NORWICH, Conn. - Behind a complete-game effort from junior Pat Light (Colts Neck, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) and a 2-for-4, three-RBI performance from Jake Gronsky (Danville, Pa./Danville Area), the top-seeded Monmouth University baseball team advanced to the winners bracket with a 7-1 victory over fourth-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson, Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Northeast Conference Tournament. The Hawks (34-12) will battle No. 2 Sacred Heart tomorrow at 3:30 p.m., while the Knights (24-27-1) will take on No. 3 Central Connecticut State in an elimination game at noon.
Light, who picked up his eighth win of the season with his fourth complete game, allowed an unearned run on five hits with five strikeouts. The Knights attempted to jump on top in the first inning on a pair of hits and a walk, but could not cross home plate as Light induced a groundout to end the threat. The righty went on to retire nine-straight over the next three innings.
Josh Boyd (Port Murray, N.J./West Morris Central) singled with one out in the opening frame and moved to second on a single to center by Gronsky. After Danny Avella (Matawan, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) worked a free pass, Chris Perret (Morris Plains, N.J./Morris Catholic) beat out a potential inning-ending double play, plating Boyd for the first run of the afternoon. With Gronsky on third and Perret on first, the duo successfully converted a double steal giving the Blue and White a 2-0 lead.
Fairleigh Dickinson scored its first run on a single by Jordan Ritz but Monmouth answered in the home half of the inning with four runs on three hits. Ed Martin (Hazlet, N.J./Raritan [Brookdale CC]) walked and Jon Guida (Martinsville, N.J./Bridgewater Raritan) singled, advancing Martin to second. Jamie Rosenkranz (Oakhurst, N.J./Ocean Township) delivered a single up the middle, chasing in Martin to go up again by two. Boyd followed by working a four-pitch walk and Gronsky connected on a bases-clearing double down the right field line to give MU a comfortable 6-1 lead. Stewart delivered a sacrifice fly, scoring Avella who reached via a walk to score the Hawks' final run of the afternoon.