EDITOR'S NOTE: Updates with Scranton facing Catholic in Sunday's championship beginning at 11 a.m..
The University of Scranton baseball team came up with a handful of clutch hits at the perfect time and got strong relief pitching from junior Bryan Carmon (Flemington, N.J./North Hunterdon) and sophomore Kyle Bravin (Washington Township, N.J./Westwood) to defeat Catholic, 8-4, in Game 4 of the Landmark Conference playoffs.
The win advances the third-seeded Royals (22-19) to tomorrow's championship final at 11 a.m. at Volpe Field. They will face the top-seeded Cardinals (28-14), who rebounded to defeat Elizabethtown, 10-2, in Game 5 on Saturday night. The Royals need one victory to secure the title.
The game, which was played in steady rain from the fourth inning on, was tied at 3 heading to the top of the sixth, where the Royals – who were again the visitors on their home field due to being the lower seed – scored a run on an RBI groundout by freshman left fielder Connor Harding (Vestal, N.Y./Vestal Central) that drove in senior center fielder Tommy Trotter (Cranford, N.J./Cranford).
Scranton took control in the top of the eighth, scoring three times for a 7-3 lead. Senior catcher Kevin Nolan (Ossining, N.Y./Fordham Prep) got the rally started with a one-out bunt single, and he moved to second on a wild throw on the play. After stealing third, he came home on an RBI sac fly by Harding.
With two outs and nobody on, the Royals went back to work as sophomore designated hitter Kevin Haag (Ossining, N.Y./Ossining/Bridgton Academy) singled, senior second baseman Brad Schneider (Ambler, Pa./LaSalle College H.S.) was hit by a pitch, and senior third baseman Patrick Mergel (Bethlehem, Pa./Bethlehem Catholic) reached on an error to load the bases.
Senior right fielder Chase Standen (Newtown Square, Pa./St. Joseph's Prep) then came up, and after fouling off multiple two-strike pitches, he laced a two-run single to right for a 7-4 lead.
Catholic pulled a run back in the bottom of the eight, but the Royals answered back with Harding's RBI single in the ninth for the final insurance run.
While the offense provided the fireworks, Carmon and Bravin made sure Catholic didn't set off any of its own. Carmon entered in the fifth inning and worked 2 2/3 innings, allowing a run on a hit and two walks while striking out four to earn his third win of the season. Bravin relieved Carmon with nobody out and runners on the corners in the eight. He allowed an RBI sac fly, but then held Catholic scoreless to pick up his first save.
The Royals got the upper hand earlier in the game thanks to a three-run top of the third. After Catholic had struck with a solo homer in the bottom of the second, Schneider delivered a two-run single and Mergel had an RBI groundout for a 3-1 lead.
Harding finished the afternoon with two hits, three RBIs, a run and a stolen base, Schneider had two hits and two RBIs, Nolan had two hits, two runs and a stolen base, and Trotter had a hit, scored three times and stole a base.
On Sunday, Scranton will be aiming for its first outright conference championship in program history. The Royals are also looking to earn their first trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament, and would secure an at-large bid with a championship win on Sunday.
Sunday's championship will start at 10:30 a.m. A Catholic win would result in a winner-take-all Game 7, which would start 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 6.
Live video and live stats of Sunday's action will be available at http://athletics.scranton.edu/sports/bsb/2017-18/schedule.
Earlier in the day, second-seeded Elizabethtown defeated fourth-seeded Moravian, 5-3, in Game 3 to stay alive.