LANCASTER, Pa. – Andrew Mascis and the Franklin & Marshall defense fought out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the ninth inning, holding on for a 5-4 game one victory over Muhlenberg to clinch a spot in the upcoming Centennial Conference (CC) Tournament. Game two saw the Diplomats fall by a rain-shortened 4-1 tally in five innings.
With the pair of decisions, the Diplomats moved to 18-16-2, 10-7-1 CC while the Mules now sit to 18-17, 10-7 CC.
The four-team CC Tournament picture is still taking shape. Action opens with the First Round on Thursday. Check back to GoDiplomats.com early in the week for more information.
Game 1: F&M 5, Muhlenberg 4
With F&M ahead by a 5-4 score in the top of the ninth, the Mules' leadoff batter was hit by a pitch, before back-to-back singles loaded the bases with no outs on the board. Mascis dug in, forcing a dribbler to third that was thrown to home to retire the lead runner. The next at-bat ended with the same result, this time to first base, as Dan Marano's throw to home once again got the runners in time.
Mascis sealed the game by sitting down the next batter swinging to clinch the CC Playoff birth for the Diplomats.
Each team traded blows throughout the early going, with F&M striking first in the bottom of the opening inning thanks to a Kengo Kawahara leadoff triple and a Jimmy Whelan groundout to second that made it a 1-0 game.
Muhlenberg tied it up with a one-out RBI single to left field in the top of the third. However, Kawahara kick-started more Diplomat runs in the bottom of the frame with a leadoff double to left center. Kawahara stole third and was sent home off a Max Schwartz RBI sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game at 2-2. Kelsey Launi made it a 3-2 score in his next at-bat, lacing a double to center field that plated Dan Marano from first base.
The Mules fought back again with an RBI single up the middle in the top of the fifth that knotted the score at 3-3 and took the lead in the seventh with a two-out, RBI single to right field.
In the bottom of the seventh, F&M secured the lead for good. J.J. Freeman sent a triple to right center that scored pinch runner Kevin Lammers from first and, later in the frame, Whelan followed with a sacrifice fly to center that allowed Freeman to cross home plate.
Mascis tossed four innings of relief, allowing two earned and striking out a pair to improve to 4-2 on the year. Starter Jack Buckley went five solid innings, surrendering two earned on five hits and striking out four to be dealt the no-decision.
Kawahara paced the offense with a 2-for-3 effort, both of which were extra-base hits, to go along with two runs scored and a drawn walk. Schwartz also went 2-for-3 with one RBI, and Whelan drove in a pair of runs in the contest.
Game 2: Muhlenberg 4, F&M 1 (5 Innings)
Kawahara remained hot at the plate to begin game two, leading off the first inning with a triple and eventually scoring on a Marano sacrifice fly to center field for the 1-0 Diplomat lead.
Fighting for a playoff spot of its own, Muhlenberg fought back with two runs on two hits in the top of the fourth to claim the 2-1 edge. The Mules tacked on with a two-RBI double in the fifth to go ahead by three, before the game was postponed for more than an hour due to thunder and lightning in the area.
Both teams resumed briefly to finish out the bottom of the fifth and make the contest official.
Starter Matthew D'Ambrosia (5-2) claimed the Muhlenberg win with five innings of work. He allowed just one earned on four hits and struck out five. Reliever Don DiLoreto (0-1) suffered the loss out of the bullpen after surrendering four earned on five hits in two innings on the mound.
F&M Starter Mike Androconis was sharp in three innings of work, not allowing a hit and striking out one batter.
Kawahara once again led the offense with a 2-for-3 effort with one run scored. He heads into the CC Tournament on a tear after recording multiple hits in three straight games and seven of his last 10 contests.