PHILADELPHIA – The USciences baseball team defeated Jefferson 6-5 in game one of a Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) doubleheader split at Richie Ashburn Field on Tuesday afternoon, therefore earning the right to play either No. 18 West Chester or No. 24 Wilmington in the Bill Giles Invitational Final at Citizens Bank Park in April.
The Rams would go on to take game two 8-5, after the Devils had gotten as close as 6-5 after trailing 6-2.
University of the Sciences' (4-4 CACC) win in game one was the Devils' eighth this season, already matching their total from all of last year.
Jefferson (5-3 CACC) opened the scoring with an unearned run in the first inning, but the Rams could not manage much more off of starter Andrew Szpindor, who set new career-highs with seven innings pitched and eight strikeouts.
He nearly exited without allowing an earned run, if not for a two-out RBI double in the top of the seventh. He struck out the next batter to put the finishing touches on his seven innings, in which he gave up six hits without walking a batter.
University of the Sciences had 24 hits on the afternoon, with freshman AJ Pena recording a team-high five of them, to go along with six RBI.
He had his first career three-hit game in the opener, driving in what turned out to be the game-winning runs in the seventh on a two-out, two-RBI single for his third RBI. He had three more RBI in the nightcap, including another two-out, two-RBI single that put the Devils on top 2-0 in the second.
University of the Sciences was still on top 4-2 when Szpindor exited in game one, and the Devils added insurance with Pena's two-RBI single in the bottom-half of the seventh.
This proved to be important when Jefferson plated three in the top of the eighth, but Ryan Johnson put an end to any potential comeback with a perfect ninth inning.
The junior's fifth career save moved him into second in program history.
Nate Steele's RBI single in the bottom of the first cancelled out Jefferson's opening run, and after Szpindor stranded a runner on second in the top of the fourth, USciences took the lead on back-to-back two-out RBI singles by Pena and McClennen.
The Devils made it 4-1 on yet another two-out single in the fifth, this one by Anderson.
It was University of the Sciences scoring first in the nightcap, on Pena's two-out, two-RBI single in the bottom of the second, but Jefferson would go on to score the next six runs in the third and the fourth.
Duffy's leadoff triple in the fourth got USciences within three after a Pena RBI groundout, and after Jacob Whittington retired the side in order in the fifth, four straight singles and a wild pitch made it a one-run game entering the sixth.
The fifth ended with runners stranded at second third, and although Whittington threw a second straight scoreless frame in the sixth, the Devils could not threaten in the bottom-half before the Rams broke open the game with two runs in the top of the seventh.
In addition to Pena, Anderson and Skinner, Nick Amicon also had two hits in the nightcap, to go along with a walk.
The two teams wrap up their four-game series with a 12 p.m. doubleheader at Jefferson on Friday.