WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. - Sophomore Jake Gronsky (Danville, Pa./Danville Area) connected on a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning which proved to be the game-winner as the Monmouth University baseball team defeated Bryant, 4-3, in its Northeast Conference series finale, Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Hawks (32-19, 20-8 NEC) clinch a berth in the upcoming Northeast Conference Tournament, which will be held May 17-20 at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Connecticut. MU, which will be playing in its sixth-straight NEC Tournament, will be making its league-leading 16th appearance at the postseason event.
Trailing 3-2 in the seventh inning, Tom Augustyniak (Whitehouse Station, N.J./Immaculata) worked a one-out pinch-hit walk to start the Monmouth rally. Ed Martin (Hazlet, N.J./Raritan [Brookdale CC]) singled, moving Chris McKenna (Pine Beach, N.J./Toms River South), who was pinch-running for Augustyniak, to second and Josh Boyd (Port Murray, N.J./West Morris Central) laid down a sacrifice bunt, advancing each runner up a base. Gronsky took the 0-1 pitch the opposite way, chasing in McKenna and Martin for the tying and go-ahead runs.
Bryant jumped ahead 2-0 on Jonathan Scott's two-run home run in the first inning. The Hawks got on the board in the fourth as Boyd started the frame with a double down the left field line. After swiping third, Jamie Rosenkranz (Oakhurst, N.J./Ocean Township) roped a single to left field, chasing in his senior classmate which cut Bryant's lead in half, 2-1.
A sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth by Jamie Skagerlind pushed the Bulldogs ahead again by two, but MU would answer in the home half of the inning. Craig Sweeney (Middletown, N.J./Middletown South) started off the frame with a base hit and moved to second as Chris Greco (Totowa, N.J./Passaic Valley [Hofstra/Brookdale CC]) was hit by a pitch. Martin followed with a groundout to short, but the relay throw by the second baseman, Adam Claire, to first for the double play short-hopped Jamie Skagerlind, allowing Sweeney to come around to score and bring the Hawks again within one, 3-2.
Sweeney registered a 3-for-4 afternoon with a run scored, while Gronsky and Rosenkranz each tallied a pair of hits for the Blue and White.
Neil Harm (Hamilton, N.J./Steinert) threw two perfect innings out of the Hawks' bullpen, including retiring the side in the eighth inning on five pitches, to earn his first win of the season. Joe Loiodice (Forest Hills, Md./John Carroll) struck out two in the ninth to pick up his third save of the season. Monmouth's starter John McDonald (Langhorne, Pa./Conwell Egan Catholic), who left with two outs in the first inning after trying to field a ball with his pitching hand, yielded two runs on three hits, while Adam Yunginger (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) matched a career-high outing, working 3.1 scoreless frames of relief with four punch-outs. Stephen Frey (Washingtonville, N.Y./Washingtonville) surrendered a run on a hit with a strikeout in two innings of work.
Trevor Lacosse suffers the loss for the Bulldogs, allowing two runs on two hits and a pair of walks in relief of starter Kevin McAvoy, who worked six innings, yielding two runs on six hits with three strikeouts.
Monmouth will conclude its regular season this upcoming week as it travels to Sacred Heart for a four-game Northeast Conference series beginning on Thursday.