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Frantic Dartmouth Rally Falls Short in NCAA Regional

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Sophomore Joe Sclafani     By Richard Lewis
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. — After falling behind 11-0 through five innings, the Dartmouth Big Green pecked away against the 11th-ranked Miami Hurricanes but fell short in their comeback quest in a 12-8 loss in the first round of the NCAA Regional at Miami’s Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, Fla. The Hurricanes (41-17) bashed four home runs, three of which were three-run shots, to power their way to the victory.

Junior outfielder Sam Bean had a career-high four hits in the game, and sophomore shortstop Joe Sclafani smashed a pair of home runs for Dartmouth (26-18). It was his first multi-homer game ever, dating back to youth baseball.

Chris Pelaez launched one of the trio of three-run homers and drove in a total of four runs with a team-high three hits to lead the Miami offense. Michael Broad also had four RBIs with a three-run blast, and Harold Martinez had the other three-run shot for his 20th of the year.

Big Green sophomore right-hander Kyle Hendricks started the game by getting a called third strike, but then got into trouble by walking the next two hitters before Martinez hit his 20th homer just over the fence to the opposite field in right. The Hurricanes did not let up as they strung together consecutive singles and another three-run blast, this one a line shot out to left-center by Broad, for a 6-0 Miami lead.

In the second, Scott Lawson led off with his sixth four-bagger of the year off the facing of the third deck of the parking garage beyond the right-field fence. Broad drove in his fourth run of the game in the third with a line single to center, scoring Nathan Melendres who led off the frame by singling and stealing second.

Senior Brett Gardner makes a valiant effort to try and rob Harold Martinez' three-run homer in the first. Photo courtesy Richard Lewis

The Hurricanes chased Hendricks from the mound in the fourth as he walked All-American Yasmani Grandal for the second time, allowed a single to Martinez then was touched by Pelaez’ long home run to right for an 11-0 advantage. Dartmouth head coach Bob Whalen summoned Ben Murray to the mound, and he held the Miami bats in check over the next two innings, retiring six of the seven batters he faced.

With the double-digit lead, Miami lifted starter Eric Whaley after four scoreless innings to preserve him if needed later in the regional. Joe Lovecchio trotted to the mound to start the fifth, making just his fifth appearance of the season. The strategy seemed sound when Lovecchio retired the side in order.

But in the sixth, Dartmouth ended a scoreless streak of 16.2 innings in regional play dating back to last year when Sclafani pulled an inside fastball out to right for a two-run round-tripper, plating senior Brett Gardner who had singled. As soon as Sclafani touched home plate, the umpires pulled the players off the field due to lightning in the area, delaying the game for slightly over an hour.

When play resumed, Lovecchio returned to pitch and escaped the inning without another run scoring despite two Big Green batters reaching base.

Murray also continued to pitch and needed just eight pitches to retire the side in the bottom of the sixth. He got into trouble in the seventh when pinch hitter Rony Rodriguez singled and Stephen Perez doubled him to third with nobody out. But Murray fanned another pinch hitter, Ryan Perry, then got a shallow fly to center off the bat of DeVoss. Both runners tagged on the fly ball, but while Rodriguez stopped short, Perez wandered too far from second and was double off thanks to center fielder Jake Carlson smartly hitting the cut-off man Jason Brooks, who threw to second for the third out.

Senior Jim Wren singles home a run in the ninth. Photo courtesy Richard Lewis

Dartmouth gave itself a chance for a miraculous comeback in the eighth by scoring four runs. Bean legged out a double with one gone and freshman Chris O'Dowd singled him home. When Brooks singled back through the box, Lovecchio’s afternoon was complete and left-hander Steven Ewing toed the slab for the Hurricanes. Senior Jim Wren greeted him with a single to left, loading the bases. Ewing got the second out on a tapper to third off the bat of freshman Zack Bellenger as O’Dowd scored on the play. Another run crossed the plate when Carlson hit a soft flare toward the hole between first and second, which fell for an infield hit when the first and second basemen could not communicate who would catch the ball. Junior Jeff Onstott then reached on an error with Wren scoring on the play for an unearned run and making it an 11-6 ball game.

Miami got one run back in its half of the eighth on an RBI single by Pelaez to score Scott Lawson who had led off with a double.

In the ninth, the Big Green continued to put the pressure on Miami as Sclafani’s fly to right-center hit the top of the fence and bounded over for his second jack of the game and third of the year. Bean beat out a bunt for his fourth hit and went to second on a throwing error, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. When Brooks walked with one down, Daniel Miranda replaced Taylor Wulf, who had come in to pitch the last inning.

Sophomore Chris O'Dowd had a pair of hits against Miami with a run and an RBI. Photo courtesy Richard Lewis

Again Wren rapped a single to greet the new hurler, sending Bean across the plate and putting the tying run on deck. That potential tying run never came to the plate, however, as Miranda got the final two outs on a fly to center and a comebacker to the mound.

Lovecchio (1-0) was credited with the win despite surrendering five runs in 3.1 innings of relief. Whaley gave up just two hits in his four innings of work while fanning four.

Taking the loss was Hendricks (4-6) as he yielded 11 runs in three-plus innings. He struggled with his control, walking three, and gave up all four Miami homers while also striking out three. Murray tossed four-plus frames in relief, allowing just one run on three hits and a pair of walks while striking out two.

The Big Green will play again on Saturday at noon against the three-seed, Florida International, which lost to Texas A&M in the first game of the regional, 17-3. Panther infielder Garrett Wittels will be attempting to extend his hitting streak which is now at 55 games, the second longest in Division I history. Host Miami will play the Aggies at four p.m. in the winner’s bracket.