POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - The Marist baseball team opened MAAC play with a doubleheader sweep of Niagara on Saturday at the McCann Baseball Field. Led by timely late game hitting and strong starting pitching by Chris Bielak (Sayreville, N.J.) in Game One and Brett Houseal (Landisville, Pa.) in Game Two, the Red Foxes earned 4-3 and 6-2 wins over the Purple Eagles.
Offensively, Steve Laurino (Carle Place, N.Y.) led the Red Foxes with a team-high three RBIs. The sophomore outfielder plated the eventual game-winning run in the first game, as well as drove in the game-tying runs in the second game. His outfield mates Jake Berry (South Hamilton, Mass.) and Matt Pagano (Cranston, R.I.) each drove in two runs.
Though not the winning pitcher in Game One, Bielak struck out 11 Purple Eagles and allowed just two runs (one earned) on five hits and four walks. Sophomore Evan Davis (Little Falls, N.Y.) would be credited with the victory after pitching a scoreless eighth inning.
Houseal, the reigning MAAC Pitcher of the Week, overcame a few troublesome early innings, in which Niagara would plate two runs and register six hits over its first three frames at bat. With his team rallying and taking the lead, Houseal would keep the Purple Eagles hitless in the final three innings.
GAME 1 MARIST 4 - NIAGARA 3:
Chris Bielak set the pace for the Red Foxes from the start in the first game of the day, as the senior hurler struck out two of the first three Purple Eagles in the first inning.
After one strike out in the second inning, Bielak retired the side in the third with two swinging Ks and one looking.
He would notch strikeouts number seven and eight in the fourth inning with two more swing and miss strike threes.
Niagara finally stratched out the first run of the game in the top of the fifth when it manufactured a score with one hit, an error and a fielder's choice.
The Purple Eagles would add to their lead with a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh inning to make it 2-0.
Senior Zach Shank (Lititz, Pa.) started Marist's comeback with a two-out double in the bottom of the seventh. The following batter, Mike Orefice (Wappingers Falls, N.Y.) would drive in his classmate with a single to right field.
After a three-up, three-down eighth inning outing on the mound by Davis versus Niagara, the Red Foxes would complete their comeback in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, sophomore Mark Swertfager (Katonah, N.Y.) got the rally started by drawing a hit by pitch Recognizing Niagara starting pitcher Kyle Olver's declining energy level and penchant for throwing first pitch breaking balls, freshman Joey Aiola (Suffern, N.Y.) would come up swinging and single to left field to give Marist runners on first and second. Pagano would make it two consecutive first pitch swinging Red Foxes as he crushed a bases-clearing triple to the right-center field gap to make it 3-2 in favor of the hosts. Laurino would add an important insurance run on the following pitch as he roped a single to center field to plate Pagano.
Up 4-2 in the ninth inning, Kevin McCarthy (Malverne, N.Y.) gave up an Evan Wexler lead-off home run, but the junior would battle through and hold on for his second save of 2013 the 4-3 victory.
GAME 2 MARIST 6 - NIAGARA 2:
Timely late game hitting would spearhead Marist to the Game Two win, as well, as the Purple Eagles once again built a lead over the Red Foxes.
With runs in the first and third innings, Niagara would hold a 2-0 advantage until the bottom of the fourth. In that frame, Marist plated Orefice and Berry on a Steve Laurino single to center field to tie the game at 2-2.
Houseal retired the Purple Eagles in order to quickly get his offense back at bat against Jordan Schwartz in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Red Foxes put some distance between themselves and Niagara in this inning when they took advantage of three walks and an error. Zachary Passerelle (Sparta, N.J.) earned the go-ahead RBI by drawing a seven-pitch walk versus reliever Kody Kasper. With the bases still loaded Berry singled up the middle and drove in Orefice and Shank for unearned runs.
Given a 5-2 lead into the sixth inning, Houseal would set Niagara down without allowing a hit.
Orefice added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single to center field to score freshman Matt Belitz (Ossining, N.Y.).
Houseal closed out the complete game win with a three-up, three-down outing in the seventh.
The Red Foxes will conclude their three-game series with Niagara on Sunday; first pitch is slated for 12 p.m.