Friday, May 25, 2007

UAlbany Defeats Stony Brook, 5-2, in First Round of America East Conference Baseball Championship

Farmingdale, N.Y. – Senior right-hander John Naples went seven strong innings to pick up his eighth win of the season in leading UAlbany to a 5-2 victory over Stony Brook in the first round of the America East Conference Baseball Championship on Thursday evening at Farmingdale Park. The Great Danes will meet Binghamton, a 9-3 winner over Maine, on Friday at 7:05 p.m. in the winner’s bracket of this double-elimination tournament.

Naples, who allowed just a lead-off home run in the first inning, scattered seven hits while striking out one and walking one. He worked out of trouble on three occasions in the middle frames. He benefited from an unusual play in the third when Chris Sipp hit an apparent sacrifice fly to right field, but Robert Dyer was called out on an appeal play when he left the third-base bag early. Michael Stephan then flied out to center field for the third out.

In the fourth, Naples allowed back-to-back singles by Robert Leonard and Justin Echevarria to start the inning, but then retired the next three batters. Stony Brook (31-23) loaded the bases again in the fifth, but the UAlbany hurler forced Echevarria to fly out to center fielder Dave West. Naples, who improved 8-2 on the mound, equaled the program’s single-season record for pitching wins established by Steve Emmerthal and Adam Kroft in 2004.

UAlbany (27-27) erased a 1-0 deficit with a three-run third inning. The Great Danes loaded the bases with one out when Chris Wood singled to right field, Leo Corvino singled off the pitcher’s foot and Steve Wyland walked. After Stony Brook pitcher Tom Koehler recorded the second out on a strikeout, shortstop Sean Donovan lined a two-run double that bounced off the turf and over the left fielder’s head. Wyland would then come across on a wild pitch.

The Great Danes, the championship’s No. 3 seed, would add a pair of runs. Mike Konstanty singled and scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth. Tom Hill, who went 2-for-5 at the plate, doubled to lead-off the seventh and then came home when Steve Sayre drilled a two-bagger off the left-field wall for his 33rd RBI of the season.

“I thought Naples was a rock on the mound,” said UAlbany coach Jon Mueller, whose team has lost their previous two America East opening-round games in 2004 and 2006. “He just threw quality pitches when he was in trouble and never caught too much of the plate. This is a confident group that thinks they have a chance in this tournament.”

Stony Brook’s Brian Witkowski collected three hits, including his third home run of the year, and scored a pair of runs. Koehler, who was lifted in the seventh, fell to 5-8 overall for the Seawolves, who face Maine in an elimination game on Friday.

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