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Kriss' go-ahead double in ninth keeps Juniata alive, 5-2

(Posted May 7, 2010)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - - Eleven strikeouts, one earned run in nine innings by a single pitcher seems like a line that would produce an easy victory or the Juniata College baseball team, but starter Matt Regan (Downingtown, Pa./Devon Prep) needed help in the ninth to take care of Susquehanna University, 5-2, in an elimination game in the Landmark Conference Tournament, at Gillespie Field on Friday afternoon.

Regan got out of frequent jams in the beginning of the game, leaving the bases loaded in the first and fourth innings, without giving up a run.

But it was the Crusaders who got on the board first, scoring the games first run in the bottom half of the third inning. With two outs, and runners on first and second, Ethan Rieker sent a ball into left field, easily scoring Justin Portzline. That was after Zach Brigman was tagged out at home on a sharp ground ball to third baseman Tom Eck (Columbia, Pa./Lancaster Catholic) for the second out of the inning.

Then, Juniata scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take the lead for the first time in the game. With one out, and Russ Gray (Johnstown, Pa./Richland) on second after reaching base on an error, Evan Pappas (Potomac, Md./Thomas Sprigg Wootton) sent a ball down the right field line, easily scoring Gray, but Pappas was chased down at third trying to stretch the double into a triple.

The fifth started with a one out walk to Johnny Martinez (Mt. Union, Pa./Mt. Union). With Martinez running on the pitch, Greg Hoffman (Phoenix, Md./Dulaney) hit a single through the open gap on the right side, sending Martinez to third. Then, Ian Thorne (Germantown, Md./Seneca Valley) topped one to first base, but the ground out was able to score Martinez from third for the 2-1 lead.

It was the Susquehanna offense that rallied for the tying score in the seventh, but the Eagles defense was able to stop the attack at one run with the glove. The first three batters for the Crusaders reached base, loading the bases with no one out. After a brief mound visit, Regan twirled, trying to pick off the runner at second, but the ball sailed high, going into the outfield. All three runners advanced, and Portzline was able to trot home. But the next batter lined into a double play, as Kriss came running in to make the catch, and tagged Nick Ferlise out who was straying too far from the bag for the first and second outs of the inning. Regan followed that up with a strike out to end the inning.

After a quiet eighth for Juniata, and Regan striking out the side in the bottom half, it was time for Kriss' heroics. With two outs and the bases empty, Eck worked a walk, turning the lineup over. Chase Dykstra (Somerset, Pa./Somerset) chopped one to third, but a throwing error allowed the inning to continue. Bad news for the Crusaders.

Susquehanna used a pitching change to bring in the conference's saves leader, Ben Leonard, to the mound. Kriss welcomed him with a rope to right center field, easily scoring Eck from second, and Dykstra beat the throw home, putting the Eagles on top 4-2. Kriss advanced to third on the throw to the plate, and eventually scored on a wild pitch, putting the score at 5-2.

Regan, well over 100 pitches at this point in the ball game, induced two relatively easy fly balls to center field to start the bottom of the ninth, and finally got Chris Price to one-hope a pitch back to the mound, and Regan took care of the toss to first, ending the game and allowing the Eagles to play another day.

Juniata will now play the loser of the Moravian/Catholic matchup in the winner's bracket, in another elimination game for the Eagles. The game is slated to start at 12:30, but pending weather and the start of the first game will determine the Eagles start time.

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.