The first competition at The University of Scranton's new Quinn Athletics Campus got off to an inauspicious start on Thursday afternoon, but the baseball team rallied for a 9-8 walk-off win over Wilkes to bring a joyous end to an historic night.
The game was played on Volpe Family Field, the Royals' new home at the Quinn Athletics Campus. The Campus also includes the softball team's Magis Field, and Weiss Field, the multi-purpose field for field hockey, lacrosse and soccer.
Senior third baseman Patrick Mergel (Bethlehem, Pa./Bethlehem Catholic) drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth with a sacrifice fly to center field. Senior right fielder Chase Standen (Newtown Square, Pa./St. Joseph's Prep) scored on the play after leading off the inning with a booming triple to right field.
The game got off to a slow start for the Royals (8-6) when they allowed five runs in the top of the second. Wilkes (7-10) used five walks, two hits and an error to plate the five-spot and take control early.
But Scranton slowly chipped away, scoring once in the third, twice in the fourth and once in the fifth to pull within 5-4. Standen had an RBI triple off the base of the "Purple Monster" in center field as part of the rally.
Wilkes temporarily slowed the comeback with a run in the top of the seventh. But the Royals tallied four times in the bottom of the eighth, aided by a pair of two-out errors. Senior catcher Kevin Nolan (Ossining, N.Y./Fordham Prep) had an RBI sac fly and freshman left fielder Connor Harding (Vestal, N.Y./Vestal Central) had an RBI single in the uprising as Scranton took an 8-6 lead.
But the Colonels came back with two runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game, setting up the heroics by Standen and Mergel in the bottom of the ninth.
Harding finished 2-for-4 with two walks, two RBIs, a run and three stolen bases. He had the first-ever hit at Volpe Family Field when he singled to lead off the top of the first.
Standen had two triples, drove in a run, scored a run and stole a base. Junior righty Bryan Carmon (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central) got the win by getting the final two outs of the top of the ninth. Sophomore lefty Kyle Bravin (Washington Township, N.J./Westwood) was the hero on the mound, though, working 4 1/3 innings of relief, allowing one run on four hits and three walks while striking out two. His work quieted the Wilkes offense after the Colonels had taken that quick 5-0 lead in the second inning.
The baseball team will be back in action on Saturday when the Royals host St. John Fisher in a non-conference doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m