The Suffolk University Baseball team will advance to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament finals to face St. Joseph's College of Maine on Sunday.
Suffolk recieved complete game efforts by junior Jhonneris Mendez (Boston, Mass.) and Jonathan Richard (North Reading, Mass.) as the Rams outscored their opponents 23-2 in the two games combined Saturday.
With the victories Suffolk improves to a 20-21-1 overall record in 2012, the program's fifteenth straight season of 20-plus victories. Sunday's matchup with the Monks of St. Joseph's College will be the fifth straight year that both teams have met in the finals of the league tournament in hopes of an NCAA automatic qualifier bid into the regional tournament.
Game one saw Suffolk defeat host Johnson & Wales University, 8-0. Mendez threw all nine innings punching out seven hitters while scattering six hits in the outing to improve to 6-3 on the mound while also recording his second win of the tournament.
The Rams jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning with sophomore Devan Jones (Roslindale, Mass.) leading off with a single up the middle. Mendez would help his own cause as he drove in the first run of the game with a groundout to plate Jones who was advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Michael Muse (Milton, Mass.) Junior Mike Cunningham (Syosset, N.Y.) later put the Rams up by a pair of runs with a single to left to plate a second run in the inning.
Senior Dan Belanger (Raynham, Mass.) added some insurance for Suffolk in the third inning as he knocked in a pair of runs with single to left field.
The Rams pounded out 12 hits in the opener as Jones, Muse, Cintolo, Mendez and Stanley each had a pair.
An offensive barrage opened up in game two as the Rams were able to score 15 runs on 15 hits in their second elimination game of the day, this time defeating the Anna Maria College AMCats, 15-2.
Cunningham finished game two with a perfect 3-for-3, scoring a pair of runs and driving in two, while freshman Justin Knight (Hackettstown, N.J.) was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBI.
Trailing 1-0 in the third, Cintolo got the Rams on the board with an RBI double off the left field.
The Rams would then add three runs in the fourth as Cunningham and junior pinch-hitter Mitch Monke (Springfield, Ohio) hit consecutive singles to start the offensive charge. A double by Knight down the left field run would plate the first run of the inning, before Devan Jones hit a bases loaded clearing double down the left field line to stake Suffolk to a 4-1 lead after four.
Cunningham would add an RBI double in the fifth, while Knight drove in a run with a single and later scored on a passed ball to help edge the Rams from the AMCats8-1 after five innings of play.
Mendez connected on his fourth home run of the season in the sixth inning, a towering two-run drive to left as the Rams would continue to score as the game went along. Suffolk scored multiple runs in each of the last six innings.
Richard cruised in game two as he allowed the two runs on seven hits while striking out a pair just needing 92 pitches to complete the nine-inning contest.
Four players had four hits in the combined two games for Suffolk: Cintolo, Mendez, Stanley and Cunningham. Sophomore Mac Jacobson (Norfolk, Mass.) combined to reach base six times on Saturday scoring four runs.
Sunday's game one will start at noon at Pierce Field in East Providence. Suffolk will need to defeat St. Joseph's twice as they hope to secure the program's fifth NCAA bid.