NEWARK, N.J. – Trailing in the eighth inning and tied in the ninth, Jacksonville University (17-16, 4-1 ASUN) earned a series win Saturday with a two-run homer from Evan Fernandez in the top of the ninth. The dinger shot through the outfield netting in left field and landed between several cars, lifting JU to a 5-3 victory.
Casey Kulina and NJIT starter Brian Sondergard pitched two scoreless innings apiece to start the game, but JU's southpaw from Hummelstown, Pa., was able to outlast the Highlander pitcher's scoreless streak. Kulina kept NJIT off the board while Sondergard's armor started getting dinged up in the third.
With Nathan Koslowski on third after a walk and a single by Angel Camacho, Fernandez earned his first RBI of the game on a single through the left side. Jacob Southern dinged the first of his three hits of the day up the middle, scoring Camacho, before Fernandez was thrown out at third in a rundown. After three JU led 2-0.
NJIT started to climb back into the game in the bottom of the sixth. A one out walk was advanced to second on a groundout, and with two outs and a pitcher's count the NJIT shortstop singled to right center, scoring a run for NJIT. In the next at-bat the Highlander shortstop was caught stealing, ending NJIT's threat. After six JU held on to a tenuous 2-1 lead.
Two hits and a Dolphin error in the seventh led to NJIT's first lead since the first inning of Friday's game, but singles from Ruben Someillan and Alex Seifert scored Chris Lehane after the redshirt junior wore a pitch to lead off the inning. The two teams were knotted 3-3 after eight innings thanks to some stellar defensive work in the bottom of the eighth.
After Camacho reached second on a throwing error by the Highlander third baseman, Fernandez worked through a 3-2 count. The redshirt sophomore fouled the next pitch off his foot, then smiled through the pain as he smoked the ball well over the left field fence. JU took a 5-3 lead, and held on as Spencer Stockton earned a save with a 6-4-3 double play and a 6-3 groundout in the bottom of the ninth.
JU took the series in its fifth win in a row, and improves to 4-1 in ASUN Conference play. The Dolphins will attempt an ASUN series sweep for the first time since they swept NJIT last season.