Baseball rallies in ninth inning to win Jackie Robinson Game

(Left to right) Hamilton MVP Spencer Vogelbach '18, head coach Tim Byrnes, Utica College Director of Athletics Dave Fontaine, Utica head coach Joe Milazzo and Utica MVP Tim Quinlan (photo courtesy Utica College sports information).
(Left to right) Hamilton MVP Spencer Vogelbach '18, head coach Tim Byrnes, Utica College Director of Athletics Dave Fontaine, Utica head coach Joe Milazzo and Utica MVP Tim Quinlan (photo courtesy Utica College sports information).

The Hamilton College Continentals scored five runs in the top of the ninth inning and rallied for a 9-8 victory against the Utica College Pioneers in the 31st playing of the Jackie Robinson Game at the UC Baseball Field on Tuesday.

Hamilton (16-17 overall) won this special event for the third year in a row, but Utica still holds a 16-15 edge in the Jackie Robinson Game series. The game, which celebrates Robinson breaking major league baseball's color barrier in 1947, was instituted in 1987 on the 40th anniversary of that milestone and is sponsored by the Mohawk Valley Frontiersmen.

The Continentals tied their program record for wins in a season. Hamilton also won 16 games in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Nate Goodman '20 helped lead the Continentals' offense with two hits and two runs batted in. Matt Zaffino '21 raised his batting average to .348 with a single and a double, and Graham McOsker '20 tied a career high with three runs batted in.

Hamilton relief pitchers Spencer Vogelbach '18, Brett Sandford '19 and Ian Nish '19 shut out the Pioneers over the final three innings. Vogelbach pitched a scoreless seventh and was named the Continentals' game MVP. Ten of the 11 pitches he threw were strikes. Nish got the final four outs and picked up his first career win at Hamilton. Nish, who has a 0.45 ERA, hasn't allowed an earned run in 14 straight appearances -- a streak that has covered 16 innings.

Tim Quinlan paced Utica (12-17) with three hits and two runs batted in and was named the Pioneers' game MVP. Ryan Palmer chipped in two hits and drove in two runs, and Matthew Yozzo and Christian Tiffin added two singles apiece. Starting pitcher Mark Spina and reliever Brian Dinnen combined to blank the Continentals on three hits over the first five innings. Utica dropped its seventh consecutive game.

Hamilton trailed 8-4 going into the ninth inning but scored all five of its runs with two outs. Craig Sandford '19 and Matt Carney '21 drew one-out walks and Jarrett Lee '21 was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Goodman pulled the Continentals within 8-6 on a two-run single to left field and Zaffino plated Lee with a base hit to left. Now leading by a single run, the Pioneers went to their bullpen and called on Kolbie Glionna to shut the door. McOsker welcomed Glionna with a double to center that scored the tying and game-winning runs.

In the bottom of the ninth Nish retired the first two batters on a ground ball to first base and a called third strike. Jake Ryan and Palmer made things interesting with a double and a walk, respectively, but Nish got Tom Carrigan to fly out to right field and end the game.

Utica opened up a 6-0 lead after five innings. Quinlan singled in the first run in the first inning and the Pioneers scored two runs in the second on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. Palmer's two-run single in the fourth inning made it 5-0 and Quinlan led off the fifth with a solo home run.

Hamilton finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth inning. Goodman led off with a walk and went to third on Zaffino's double to right field. Zaffino leads the Continentals with seven doubles and 14 extra-base hits. McOsker drove in the first run with a groundout to the second baseman and Gavin Schaefer-Hood '21 made it 6-2 on a groundout to first base with the pitcher covering. Utica regained its six-run lead on run-scoring singles by Zachary Schellenger and Ben Julian in the bottom of the inning.

Hamilton added two more runs in the seventh. Michael O'Hare '21 led off with a bunt single and Carney walked. Both runners advanced on a groundout and O'Hare scored on Lee's ground ball to the shortstop. Carney, who had stayed at second, went to third on a wild pitch and was awarded home plate when a balk was called on Brendon Sarnowski.

The Continentals are scheduled to play their season finale against Amherst College in NESCAC West Division action at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy, N.Y., on Wednesday, May 2 at 7:15 p.m.