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Baseball Clinches MAAC Regular-Season Championship

Courtesy: Manhattan Athletic Department
Release: 05/14/2011
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Sophomore Eric Luksis improves to 6-0 in MAAC contests with 3-2 victory over Rider
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Box Score - Game One

Box Score - Game Two

The Manhattan baseball team clinched the program's third MAAC Regular-Season Championship in the last four years with a doubleheader split against Rider (30-16, 16-7 MAAC) on Saturday at Van Cortlandt Park. Despite falling 8-4 in game one, which ended the fifth longest active home winning streak in NCAA Division I, Manhattan (28-17, 17-2 MAAC) rebounded with a 3-2 victory in the second contest courtesy of a brilliant pitching effort from sophomore Eric Luksis.

Luksis delivered his third consecutive complete game, posting eight strikeouts to improve to a perfect 6-0 in MAAC contests. Jaspers' catcher Ramon Ortega anchored the Manhattan offense in the doubleheader batting .500 (3-for-6) with a double and four RBI. Manhattan senior first baseman Austin Sheffield hit 2-for-5, scored two runs and recorded a RBI.

Manhattan saw its 11 game home win streak come to a halt with its 8-4 loss in game one. The Jaspers dug themselves a three run deficit in an error plagued first inning and left eight runners on base in the contest to take its first loss at Van Cortlandt Park since last season on May 20, 2010.

The Jaspers committed all three of their errors in the first inning. Rider senior first baseman Mason Heyne delivered a two RBI double to open the scoring, and he scored later in the frame on a throwing error to push Rider ahead 3-0.

Manhattan posted its first run of the day in the second inning on Ortega's RBI infield single. The Jaspers then scored two more runs in the fourth inning with Mike McCann producing the second run before Ortega locked the game at 3-3 with a RBI double down the left field line. Those were the only runs Manhattan worked off of Broncs' senior starting pitcher Mike Thomas who improved to 8-2 on the season. Thomas lasted seven innings, posted eight strikeouts and allowed six hits.

Rider got its go ahead run in the sixth inning from a sacrifice fly by Nick Crescenzo and then scored another one in the eighth inning after Manhattan made a pitching change. Jaspers' starter John Soldinger pitched 7 1/3 innings and yielded only two earned runs, going along with two strikeouts before turning the ball over to the bullpen.

Jaspers' junior reliever Dan Feinberg gave up a single to Crescenzo allowing the Broncs' run in the eighth inning. Then in the ninth inning Rider scored three more runs on a RBI base hit from Karl Johnston and two sacrifice flies to extend its lead to 8-3.

Manhattan put runners on the corners in the ninth inning before an out was recorded, but it prompted a Broncs' call to the bullpen. Sophomore closer Tyler Smith came in and retired three straight batters to hold off the Jaspers.

In game two, Manhattan rallied behind Luksis to earn a 3-2 victory and split the doubleheader. The Broncs' scored an unearned run in the first inning when Heyne drove in junior outfielder Brandon Cotten with a double. Cotten reached safely on a throwing error to lead off the game.

The Jaspers could not find a hit against Rider starter Nate Eppley until the fourth inning when senior Chad Salem blasted the fourth triple of his career. Salem's clutch hit sparked a three run rally. Sheffield knocked in Salem with a single down the left field line, and then McCann's 12th double of the year set the table for Ortega's game breaking two RBI opposite field single. It gave Manhattan a 3-2 advantage.

Manhattan's defense gave the Jaspers more energy in the fifth inning with a beautiful inning ending double play started by Salem at third and featuring a silky smooth turn by second baseman Yoandry Galan.

Broncs' sophomore Adam Wayman hit a solo home run to lead off the sixth inning, but Luksis bounced back striking out three of the final six outs to hold on to the 3-2 victory. Luksis lowered his earned run average in MAAC contests to 1.80.

Manhattan and Rider will play the rubber match on Sunday at 12 p.m. in Van Cortlandt Park. Prior to the contest, the Jaspers will honor their five graduating seniors.

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