WASHINGTON - The celebration was halted for 16 seconds on Sunday afternoon as Gallaudet University's Justin Strong (Charlotte, N.C.) was directed to go to first base, after being hit by the pitch with the bases loaded, to make the game official. Once Strong reached the bag the Bison bench, which had to be restrained, raced out to celebrate a thrilling 9-8 come-from-behind victory over Cazenovia College at Hoy Field.
The victory completed a two-game sweep of the Wildcats in a key North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) doubleheader for Gallaudet (5-18, 3-3 NEAC). The Bison won the first game, 5-4, after they scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Cazenovia (7-10, 2-2 NEAC) gained momentum in the late stages of the second game after it trailed Gallaudet by three, 6-3, after four innings. The Wildcats chipped away at the lead and scored a run in the fifth and two runs in the sixth, to tie the game, and two in the seventh to take an 8-6 lead. Cazenovia rallied around its head coach being tossed in the top of the sixth inning and scored four runs after his exit.
The Bison went to work in the bottom of the seventh as freshman Kyle Gumm (Dallas, Texas) led off with a single to left field before senior outfielder Tom Pangia (Hammonton, N.J.) continued his hot streak at the plate. Pangia doubled down the left field line to put runners on second and third base with no outs. Chris Williams (2-2) plunked sophomore Zack Crawford (Newnan, Ga.) to load the bases and force the Wildcats to insert Austin Matteo from the bullpen. Matteo's stay was brief as he struck out his first batter and then hit junior Brad Stockdill (New Castle, Pa.) to force home a run.
The pressure began to mount for Cazenovia as it clung to an 8-7 lead. A second pitching change in the inning saw Alex Rudiak take the mound with the bases loaded and one out. Freshman Dylan Hayes (Endicott, N.Y.) lifted the first pitch to center field for the second out but the ball was deep enough for Pangia to race home from third base on the sacrifice fly to tie the game.
Junior center fielder Chase Magsig (Hudsonville, Mich.) dug in to the batter's box next and on the third pitch he got hit by Rudiak to load the bases once more. That set the stage for Strong. The right-handed batter had worked the count full. There was no where to put Strong as the next pitch would determine the outcome of the game. Rudiak's pitch hit Strong in his left leg to end the game in walk-off fashion.
Junior Albert Blake (Derby, Conn.) earned his first win of the season as he pitched the final inning and two-thirds in relief of starting pitcher Ben Coleman (St. Paris, Ohio). Strong, Gumm and Pangia led the team with two hits each.
In the first game, Stockdill came through with the clutch two-run single up the middle in the bottom of the eighth to plate Pangia and senior Mitchell Bensman (Russia, Ohio) to give GU a 5-4 lead as Crawford was thrown out at third base on the play, after the runs had scored. The two-run hit capped a four-run inning for the Bison on three hits and two walks.
Sophomore starting pitcher Ian Evans (Murphy, N.C.) retired the Wildcats in the ninth as he celebrated his complete game victory, his first of the season. Evans (1-4) allowed four runs on eight hits, walked nine and struck out two batters as he threw 152 pitches.
Magsig paced the offense going 3-for-4 at the dish with a triple and a run scored while sophomore Peter LoDuca (Great Neck, N.Y.) and Stockdill collected two hits each.
Tom DeBernardis (0-4) took the loss for the Wildcats on the mound as he allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits, walked four and struck out five in 7.1 innings pitched.
Gallaudet will step out of conference play on Wednesday as the Bison host No. 13 Shenandoah University (18-4-1) for a nine-inning game at 3:30 p.m.