Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
NEW LONDON, Conn. – With two outs and runners on first and second in the bottom of the 12 inning, freshman Zach Lawrence (Colchester, Conn.) delivered a walk-off RBI single down the left field line to send Elms College to a 7-6 victory over Lesley University in their opening round game of the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship Tournament, hosted at Alumni Field on the campus of Mitchell College Friday afternoon.
The Blazers (18-15) advanced to play top-seed Mitchell College Saturday at 1:00 p.m. for a spot in the Championship game on Sunday. Lesley moves to the loser's bracket and will face four-seed Becker College in an elimination game Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m.
The Blazers struck first in the bottom of the opening inning as senior Brady Forrest (Hampden, Mass.) and sophomore Tim Gelzinis (North Dighton, Mass.) drew lead off walks. After advancing on a groundout, Forrest scored on an RBI groundout from freshman Michael Bombard (Chicopee, Mass.), followed by Gelzinis coming around on an RBI single by sophomore Stephen Harrison (Southbury, Conn.). Elms tacked on another run in the second on an RBI single from Forrest, extending the Blazers lead to 3-0.
In the fifth, the Lynx cracked the scoreboard as junior Gustavo Polidor (Caracas, Venezuela) launched a solo home run over the left field fence, cutting the Elms advantage to 3-1. The Blazers responded in the bottom of the frame, plating three runs in the inning. Junior Nolan Medeiros (Taunton, Mass.) knocked in Bombard on an RBI single to centerfield, chasing Lesley starter senior Ray Cohen (Coventry, Conn.) from the game. With two outs and two runners on, freshman Ben Ross (Thompson, Conn.) legged out an RBI single to the infield, and then Medeiros scored on a wild pitch, pushing the Elms lead to 6-1 after five innings.
The Lynx continued to chip away at the Blazers lead, making it a 6-2 game in the sixth on an RBI single from senior Kevin Hopwood (Winter Haven, Fla.). Lesley completed their comeback in the top of the ninth, capitalizing on fielding miscues by the Blazers. Back-to-back singles from Lesley freshman Justin Clark (Chino Hills, Calif.) and senior Adam Ciampi (Westford, Mass.) leadoff the inning, followed by a walk loaded the bases for the Lynx. Clark scored the first run on an Elms error on a hit from senior David Hersey (Wolfeboro, N.H.). An RBI fielder's choice from sophomore Mike Slaby (Foxboro, Mass.) brought home Ciampi, followed by Polidor scoring on a wild pitch from Elms junior Kyle Bartlett (Huntington, Mass.), to pull the Lynx with a run. Lesley knotted the game at 6-6 on an RBI single from junior Casey Blanchard (Bernardston, Mass.), sending the contest to extra innings.
After three-plus scoreless innings of play, the Blazers closed the game out in the bottom of the 12th. With two out, Ross legged out an infield single, and then moved to second on an infield single from Forrest, setting the stage for Lawrence to bring home Ross on a walk-off single, and securing the 7-6 win for Elms.
Elms senior Sean Sinnott (Granby, Conn.) made the start for the Blazers, allowing two runs on nine hits with eight strikeouts in eight innings of work. Junior Tom Weldon (7-2) earned the win in relief, allowing one hit in the final 1.2 innings of work. Cohen surrendered six runs, four earned, on three hits in the start for Lesley, while junior Koby Mitchell (Fall River, Mass.) took the loss in 7.1 innings pitched, scattering one run on six hits with a pair of strikeouts.
Forrest, Medeiros, and Ross led the Blazers at the plate, registering two hits and an RBI apiece. Polidor, Hopwood, Ciampi, and senior Robert Parson (Commack, N.Y.) each recorded two hits, with Polidor and Hopwood both driving in a run.