Rhode Island baseball was eliminated from the Atlantic 10 Tournament by Saint Louis this afternoon, officially ending their 2017 season.
On a windy May afternoon, Rhode Island baseball fell to the Saint Louis Billikens, 4-2. From the outset, it was clear that Saint Louis lefty Aaron Patton had control of the game. Several Rhode Island batters could not adjust to the mix of off-speed pitches used by Patton. Martin Figueroa, Matt O’Neil, Sonny Ulliana, and Jesse Lee combining to go 0-14 from the plate, and that was too much for the team to overcome.
On the other side, Saint Louis marched out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning when their catcher and future MLB draft pick James Morisano went deep to left field. While the home run barely cleared the fence, URI’s Jesse Lee was stood up against the wall and failed to reach over the wall to bring the baseball into his glove. The pivotal fielding mistake by Lee proved to be the most critical mistake in the game.
After a RBI single by Powell in the third inning and Chris Hess’ third home run of the tournament (a solo shot to left field in sixth inning), Rhode Island had life again. As soon as the Rams tied the game up, Saint Louis reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the seventh. Following a leadoff single by Carter Hanford, URI’s sophomore pitcher Cam LaFleur served up a hanging breaking ball. And Saint Louis’ Devin Mahoney deposited the ball over the right field fence.
In the top of the eighth inning, URI started off the inning with a walk to right fielder Mike Foley and a single by shortstop Kevin Heiss. After a curious decision to try to have Jordan Powell lay down a sacrifice bunt, Powell popped out to shallow center field and the runners made zero movement.
In another ill-advised decision, URI tried to put a double steal into motion and Morisano gunned Mike Foley down at third. Shortly thereafter, Martin Figueroa popped out into foul territory and the rare scoring opportunity for the Rams was foiled. In their last chance to take the lead or tie the game in the ninth inning, Hess, O’Neil, and Mike Corin all went down quietly and the Billikens prevailed.
Afterwards, Rhode Island baseball fans saw raw emotion on the ASN broadcast. The team persevered through several injuries all season. Seeing tears roll off of the face of center fielder Jordan Powell’s face has to make the fan base wonder if he and Chris Hess will be back for their senior seasons. Powell and Hess are both projected to be in the 2017 MLB Draft and for good reason.