AUBURNDALE, Fla. – A ninth-inning rally pulled Franklin & Marshall's baseball team within one. However, the Diplomats came up short to RPI by a 6-5 score on Friday afternoon in Florida.
F&M dropped to 4-5-1 with the narrow loss while the Engineers improved to 4-5.
Leadoff hitter Kengo Kawahara sparked the Diplomats' offense in the bottom of the third, drawing a leadoff walk and eventually scoring the game's first run on a Dan Marano RBI double to right field. Lincoln Pantell made it 2-0 later in the frame, notching a sacrifice fly to right field that allowed J.J. Freeman to cross home plate.
Kawahara once again helped manufacture a run in the fifth to extend the F&M lead to 3-0. The Diplomats' senior centerfielder led off with a single to right center, stole second and then advanced to third on a throwing error by the RPI catcher. Freeman stepped into the box and reached on a fielding error to left field that sent Kawahara home.
F&M's lead was short-lived as starting pitcher Mike Androconis exited the game with a 3-0 edge heading into the sixth inning, and the Diplomats' bullpen struggled from there. The Engineers put together three runs on four hits in the sixth frame and followed with two runs on three hits in the seventh to storm ahead at 5-3.
After RPI pushed the advantage to three with an insurance run in the eighth, the Diplomats fought to chip away at the deficit. With runners on first and third with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Danny Blugis rolled a grounder to short that plated Matthew Kann.
Down by a 6-4 margin in the ninth, Kawahara drew a walk and took advantage of a passed ball and wild pitch to reach third base. Marano then reached on an infield error to score Kawahara and pull F&M within one. Jason Weinhaus came in to pinch run for Marano and represented the tying run on second base after Kann laced a two-out single. However, the rally fell short when the Diplomats struck out looking in the next at-bat.
Androconis was effective on the mound with five shutout innings to open the game. The senior righty allowed just one hit and struck out five batters. Eric Dyke was charged with the loss after surrendering two earned on two hits in one inning of work. Reliever Erick Zecha (2-0) garnered RPI's win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, striking out four and giving up just one hit.
Kawahara delivered a 2-for-3 effort, scoring three runs and drawing a pair of walks. Freeman went 2-for-5 with one run scored and Kann also provided a 2-for-5 performance with one run scored at the cleanup position.
Hits between the teams were even at 9-9. RPI committed seven errors on the day, compared to one by the Diplomats.
F&M continues its Spring Break trip tomorrow when the Diplomats compete in a doubleheader against Clarkson at 5:00 p.m.