MONMOUTH, NJ – The Iona College baseball program split a doubleheader at Monmouth University this afternoon to close out the regular season that included a 6-5 victory in the finale after falling 2-0 in the opener. At the conclusion of the regular season, the Gaels finished fourth in the MAAC standings heading into next week's MAAC Championship.
The Hawks (19-27, 11-13 MAAC) used a run in the third and the fifth to upend the Gaels (21-24, 14-10 MAAC) in the opener. In the bottom of the third, Zach Schild picked up his first of two RBI in the game by driving in Dan Abate with a single to center.
Following in the fifth, Schild earned his second RBI behind a sacrifice bunt to score Chris Gaetano. Gaetano led off the inning with a single and advanced to second with a sacrifice bunt from Abate and made it to third on a single from Danny Long.
The two run support was enough for Joe Molettiere, who started the first six innings with just two hits allowed and five strikeouts. Long moved from his shortstop position to the mound in the top of the seventh to earn his first save of the season with a hitless inning with two strikeouts.
Looking to avoid the three-game sweep in the finale, Iona jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the top of the second. Niko Switalla opened the inning with a single and advanced to second on a ground out. Jon Budesa reached and pushed Switalla to third with a bunt single to allow Brian Picone to drive in Switalla with the first run on a sacrifice fly.
After Budesa stole second, Fran Kinsey singled to right field to extend the margin to 2-0. Monmouth responded during the bottom of the third with four runs on four hits that included a two-run homerun from Dan Shea.
Iona continued the back-and-forth by tying the game at 4-4 in the top of the fourth. Switalla once again led off the rally behind a walk and advanced to second on a ground out from Tyler Bruno. Standing on second, Switalla scored during the next at-bat as Budesa singled to center field.
Budesa moved to two bases during a failed pickoff attempt at third and scored two batters later as Kinsey earned his second RBI of the game with a single through the left side, trying the game at 4-4.
The lead for the Maroon & Gold again was short lived as Monmouth regained the lead in the bottom half of the fourth inning. The lone run of the inning to give the Hawks a 5-4 lead came as Gaetano stole third base and scored following a throwing error.
Trailing 5-4 heading into the sixth, Switalla once again played table setter for the Gaels by drawing a leadoff walk in the top half. Following a Bruno single to put runners on first and second with no outs, Budesa advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt.
After a groundout kept both runners in place, Kinsey kept his strong game going with a two-run single to centerfield to put the Maroon & Gold ahead 6-5.
Gaining the advantage after taking over in the fifth inning, Mario Ferraioli kept the lead with Iona by tossing 2.2 innings with four strikeouts and just one hit allowed. Andrew Camiolo kept the Hawks from scoring with 1.1 innings of not hits and one strikeout, leading to Jared Finkel taking the ball in the ninth.
With two strikeouts in the ninth, Finkel picked up his ninth save of the season to tie the single-season program mark set by Brian Parish in 2004. Additionally, the save was Finkel's seventh in conference play to finish as the league leader for 2017.
Looking ahead, the Gaels enter the MAAC Championship next week as the fourth seed. The program is making its first appearance in the MAAC Championship since 2000 and are scheduled to play Wednesday at 3:30 pm at Sal Maglie Stadium in Niagara Falls.
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