Poulin’s gutsy effort leads Quinnipiac baseball to MAAC tournament win

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Poulin’s gutsy effort leads Quinnipiac baseball to MAAC tournament win

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

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By: Jacob Resnick

As unpredictable as the sport is, baseball games typically follow some sort of game plan. Ideally, that plan involves a starting pitcher providing length and a reliever or two shutting the door.

The extent to which second-seeded Quinnipiac was able to adhere to the plan in Friday’s MAAC Championship opener against third-seeded Fairfield was wholly contingent on Tyler Poulin’s ability to navigate through troubled waters in the fourth inning.

Poulin, the senior from Randolph, New Jersey, breezed through the first three innings but the Stags, who battered Poulin for five runs on seven hits on May 10, awoke to scratch out three runs in the fourth. Poulin’s command began to falter, at one point issuing eight consecutive balls.

The Bobcats faced a critical decision: pull their number one starter and abandon the game plan or trust the right arm that had gotten them to this point.

“Coming out of that inning, we told him, ‘look, you have to go out there and do your job,’” head coach John Delaney said. “We told him we would have had to go to our bullpen and I think it fueled him.”

Poulin came through, striking out Mike Caruso — one of seven Fairfield batters fanned by the Quinnipiac starter — to end the fourth. Had Caruso not walked with two outs in the seventh, Poulin would have capped his day with three perfect frames. That’s one blemish he’ll live with.

Andrew Workman, the MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year, put on the finishing touches with his conference-best ninth save in the 6-4 victory, perfectly aligning with the game plan.

“I started slowing down, drifting off the mound,” Poulin said of his fourth inning. “The second I got back in the dugout, [pitching coach Pat] Egan reminded me of what I needed to fix and I was able to do that.”

Poulin said his tempo and rhythm were key points that he focused on in order to rebound from his previous outing against the Stags.

Quinnipiac and Fairfield took the diamond at Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island, N.Y., 24 hours later than originally scheduled. After waiting out morning rain and ultimately unplayable field conditions for close to five hours, Thursday’s game was pushed back. Instead of forcing themselves to maintain laser-sharp focus throughout the interim, the Bobcats chose to relax. Evidently, it paid off.

“Once the game was cancelled there was relief, to be honest,” Delaney said. “Seven hours of anxiety just sitting on the field, it was kind of a benefit to rest, get a nice sleep, and come in here today.”

On a day where the Bobcats’ two-through-five hitters combined for just two hits in 15 at-bats, it was the lower third of the order that picked up the slack. Kevin Huscher recorded his 12th multi-hit game of the season, Liam Scafariello’s fifth-inning RBI double proved to be the game-winner, and Dylan Lutz, at the bottom of the order, drove in a season-high three runs.

“In these tournament games it comes down to capitalizing on your opportunities, coming through with guys on base,” Delaney said.

Lutz got the Bobcats on the board with a bases-loaded safety squeeze in the second inning. He fouled off four pitches in the fifth inning before drilling a ball to right field to score two. Upon reaching first base, the Denver-native raised both arms and pounded his chest one, two, three times.

“It’s unreal. It’s a great feeling to pick up the boys,” Lutz said.

While getting Poulin and the Bobcats through the fourth inning on Friday was the effective execution of the short-term game plan, the long-term goal is beginning to come into focus. With a win on Saturday against fifth-seeded Manhattan, Quinnipiac would advance to its first MAAC baseball championship game.