HAMDEN, Conn. — Junior Joe Sclafani rapped out four hits and blasted a pair of home runs, including a ninth-inning grand slam, to lead the Dartmouth Big Green to a 16-8 road victory at Quinnipiac on Wednesday afternoon. This is the second two-homer game for the shortstop in his career as he drove in a career-high six runs to help Dartmouth improve to 13-6 on the season. Quinnipiac fell to 12-11 in a game that featured 14 pitchers, eight for the Bobcats.
Sclafani’s first four-bagger was a two-run shot in the fifth inning, extending the Big Green’s lead to 9-5. Dartmouth entered the ninth with a two-run advantage at 10-8, but Sclafani capped a six-run frame with his first career grand slam to deep right-center, erasing any doubt as to the outcome of the game. For the day, the Ivy League Preseason Player of the Year was 4-for-5 with a walk, three runs scored and his six RBIs.
“Both of Joe’s home runs were at critical points of the ball game,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Whalen. “The first came shortly after they had scored five runs with us holding a two-run lead and got us some separation. And after Quinnipiac kept hanging in there, Joe put the game out of reach with the grand slam. Not only was he big at the plate, but he made difficult plays look routine in the field on a cold day when all you want to do is throw strikes and make plays to get a win.”
The Big Green scored the first seven runs of the game, tallying two in the first on a double off the bat of senior Jason Brooks to score senior Sam Bean and sophomore Chris O’Dowd who had singled and walked, respectively. In the third inning, Sclafani led off with a single, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a Bean double to the gap in left-center. O’Dowd then found a hole through the right side to plate Bean, and took second when the ball was bobbled by the right fielder. After Brooks was plunked, sophomore Ennis Coble slapped a pitch past the shortstop for an RBI single. One out later, freshman Dustin Selzer hit a run-scoring grounder before junior David Turnbull dropped a single in front of the left fielder to bring home the fifth run of the inning and make it a 7-0 ball game.
But the Bobcats clawed their way back into the game with five of their own in the bottom of the third. They began the inning with back-to-back singles, then a ground ball was misplayed allowing one run to score. Mickey Amanti ripped an RBI double to right-center before Mike Bartlett brought home another run with a grounder to second for the first out. Dartmouth starter Louis Concato issued a walk to Chris Migani, who stole second as Amanti stole home, and after another walk, freshman Mike Dodakian was summoned from the bullpen. Ben Farina greeted him with a run-scoring single before Dodakian retired the next two batters to finally bring the inning to a close.
Sclafani’s opposite-field, two-run shot came in the top of the fifth, and Quinnipiac answered with an unearned run in its half. The Big Green got that run back in the sixth when O’Dowd walked, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scampered home on a Brooks sacrifice fly.
Quinnipiac kept chipping away at the deficit, however, with solitary runs in the seventh and eighth frames. Pinch-hitter Kyle Nisson led off the seventh with a single, but was nearly stranded there as senior Ryan Smith retired the next two hitters and threw strike three past the third. But the ball eluded O’Dowd behind the plate, putting runners on first and second. Zak Palmer took advantage of the extra out by knocking a single to center to score Nisson.
In the eighth, again the Bobcats got things going with two down, this time against sophomore lefty Michael Johnson. Amanti and Nisson hit back-to-back doubles to make it 10-8, and when Migani stroked a single to left, the game was very much in doubt. Bean briefly overran the ball in the outfield, but recovered in time to throw out Migani at second before Nisson could cross the plate, ending the threat.
In the ninth, Quinnipiac turned to its closer, Andrew Rinaldi, to keep the game within striking distance, but Dartmouth had other plans. Coble doubled, went to third on a single by senior Jeff Onstott and scored on pinch-hitter Ryan Toimil’s single inside the left-field line. Turnbull collected his third hit of the day when he beat out a bunt, and junior Jake Carlson walked, forcing in a run. Sclafani then cleared the bases with his drive over the fence in right-center.
In the bottom half, junior reliever Max Langford made quick work of the Bobcats, retiring the side in order.
Dodakian (1-1) was credited with the victory for pitching 1.2 scoreless innings of relief, yielding just one hit while striking out one. Spencer Kane (0-3) took the loss for allowing the first two runs of the game in his two innings of work.
Dartmouth returns home this weekend for a pair of Ivy League doubleheaders beginning with Cornell on Saturday at noon. The games will be video streamed live through Big Green Insider on the official web site of the athletics department, DartmouthSports.com. Wayne Young ’72 and Orli Kleiner ’12 will bring all the action to life as the Big Green try to improve upon its 29-5 record at Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park since it was remodeled before the 2009 season.
Notes: The other two-homer game for Sclafani came last year against 11th-ranked Miami in the first game of the Coral Gables Regional ... the victory gives the Big Green senior class 92 victories during its four years with the team, making it the winningest class in Dartmouth baseball history. The Class of 2000 won 91 games from 1997-2000, including a school-record 29 victories in 2000.