By Nate Discavage
Today’s doubleheader between the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and Niagara Purple Eagles started like any other college baseball game. Fans of the brown and white circled around Fred Handler Park as the sun shined and a gentle breeze blew across campus. Spectators were treated to an exciting come-from-behind victory in game one but were stunned by the result of the nightcap: a tie.
With the sun fading behind the mountain on the horizon, the umpires met and made the decision to call the game on account of darkness. Home fans were already disappointed after the team was unable to score a runner from third with no outs in extra innings, but the ending of the game made them even more upset. When the players left the field, the scoreboard read Niagara 1, St. Bonaventure 1 in eight innings.
Although St. Bonaventure fans were annoyed by the ending of the last game, the first gave them plenty to talk about.
After trailing the game 6-1 as late as the fifth inning (doubleheader weekday games only last seven innings), the Bonnies rallied behind the bats of Dylan Dunn, Cole Peterson, and Thad Johnson.
Dunn resurrected the quiet fans with a home run that easily cleared the deep fence in left field. His solo shot made it a 6-2 Niagara lead. It was the first home run by a St. Bonaventure hitter this season.
The team scored again in the bottom of the sixth inning when Tyler Kirwan scored off of Peterson’s RBI triple to the right-center gap. Peterson crossed the plate on an RBI double by Johnson.
With their lead cut down to two runs, Niagara did not give up. Senior Anthony Firenzi hit a solo home run to almost the exact same spot as Dunn.
Carrying a 7-4 lead, the Purple Eagles gave the ball to sophomore Daniel Procopio to shut down the game. After starting off the inning by forcing a groundout, Procopio gave up a double to Tyler Walter. Walter scored on the next play as Jonathan Diaz hit an RBI single. After another walk to Kirwan, both runners moved up to second and third on a passed ball. Peterson hit an RBI groundout to first that allowed Diaz to cross home plate. Trailing 7-6 with two outs, Johnson stepped into the box and tied the game with a single to right field.
The game went to extra innings. In both the eighth and ninth inning, the Bonnies were able to get runners in scoring position but couldn’t score them. Their big break came in the bottom of the tenth when the freshman Peterson hit a sacrifice fly to center field, allowing Alex Schutz to score the game-winning run.
The Bonnies stormed onto the field and celebrated but the festivities were short-lived as they started preparing for the second game.
The nightcap featured a lot less offense and put a huge emphasis on outstanding pitching and defense.
The Purple Eagles’ lone run of the game came in the top of the third. With a runner on third and two outs, Tanner Kirwer successfully pulled off a squeeze bunt that put Niagara ahead 1-0.
The lead was short-lived as freshman John Novenche followed up a double by Dunn with an RBI single up the middle. It was the second straight game that Novenche drove in the Bonnies’ first run of the game.
The rest of the game starred highlight defensive plays and shut-down pitching. No play was more jaw-dropping than an acrobatic diving catch in the top of the sixth inning.
Zach Glowacki started the second game for Niagara. He pitched seven and two-thirds innings pitched while allowing only one run on six hits. Glowacki struck out four.
Bonnies’ freshman Ben Contento shut down the Purple Eagles in the last two innings. He did not allow a run and struck out three batters.
Johnson was the standout player of the game. In nine at-bats, Johnson had seven hits. He drove in two runs. Johnson also earned the win after pitching the last two innings. He did not allow a base runner and struck out one.
The Bonnies improved to 10-2-1 while Niagara fell to 3-13-1.
St. Bonaventure will open their conference schedule on Friday with a three-game series at George Washington.