AUBURNDALE, Fla. – Franklin & Marshall gave the No. 1 team in the country all it could handle, but Cortland St. outlasted the Diplomats 9-8 in a hotly-contested non-conference baseball battle on Thursday at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational.
The Red Dragons (9-2), who took over the top spot in D3baseball.com's weekly poll at the start of the week, captured the game's initial lead with a two-run top half of the first. Max Rosing's two-RBI single to right field ignited the inning for Cortland, before F&M starter Chris Mathewson forced a groundout double play to end the inning.
F&M (3-6) responded in impressive fashion in the second with a four-run frame to take a 4-2 advantage. Brian Erb's sacrifice bunt moved Brandon Theriault and Pat Andrews into scoring position, before Aaron Gillette put the Diplomats on the board with an RBI single to left center and Alex Vescera followed with a sacrifice fly to deep left that allowed Andrews to cross the plate to even the score at 2-2.
Will Benenson beat out an infield chopper to third base and Kevin Shields drew a walk to load the bases with one away, and Avery Attinson gave the Diplomats a 3-2 edge by drawing a walk. A balk from Cortland reliever Tyler Brien made it 4-2 F&M as Benenson earned the free pass to home plate.
Cortland St. responded with a vengeance, tallying four runs in the top of the third to grab a 6-4 advantage – a lead they would not relinquish. Brian Barry's two-run opposite-field homer to right highlighted the frame for the Red Dragons, while Zach Gracyzk and Rosing also added RBIs.
The Diplomats put pressure on the Cortland St. in the bottom of the third, loading the bags with one out and tallying a single score off a bases load, one out walk to Benenson.
A pair of RBI doubles from Gracyzk and Rosing in the fourth stretched the Red Dragons lead to 8-5, but the Diplomats wouldn't go away without a fight as they clawed their way back down the stretch to make for an exciting finish.
Gracyzk's sacrifice fly to left in the sixth extended the Red Dragons lead to 9-5, but Attinson and Matt Mezansky registered RBI singles in the bottom of the sixth to pull F&M within a 9-7 margin.
F&M once again put Cortland's back against the wall in the seventh as it managed to load the bases with nobody out off a Gillette leadoff single and back-to-back walks to Vescera and Benenson. The Diplomats came away with just one run in the frame , however, and the 9-8 edge that Cortland held at the time proved to be all they would need as they secured the narrow win.
The Diplomats out-hit the Red Dragons by an 11-9 count and forced them to deploy seven pitchers to the mound throughout the contest.
Benenson led F&M at the plate with a 3-for-4 line with an RBI and two runs scored, while Attinson went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Gillette notched a two hits, scored twice and added an RBI. Mezansky also registered two hits and an RBI in the loss.
Rosing paced the Red Dragons at the plate, going 2-for-3 with four RBIs, while Graczyk also put together a stellar outing with a 3-for-4 performance, three RBIs and three runs scored. Barry went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and scored once.
The Diplomats are back in action tomorrow with a doubleheader against Clarkson. Game one is set for 10:30 a.m.