By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – Catholic University sophomore Karan Sinha pitched a five-hit shutout Saturday, and the Cardinals delivered some well-timed hits in a 4-0 victory over league-leading Susquehanna in the nightcap of a twin bill at Robert J. Talbot Field.
Sinha's gem allowed CUA to split the doubleheader, improve to 15-6-1 (7-5 Landmark Conference) and win the series.
Sinha retired the first 11 batters to improve to 3-1. The right-hander did not walk or strike out any of the 25 Crusaders he faced and received a flawless defensive performance behind him. His gem came in front of former Major League pitcher Jose Vizcaino, whose son, Jonny, plays for Susquehanna.
Ross Natoli, the Cardinals' 30-year head coach, was pleased with his team's play in game two after the Crusaders (11-10, 8-4) took advantage of six CUA errors to win the opener, 10-3.
"You have to compete throughout every weekend in this conference," Natoli said. "If you're going to win any game, you're going to have to compete from the first pitch to the last. We didn't do that too well in game, but we did it better in game two."
Sinha, a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder from Glen Allen, Va., was effective all day with his fastball, changeup and cutter. He set the Crusaders down 1-2-3 five times and only twice allowed two baserunners in lowering his team-leading ERA to 1.45.
"Karan has emerged as one of our top pitchers this year," Natoli said. "He's been able to keep batters off balance and shown good command of all his pitches. He's been effective, kept us in every game he's pitched.
"A terrific performance today."
The top three hitters in the Redbirds' lineup – Dan Hinchcliff, Stefan Poggioli, Eric Scamardella – combined to go 7-for-11 and knocked in three runs. Scamardella doubled in Hinchcliff in the first inning, and Poggioli drove in Hinchcliff in the second to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.
Hinchcliff singled in Jimmy Davis in the sixth to close the scoring. That was more than enough for Sinha, who was masterful throughout the windy afternoon.
After Sinha got the first two batters of the fourth out, he allowed singles to Justin Cassinelli and Zach Leone. He came out unscathed when he got pinch hitter Kyle Semmel to ground out to Hinchcliff at short. With two on and two out in the seventh, Sinha induced another grounder to short to end Susquehanna's final threat.
Hinchcliff finished 2-for-4 and scored two runs. Poggioli was 3-for-3 and Scamardella 2-for-4. Each plated a run.
Their performance helped deal A.J. Pinto his first loss of the year. The left-hander entered the contest having not allowed an earned run in 20 and 1/3 innings with 17 strikeouts. He lasted 5 and 2/3 Saturday and gave up all 10 of the Cards' hits. He walked one and fanned two. Two of the four runs he allowed were unearned.
"A.J. Pinto's a competitor," Natoli said. "He's beaten some very good teams. He's going to be a very good pitcher for them; he's only a sophomore. We know how good he is; we know how good Susquehanna's staff is.
"So it's an accomplishment to compete against them and come out on top two out of three ."
CUA, in second place in the Landmark, won its first conference series since sweeping Moravian March 14-15. The Redbirds opened the season 8-0 and lost to No. 10 Randolph-Macon 10-3 on April 1. They beat the Crusaders 7-3 Friday at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
"I tell my team every day before and after every game, 'anybody can beat you, you can beat anybody,'" Natoli said. "This is a game where it's how you respond and how you compete when you're not successful.
"Usually teams that can come back and persevere over the long haul are the ones that are most successful."
Game One: Crusaders 10, Cardinals 3 – CUA's defense was a far cry from its errorless showing in the second game. The Cards committed almost as many errors (6) as hits allowed (7).
Pitcher David Gately dropped to 2-3 after surrendering four hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings. All seven runs he allowed were unearned.
The floodgates opened in the first when, with one on and two out, right fielder Brett Padula dropped a fly ball. Three batters later, Bryan Palsi hit a two-run single to make it 4-0, Susquehanna.
Matt Cassinelli led Susquehanna's offense by going 3-for-4, and his brother Justin was 2-for-3. Each scored twice. Spencer Hotaling pitched all the way to improve to 4-1. He scattered seven hits, gave up three earned runs, walked two and struck out five.
The Cardinals are off Easter Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and return to play at Johns Hopkins (11-7-1) in Baltimore on April 8. Game time is 3:30 p.m.