Jaspers Tune Up for Postseason with Win at Iona
RIVERDALE, N.Y. - The Manhattan baseball team won its 18th MAAC contest of the season on Friday with a 6-5 victory over Iona (17-32, 7-15 MAAC) in New Rochelle, N.Y. With the 2011 MAAC Regular-Season Championship and top-seed at the MAAC Tournament already in hand, Manhattan (29-17, 18-2 MAAC) went deep on its bench utilizing 22 players against the Gaels in preparation for the postseason. Senior outfielder Mark Onorati and sophomore catcher Ramon Ortega combined to drive in five of Manhattan's six runs as they each homered.
As scores from the final MAAC weekend came in, the Jaspers also found out that they will play #4 seed Canisius on Thursday at 3 p.m. in the tournament's opening round at Waterfront Park in Trenton, N.J. #2 Rider and #3 Siena fill out the four-team field and they will square off in the 7 p.m. contest.
Manhattan's offense waited until the fifth inning to come to life when the Jaspers put up four runs to break the scoreless tie. The surge began with senior outfielder Mike McCann's lead off homer to break up Iona starting pitcher Colin Lyall's no-hit bid. McCann muscled the homer over the right field fence marking his sixth of the campaign.
Ortega followed McCann's lead by lacing a double to right field as part of his 2-for-3 performance at the plate. He improved his team leading batting average in conference to .391. Ortega scored soon after on sophomore designated hitter Kyle Murphy's sacrifice fly. Onorati capped the fifth inning with his sixth home run of the year, which was a two-run shot to left field putting Manhattan up 4-0.
Jaspers' sophomore starting pitcher John Soldinger turned the ball over to the bullpen in the fifth inning after yielding only three hits and striking out four batters en route to his team-leading ninth win of the season. The Gaels' capitalized after the Jaspers' pitching change as they put up their first run in the bottom of the fifth inning on junior designated hitter James Beck's RBI single.
Manhattan expanded its lead to 6-1 in the seventh inning courtesy of Ortega's solo homer and Onorati's sacrifice fly. Onorati tied his season high with three RBIs on the afternoon.
Iona made it a game in the eighth inning when the Jaspers' bullpen conceded four runs. The Gaels' pulled within one run of Manhattan after a solo home run by Nick Rossetti, a two-run single from Joe Smith and a double steal that allowed Chris Griffin to cross home plate.
Manhattan got defensive in the ninth inning to hold on to its 6-5 advantage. Jaspers' sophomore outfielder Anthony Vega made a brilliant diving catch in left field to save trouble and record the first out of the frame. The Jaspers' reserve middle infielders Chris Kalousdian and Brian Simmons then made routine plays to record the final two outs of the contest. Jaspers' freshman Jacob Marchus earned his fourth save after pitching a perfect ninth inning.
Manhattan and Iona finish out their series on Saturday with the doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m. on Salesian Field.