Much like Day 1, the story on the second day of the 2012 NEC Baseball Tournament was starting pitching. Riding the right arm of Mike Eliasen, Fairleigh Dickinson staved off elimination by downing Central Connecticut, 3-2, in Friday’s first game. The Knights will meet Garden State rival, and top-seeded, Monmouth in an elimination contest on Saturday, May 19 at 12:00 pm. Monmouth will have its back against the wall tomorrow because of what Sacred Heart southpaw Nick Leiningen did today. The sophomore lefty hurled a complete-game shutout to put the Pioneers into the tournament’s championship round for the fourth consecutive year. Sacred Heart will face the winner of the FDU-Monmouth game on Saturday at 3:30 pm. All action can be seen live (free of charge) via NortheastConference.TV.
#2 Sacred Heart 6, #1 Monmouth 0
Norwich, CT - There wasn’t much more he could do to top his outing at the 2011 NEC Baseball Tournament, but Sacred Heart’s Nick Leiningen (Milwood, NY/Horace Greely) did just that on Day 2 of the 2012 postseason event.
Just as he did last May, Leiningen went the distance in a complete-game victory that moved the Pioneers into the championship round. Only this year, he shut out top-seeded Monmouth, 6-0.
The sophomore southpaw, who allowed one run on six hits in his start last May, scattered five hits and walked one while striking out five on Friday.
Leiningen has only allowed a total of three earned runs in his last three starts against Monmouth, but the lefty insisted he does nothing different when facing the Hawks.
“It’s just about executing pitches no matter who you’re facing,” the lefty said in a postgame interview on NortheastConference.TV.
Sacred Heart, which needs only one more win to capture a second straight conference crown, won last year’s tournament in three games thanks to a trio of complete-game efforts from its starting staff. Thus far in 2012, the Pioneers are two-thirds of the way to repeating that exact feat, but head coach Nick Giaquinto conveyed a cautious approach in his post-game comments.
Citing his past experiences, the former Super Bowl champion turned baseball skipper said, “We understand that it’s not over. It’s a great position to be in but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Sacred Heart put itself in good position in Friday’s game when RBI singles by Derick Horn (Valatie, NY/Ichabod Crane) and rookie Kenny Byram (Ponte Vedra, FL/Ponte Vedra) gave Leiningen a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
Byram, who went 1-for-4 with a walk, drove in another run with a fourth-inning groundout. SHU shortstop John Murphy (Seymour, CT/Seymour), who went 2-for-5, also drove in two runs.
Monmouth catcher Chris Perret (Morris Plains, NJ/Morris Catholic), who was 2-for-3, attempted to spark Monmouth’s offense with singles in the second and fourth innings, but Leiningen was able to pitch out of the little trouble he encountered on the day.
#4 Fairleigh Dickinson 3, #3 Central Connecticut 2
Norwich, CT - Fairleigh Dickinson senior starter Mike Eliasen (Swedesboro, NJ/Gloucester Catholic) showed what he was all about today and his teammates followed suit.
Eliasen put forth a 137-pitch, complete-game effort as FDU defeated Central Connecticut, 3-2, to stave off elimination on Day 2 of the NEC Baseball Tournament.
“I told the team yesterday that we are going to see what we are all about today,” said Eliasen after picking up FDU’s first NEC Tournament win since 1999. “I told them I was going to leave my heart out on the field and they could do the same or we would be headed home.”
Instead of a Friday night bus ride back to North Jersey, Eliasen and the Knights will remain in Norwich for Saturday’s elimination contest against top-seeded Monmouth.
Meanwhile, Central Connecticut, which was making its 12th NEC Tournament appearance in the last 13 years, finishes its season at 28-24 overall.
Both Central and FDU scored in the game’s opening inning. The Blue Devils plated one run in the top half of the first on a sacrifice fly from all-NEC outfielder JP Sportman (Schenectady, NY/LaSalle Institute).
The Knights pounded out five hits during their first at-bat and came away with a pair of runs thanks to RBI singles from Eric Anderson and Kyle Weeks.
FDU held a 2-1 advantage until the fourth frame when Jake Matuszak singled on a 1-2 pitch to pull CCSU even at 2-2.
Central Connecticut may have scored more in the inning if it were not for the defense of FDU rookie leftfielder Jordan Ritz who caught Mitch Wells trying to stretch a hit down the line into a double.
Ritz wasn’t done either. The rookie would deliver again in the seventh inning, this time at the plate.
After Shane Siebler, who reached on a walk, moved over to second on a sac bunt, Ritz brought him home with a tie-breaking single to rightfield.
Eliasen made his rookie outfielder’s clutch hit stand up as he worked around lead-off hits in both the eighth and ninth innings to seal the victory.
FDU head coach Gary Puccio was not surprised by the mettle his senior starter showed.
“This was a typical Mike Eliasen performance,” said Puccio. “He has been the bulldog, horse and everything else for us all year long. You have got to love his heart as usual he stepped up for us in a big game.”
Wells ended his CCSU career with a three-hit day that moved him into third place on the program’s all-time hit list. With 262 hits, Wells surpassed former Blue Devil, and CCSU Home Run King, Pat Epps.