Baseball News & Highlights
April 23, 2014
"It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over"
Eastern sophomore first baseman Joe Grato ended the game with a bang, slugging a grand slam over the fence in left center and giving the Eagles the 21-18 win over Lebanon Valley College.
Grato, with the bases loaded and one out and the Eagles still trailing 18-17, knew that hitting a ball on the ground could spell a game-ending double play and a ball to the outfield could potentially score the tying run on the sacrifice fly. Grato stayed behind the pitch and did more than just hit a sacrifice fly. He finished 3-for-5 on the day with five RBIs from the eight-spot in the lineup.
The Eagles and Dutchmen were even at 2-2 through two innings, but the Dutchmen posted 15 runs over the next three lopsided innings against five Eastern pitchers.
Eastern trailed 17-3 entering the bottom of the fifth. “We were down two touchdowns,” Eagles’ head coach Jed Morris said. “We had some good pitching at the tail end of the game that kept us in it and our hitters stayed behind the baseball. They did a good job of sticking with their approaches at the plate.”
The Eagles chipped away at the deficit in the bottom of the fifth with a two-RBI double to left field by senior outfielder Andrew DiFerdinando. DiFerdinando, who leads the Eagles with a .398 batting average, batted 5-for-6 on the day with six RBIs.
Senior pitcher Barry Jost then entered the game in the top of the sixth and retired the Dutchmen in order. Jost pitched three innings, only giving up one run, a solo home run in the top of the seventh. Morris praised Jost’s flexibility to come into the game in any situation. “That’s his thing,” Morris said. “He’s been in every role as a pitcher. It doesn’t matter when he’s pitching, he’s always ready to go.”
Meanwhile as Jost was dealing on the mound, the Eagles were mounting a comeback. In the bottom of the sixth, the Eagles scored five runs. Showing patience at the plate, the Eagles took four straight walks to score the first run of the inning. The Eagles scored on a bases-loaded error and then Eric Rossi unloaded the bases with a three-RBI triple to the right field fence.
The Eagles once again loaded the bases in the seventh and Ryan McMenamin hit an RBI-single to left scoring Zach DeSee. McMenamin went 4-for-5 from the plate with a walk and two RBIs. DiFerdinando then cleared the bases with a base hit to left field that was mishandled. Even with the two big innings, the Eagles still trailed 18-14 at the end of the seventh.
An RBI-double by Joe Grato in the bottom of the eighth made it an 18-15 game. Andrew Check moved in from center field to pitch the top of the ninth, and Check, who hasn’t pitched since March 14, got out of the ninth unscathed. Check struck out the first batter he faced, and after allowing a hit, ended the inning with a 5-4-3 double play.
McMenamin led off the ninth with a bunt single and Check moved him over to third with a single to right field. DiFerdinando came through again, batting McMenamin in to make it an 18-16 game. Tyler Orr singled in Check to pull Eastern within one, and after a pitching change, an infield single by DeSee loaded the bases with one out for Grato. Grato then took care of business and completed the comeback with the rare walk-off grand slam. By the time he arrived at home plate, the entire team was waiting at home plate to dog-pile him and celebrate with him.
The Eagles look to carry the excitement over into the final series of the season against Manhattanville College this weekend.
Updated: Wednesday, 23 April 2014