Saints go marching as Siena pulls off comeback

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    One day after the Siena Saints lost in 11 innings to TCU, the underdog fourth-seed capped an incredible rally to beat Dallas Baptist 9-8 in 10 innings, eliminating the Patriots from the tournament.

    DBU (41-19, 14-7 Missouri Valley) wasted no time getting on the board in the third game of the Fort Worth Regional. 

    The Patriots put five runs on Siena (27-32, 17-7 Metro Atlantic) in the first inning and one more halfway through the second before Siena head coach Tony Rossi had seen enough.

    Rossi singled to the bullpen and called on senior righty Neil Fryer to come into the game. Fryer would give up another run allowing DBU to extend its lead to 7-0 midway through the second inning.

    That would be all the offense the Patriots could muster until the ninth.

    The Saints responded in the second with a pair of runs of their own.

    DBU pitcher Paul Voelker walked the first two Siena batters and allowed an RBI single for the Saint’s first tally. After another hit, Siena loaded the bases and brought one more home after Voelker hit a batter.

    Voelker would run into more trouble after the Saints loaded the bases with no outs. Patriots head coach Dan Heefner then called on lefty sophomore Sean Stutzman.

    Stutzman would be unable to provide relief, as he walked in another Saint run bringing the score to 7-3. A Patriot error by an infielder led to another score and the Saints cut the lead to just three.

    Siena wasn’t done yet either, as they managed to bring one more run home on a sac fly.

    Fryer would stay in the game for Siena and retired the Patriots in the fifth after allowing a lone base runner.

    Nursing a two run lead, Stutzman gave up yet another run, which brought the Saints within one.

    In the sixth inning, Stutzman would give Siena the chance to tie as a wild pitch allowed a Saint base runner into scoring position. Center fielder Dan Swain would be unable to capitalize after grounding out to the mound though.

    Coach Heefner would call the bullpen again and bring in Brandon Koch midway through the seventh to try and send the Saints home. 

    Koch would be unable to save Dallas Baptist’s season as he allowed a single to John Rooney that scored the tying and go-ahead runs to cap Siena’s epic comeback.

    The Patriots would respond in the ninth with a run of their own to tie the game at eight runs apiece.

    The next run would prove to be the difference as first baseman Vincent Citro singled up the middle to score the game-winning run in the tenth inning. Coach Tony Rossi credited the win to pitcher Neil Fryer’s extended relief performance.

    “This guy is a warrior, he can do it all. Relieve, go long and go short. He is a great utility man,” Rossi said.

    Fryer said he had to start from scratch when entering a game that saw a six run difference, he said it was all about competing and keeping a fresh mindset.

    Heefner was adamant about his team playing above expectations all year long.

    “Before the season everyone said we weren’t supposed to be here. It was called a rebuilding year,” he said.

    Heefner also said his seniors were the reason they exceeded expectations.

    “I was very proud of what they did over the whole season, “ he said. “It is to bad it had to come to a close this way.”

    The win was the first NCAA tournament victory in Rossi’s 45 seasons as head coach. The Saints will look to stay alive Sunday afternoon as they face the loser of TCU’s game against Sam Houston State Saturday night.

    Game 5 is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. from Lupton Stadium.