Collacchi leads Salisbury past Messiah to stay alive, 9-3, in NCAA regional

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Freshman right-hander Brett Collacchi pitched his first collegiate complete game and the second-seeded Salisbury University baseball team exploded for five runs in the first inning on its way to a 9-3 elimination-game win over sixth-seeded Messiah College Friday morning in the NCAA Newport News Regional at Captains Park.

Seven of nine SU (33-8) starters recorded at least one hit and one run to advance to play third-seeded Shenandoah University in Friday's 4:30 p.m., game.

Sophomore Ken O'Neill paced the Gulls' 12-hit attack, going 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs, while senior Chris Connor and Tyler Bennett chipped in with two singles each. Connor knocked in two and Bennett scored twice.

Collacchi (6-0), who had not pitched since a no-decision against Stevenson University on April 14, was in command most of the day. He scattered nine hits and three runs with three strikeouts and three walks, throwing 105 pitches.

"I thought he did a real nice job," said Salisbury Head Coach Doug Fleetwood of Collacchi. "He hadn't thrown in a long while and had some biceps tendonitis so we held him out. … We said today we're not going to play this as one-game thing, we're going to try and win this thing so it worked out our way and he did a nice job for us."

Salisbury wasted little time getting on the scoreboard with five runs on five hits in the first inning off Messiah starter Zach Adams (2-4). Connor lined a single to left, scoring Bill Root from third for the lead. After Quinn Griffith was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Kyle Hayman singled to center for a 2-0 lead. Nick Gentry followed with a two-run single back through the box to plate Griffith and Connor. An O'Neill infield single scored Hayman to cap the uprising.

"We started off real well, were aggressive and did some things," Fleetwood said. "I thought we had a good attitude out there today, we got on and we got in, we kept hustling and we kept playing hard and we hadn't done that the last day or two, so were a little more loose."

The Sea Gulls added two more in the second as Adams lasted just one inning. Connor had an RBI single down the right-field line and a Griffith squeeze bunt made it 7-0 through one-and-a-half innings.

Messiah picked up runs in the fourth and seventh innings on a pair of sacrifice flies by Jon Lapp and Jacob Spengle to get within five at 7-2, but another O'Neill RBI single in the eighth and a pinch-hit RBI base hit by Nick Walls restored the five-run advantage.

Derek Drake scored for Messiah (20-25) on a double-play ball in the ninth for the final margin.

Zach Brubaker was 3-for-3 to lead the Falcons.