advanced Matos to third, and he reached home on a throwing error by catcher Joel Brophy during a stolen base by Ramos.
Greg Cullen helped NU get the run back in the bottom of the fifth against Saint Peter’s starter Willie Krajnik. Kirwer walked, then stole second for his team and MAAC-leading 13th swipe of the year. Kirwer then scored on Cullen’s single. Krajnik ended his outing with 5.0 innings, three runs allowed, two of which were earned, and five strikeouts.
With Eckerson out of the game, the Peacocks made it a one-run game in the top of the seventh against reliever Alek Mackinnon. A leadoff double by Nick Ciocco came back to bite the Purple Eagles, as he came across to score on a RBI groundout by Regina to make it 3-2, still in favor of NU. Mackinnon gave away after 2.0 innings and one hit allowed to Nate Mascellino, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning. For the ninth inning, Matt McCuen, a graduate of Sweet Home High School, entered to seal the victory for the Purple Eagles.
After losing two of three to their first MAAC opponent, Manhattan, on March 25-26, Niagara is now even against MAAC rivals at 2-2. They also now sit 11-9 overall in 2017.
The Purple Eagles will play a doubleheader on Sunday for the first home games of the season. First pitch for the early game is scheduled for noon.
With the first home game set for Sunday, some team leaders include Kirwer, who added to his team-lead in stolen bases (13). He also is best in the conference in doubles with 13, and leads the club in runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Peter Battaglia and Greg Cullen are other offensive threats, batting .329 and .325, respectfully. Cullen leads the team in RBI with 16, one more than Battaglia’s 15.