Righthander Chris Cepeda fired his 110th pitch and induced a high pop up. Rightfielder RJ Going settled under the fly ball and gloved it for the final out as Dowling College edged the University of Bridgeport, 4-3, Friday in the winner’s bracket final of the East Coast Conference double elimination baseball tournament at the Dowling Sports Complex in Shirley.
Molloy College (30-20) and Bridgeport (25-21) will meet in Saturday’s loser’s bracket final at noon for the right to play Dowling (26-22) in the ECC championship at 3 p.m. at the Dowling Sports Complex.
Cepeda, who’d retired 14 in a row from the second through the seventh innings, cruised through seven scoreless innings. He let up a run in the eighth and a long one-out, two-run homer by Alnaydo Rodriguez in the ninth to turn a 4-0 game into a 4-3 nailbiter.
Cepeda, a redshirt freshman and the ECC Rookie Pitcher of the Year, found enough in his reserve to retire the next two batters on pops to finish the game.
“I made a mistake in the ninth and left a slider up and in and he crushed it,” said Cepeda, who improved to 7-0. “It was a special moment, that last out, for me. I was forced to watch last year because I was academically ineligible and that was really tough. But I got it together and this was a truly great feeling to contribute to this team.”
Cepeda’s mound brilliance was complimented by the hitting of lead off man Tim Going, who went 4-for-5, and the nine-hole hitter Chris Appell, who added three hits and had what proved to be the game-winning RBI single in the sixth.
Appell’s one-out single jumpstarted a three-run third inning that gave the Golden Lions a 3-0 lead. Going drove a triple to rightfield to score Appell for the first run and Ken Fils-Aime singled up the middle to plate Going. After R.J. Going was hit with a pitch, Bobby Morse followed with a single to left to score Fils-Aime. Morse went 3-for-5 in the game.
“We started slow this season but the coaches made some adjustments with the hitters and we’re getting the timely hits now,” Going said. “It’s all about patience and being selective.”
Asked what he thought about Appell at the bottom of the lineup, Going said.
“He could easily be the leadoff man. He’s been great down there and flips the lineup to the top with momentum.”
The Golden Lions made it 4-0 in the sixth. Tyler Piccolo singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Vinny Orlando, and scored on Appell’s line drive single.
The finish was left to Cepeda.
“We played a flawless defensive game,” Cepeda said. “They battled and you expect them from good teams.”
He had just enough.