Fairfield tops Quinnipiac in Connecticut showdown, ends Bobcats record-setting season in MAAC Semifinals


Peyton McKenzie

Quinnipiac baseball finishes the 2023 season with a record of 30-26.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

A seven-RBI day from senior infielder Charlie Pagliarini and a six-hit, eight-inning start by junior left-handed pitcher Blake Helmstetter powered Fairfield to a dominant 12-4 win over Quinnipiac baseball in the MAAC Semifinals Friday, ending a record-setting season for the Bobcats. 

Quinnipiac tied its single-season program record for wins (30) with a back-and-forth victory over Canisius earlier in the day, but couldn’t get past the regular-season champion Stags, who return to the MAAC Championship after a year hiatus. 

Fairfield showcased the offensive firepower that put it top-10 in the NCAA this season in runs scored early on, jumping out to a two run lead after the first inning. 

A one-out single from graduate student infield Noah Lucier and a walk by Pagliarini put men on base that would score off an error from Bobcats’ graduate student second baseman Kyle Maves and an ensuing fielder’s choice. 

Quinnipiac answered right back. Redshirt junior designated hitter Sean Swenson pulled a hit to left field and took second on a wild pitch before being driven home on a single from senior outfielder Braydon Seaburg to cut the deficit to one. 

It was a welcome hit for Seaburg, who was 0-for-12 in the MAAC Tournament prior to the at-bat.

The Stags had no intentions of letting Quinnipiac hang around as after a pair of singles and a walk, Pagliarini, the 2023 MAAC Player of the Year, hammered the ball over the right field fence for the first grand slam of the tournament and a 6-1 Fairfield lead. 

“I’ve got a lot of confidence up there and the team behind me was getting on base and doing their job,” Pagliarini said on the ESPN+ broadcast. “The bats were cold in the first game and we knew they were going to heat up a little bit, just happy to help the team out.”

Freshman right-handed pitcher Andrew Rubayo was chased after two innings and replaced by graduate student righty Frank Craska. The Lafayette transfer saw immediate success, downing Fairfield in order in the bottom of the third with a little help from a home run robbery by junior outfielder Jared Zimbardo. 

Craska’s triumph was short lived, however, as Pagliarini went yard once again in the fourth inning, driving in another three runs for the Stags to put the top seed up by eight. 

A surefire pick in this summer’s MLB Draft, the Trumbull, Connecticut, native extended his program records in single season RBIs (97) and single season and career home runs (24 and 40, respectively). His seven-RBI day put him just one shy of Maryland senior third baseman Nick Lorusso for the NCAA lead. 

“He’s been hitting the ball pretty hard and far all year,” Fairfield head coach Bill Currier said of Pagliarini on the ESPN+ broadcast.  

Bobcats senior infielder McGwire Tuffy scored on a sacrifice fly by senior outfielder Anthony Donofrio in the top of the fifth, but that was the last Quinnipiac’s offense would be heard from until the eighth inning. 

There, a double from junior catcher Keegan O’Connor drove home Zimbardo and junior first baseman Sebastian Mueller, but a sixth inning two-bagger from Stags senior infielder Mike Becchetti only allowed the Bobcats to cut the lead to six. 

Junior infielder Matt Bergevin cleared the left field wall for Fairfield in the bottom of the eighth to bring its advantage back to eight, and that’s where the score would stay. Senior right-handed pitcher Jack Erbeck relieved Helmstetter in the ninth, shutting down Quinnipiac’s lineup in order to end the Bobcats’ season. 

After being picked seventh in the MAAC preseason poll, Quinnipiac defied expectations in 2023, winning 30 games, including two in the conference tournament behind a potent offense that set single-season records in home runs and stolen bases. At least three players will exit the program in the offseason, and seven seniors have the option to return for a fifth year.