May 24, 2002
Fishkill, N.Y. (May 24, 2002)--It would have made for a great story. Down 4-0 with just two innings left, the Siena baseball team (28-29)seemed destined to make a quiet exit from the 2002 MAAC Tournament. That is until second baseman Kevin Roberts sparked a spirited rally with a leadoff homerun in the top of the eighth. A rally that would end with the tying run just 90 feet from the plate an inning later.
The Broncs (32-21) struck for two runs in the first inning on four sharp hits off Siena starter Justin Knoff. Kevin Riley singled through the right side scoring Brian Merrigan, who had three hits on the afternoon, with the game's first run. Two batters later, Carl Loadenthal collected one of his two hits on the afternoon--an RBI single up the middle that gave Rider the early 2-0 lead. Merrigan's fourth home run of the season pushed the advantage to 3-0 in the third.
Knoff then settled down, matching Rider starter Mark Fisher zero-for-zero before sacraficing an RBI hit to firstbaseman Jared Carle in the bottom of the seventh inning. Carle's single up the middle scored Loadenthal--who had led off the inning with a double off the right field wall--with the eventual game-winning run.
Fisher dominated the Siena batters for seven innings, allowing just four hits and no runs while striking out seven Saints. The right-handed fireballer knocked the Saints out of last year's MAAC Tournament with an equally effective performance, and struck out 17 Siena batters in a 2-1 Rider victory at Siena field earlier this season. The senior hit the wall in the eighth, however, sacraficing Roberts' home run to start the frame. That would be the last batter he would face.
Eric Weiner relieved Fisher, and walked senior Josh Kean to bring the Saints' top hitter, Ryan Finn, to the plate. Finn responded with a triple off the right field wall that chased Weiner from the game and brought the tying run to the plate. Tony Cipolla's RBI groundout plated Finn to close the gap to 4-3, but that was as close as Siena would get in the eighth.
Broncs' closer James Hoey appeared as if he would coast to his sixth save of the season after retiring the first two men he faced in the ninth inning, but Roberts and the Saints had different ideas. The sophomore from Utica lined a single to rightfield to bring Kean to the plate representing the go-ahead run. The senior from Schenectady worked a two-out walk sending Finn back to the plate and setting the stage for high drama. Hoey, however, hit Finn with his second offering, loading the bases for the team's most productive regular-season bat, senior captain Jim Buckley.
Buckley worked a 2-1 count and then launched what appeared to many when it left the bat as a potential game-winning grand slam to left field. However, leftfielder Erinn Pesaresi tracked Buckley's blast to the middle of the warning track, hauling in the victory, and ending Siena's season in heartbreaking fashion.
"I am really proud of the way our kids faught back today and the way they worked all season long," Head Coach Tony Rossi said following the difficult loss. "This senior class has been the most productive class I have coached in my 33 years with the program, and it is a shame for their season to end this way."
Finn agreed noting: "we faught hard to qualify for the Tournament with our backs against the wall, and never gave up all season long. Jim (Buckley) put a good swing on the ball, but was just a bit in front of (the offspead offering) and caught it off the end of the bat."
Siena finishes the 2002 campaign with a 28-29 record after starting the season 3-18. The Saints have qualified for six of the last eight MAAC Tournaments.