HARWICH, Mass. – A fast start, gritty pitching from senior starter Chad Rafferty, and some late insurance via a three-run homer from Brandon Chase added up to a 7-5 win for St. Joseph’s over Salem State on Thursday in the NCAA baseball regional at Whitehouse Field.
The Monks (31-13), who lost to Endicott in Wednesday’s opening round, will play Western New England at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Rafferty allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits in seven innings. He struck out eight and walked two.
“That’s exactly what you’re looking for from a senior — Chad gave us leadership and the ability to gut it out,” said St. Joe’s Coach Will Sanborn.
“We came in here today with a good attitude and lots of energy, after yesterday’s loss. You just have to take it one game at a time in a tournament like this.”
St. Joseph’s offense started quickly, scoring twice off Salem State’s Sean Buckland in the first inning.
Zack Graham led off with a single, and reached second when Alex Lorenc’s bunt was mishandled.
A wild pitch moved both runners up, and they scored on sacrifice flies by Joe Coyne and Mike Pratt
Rafferty, meanwhile, was breezing through the first three innings, fanning six and holding the Vikings to two hits.
Salem State scored in the fourth inning.
Brett Cahill reached on catcher’s interference to start the inning. After an out, Matt Burgess doubled to deep left, scoring Cahill from first base.
The Vikings tied the game in the fifth on Cahill’s RBI single to left.
“The first few innings, it seemed like everything was working for me,” said Rafferty. “I was getting ahead with my fastball, and putting them away with my breaking ball.
“Right around the fifth inning, I began to feel like I was running out of gas, and struggling with control. I began pitching more to contact after that.”
The Monks regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth
After Sam Butts’ two-out double to right, Buckland balked him to third. Graham’s infield nubber down the third-base line scored Butts, and Graham was safe as well.
Graham advanced to third on an errant pickoff by Buckland and then scored on Lorenc’s single to left to make it 4-2.
Salem State scored in the seventh on an unusual play.
Ryan Beliveau led off with a single to left, and Steve Buitkus sacrificed him to second.
Kevin Salines lifted a blooper down the left-field line that landed on the chalk line, scoring Beliveau. But a pair of groundouts allowed Rafferty to escape any more damage.
Rafferty departed after throwing 115 pitches.
“115 pitches is not bad for me,” Rafferty laughed afterward. “Last year down here I threw over 140, so I guess I’m improving.”
Buckland lasted 71/3 innings, but Salem State reliever Andrew Guido ran into problems in the eighth.
Lorenc singled leading off against Buckland, who got a flyout before ending his day after 101 pitches.
Guido walked Pratt, and got a second out with a flyball.
But when Chase smashed a line drive to right-center, outfielder Richard Fecteau’s attempt for a diving catch missed, and Chase circled the bases as the ball rolled to the fence.
Lefty reliever Dan Meeken provided a scoreless eighth for St. Joseph’s, but ran into trouble in the ninth.
The Vikings scratched out a pair of one-out singles.
Alex Valenti relieved Meeken and got an out, but was soon victimized by an infield error, allowing an inherited run to score
Then Fecteau dropped a bloop down the left-field line, good for a double and another run, before Valenti ended the rally and sent Salem State home for the year.
Chase had a double and the home run to lead Monks hitters, but Graham and Lorenc also had two hits each.
“Chase has kind of led us offensively all year, and he’s had a knack for getting big hits,” said Sanborn.
“I give him a lot of credit also for running hard all the way on that play too. As it turned out, we really needed those runs.”
The Monks are 6-1 all time against Salem State, having won the last six games since 2001.