Baseball: Brian Hnatuk pitches gem for Eastern Connecticut

In a classic baseball duel between right-handed pitchers making their first starts of the season, Springfield College senior Kyle Naples came out on top over Eastern Connecticut State University junior Brian Hnatuk from Trumbull, as the Pride used a handful of outstanding defensive plays in a 3-0 shutout of the Warriors Wednesday afternoon at Lake Myrtle Park.

Hnatuk fanned five without a walk, throwing 70 of his 91 pitches for strikes.

Naples also struck out five and walked three and threw 67 of his 107 pitches for strikes.

Naples (1-0) tossed a three-hitter over eight innings – facing 27 batters and allowing only three six baserunners — to outduel Hnatuk (0-1), who also faced 27 batters and allowed only five hits and eight baserunners over the first seven innings as Springfield (5-2-1) stopped a seven-game losing streak at the hands of Eastern (2-2).

All 11 hits in the two hour, eight minute game were singles, with neither team managing more than one hit in an inning.

The difference came down to defense, as Eastern committed a costly eight-inning outfield error that opened the door to two insurance runs and helped Springfield to its third straight win this year.

Behind Naples and Cole Donovan, who earned his first save by retiring the potential game-tying run with a game-ending ground ball in the ninth, the Pride turned two double plays and got impressive back-to-back defensive plays from second baseman Mark Joao and first baseman Cam Rivest in the seventh to help preserve a 1-0 Springfield lead.

In the seventh, Eastern freshman right fielder Anthony Stigler (Mansfield) legged out a leadoff ground ball to first base. No. 3 hitter Alexander White (West Hartford) then ground the ball to short, where Brandon Russo tossed off-target to second, where Joao grabbed the ball leaning toward the outfield with his bare hand, pivoted, and threw on to Rivest to complete the double play.

Rivest then ended the inning when he battled a bright sun, high sky and swirling wind to haul in cleanup hitter Alex Parkos' (Meriden) high fly ball in foul territory with a late grab behind his head while back peddling.

Naples also helped his own cause by picking off an Eastern runner to end the fourth inning.

Eastern meets Ripon College today at 5:15 p.m. at Lake Myrtle Park, looking to snap a two-game losing streak. The Warriors defeated Ripon, 3-2, a year ago at Auburndale.