NEW LONDON, Conn. – Top-seeded Mitchell College and third-seeded Southern Vermont College advanced to the title round of the 2016 New England Collegiate Conference Baseball Championship on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Field.
Mitchell shook off a slow start to finish with 24 hits in a 21-7 win over Southern Vermont. Tyler Pina (Plainville, Conn./Plainville)went 5-for-7 with a double, homer and three RBI to lead the Mariners to the title round for the fourth straight season. Starting pitcher Al Jordan Johnson (Groton, Conn./Fitch) got stronger as the game went on, fanning seven to earn the win and become the school's all-time leader in strikeouts.
Southern Vermont dropped into the loser's bracket but bounced back for a 12-2 victory over second-seeded Elms College to stay alive. Zack Stacey (Saratoga, N.Y./Saratoga Springs) went 4-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI to lead the Mountaineers, who finished with 15 hits in the contest. Starting pitcher Joe Braim (Schuylerville, N.Y./Schuylerville CS) went the distance and struck out nine while allowing two runs on four hits.
In the day's first game, Elms scored three runs in the eighth inning to pull out a 3-2 win to eliminate fourth-seeded Lesley University. Starting pitcher Andrew Sadowski (Northampton, Mass./Northampton) went the distance for the Blazers and scattered 10 hits while allowing two runs, both of which were unearned.
In a rematch of the 2011 title round, Mitchell and Southern Vermont will meet to decide the NECC champion on Sunday, May 1 at 9 a.m. The Mariners need only one win to capture their third straight conference title while the Mountaineers need two to bring home their first.
Game 1 – Elms 3, Lesley 2
Sadowski pitched around back-to-back errors in the second inning to keep the Lynx off the scoreboard. Lesley had two runners in scoring position with one out in the frame, but the Blazers retired the lead runner on a fielder's choice and got a ground ball to escape unscathed.
Elms got out of a tight spot in the third to keep the game scoreless. Lesley had runners at the corners with two outs and attempted a double steal, with the trail runner getting hung up intentionally between first and second to allow the lead runner to score. However, Elms shortstop Nolan Medeiros (Taunton, Mass./Coyle and Cassidy) took the throw at second and chased down the runner going back to first before the run scored.
With two outs in the sixth, the Blazers loaded the bases behind consecutive singles by Stephen Harrison (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug) and Jordan Zima (Berlin, Conn./Berlin) and a Lesley fielding error. Lesley starter Tom Muratore (Mamaroneck, N.Y./Mamaroneck) worked his way out of the jam by getting the next batter to pop up to shortstop on the first pitch.
The Lynx struck first with two runs in the sixth inning. Vincent Taliercio (Valley Stream, N.Y./Chaminade) and J.P. Agiorgousis (Hanscom, Mass./Bedford) each provided RBI singles in the frame, though Lesley ran into the final out on the base paths and left two stranded.
Elms grabbed the lead with three runs in the eighth inning. A pair of walks and a wild pitch gave the Blazers two runners in scoring position with only one out, and Zima plated them both with a double to center to tie the game. He then scored the go-ahead run as pinch hitter Josh Berthiaume (Pittsfield, Mass./Taconic) drew a bases-loaded walk to make it a 3-2 game.
Lesley put the tying run on second base with two down in the home half of the eighth, but Sadowski buckled down to strike out the final batter to keep the one-run lead intact. He then retired the side in order in the ninth to improve to 7-3 on the season.
Muratore (5-4 overall) turned in a solid effort for the Lynx, pitching into the eighth inning while allowing three runs on four hits.
Game 3 – Southern Vermont 12, Elms 2
Southern Vermont jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the second elimination game of the day. The Mountaineers put up a run in the bottom of the first and then added the rest on a three-run homer by Stacey in the second.
Elms cut the deficit in half with a two-run top of the third. Zima brought home the first run with a ground out while Tim Gelzinis (North Dighton, Mass./Dighton-Rehoboth) singled through the right side to plate the second. SVC then picked up a run in the home half on an RBI double by Dylan Angelo (Ft. Johnson, N.Y./Amsterdam) to pad the lead back to three. A ground ball by Anthony Mercuri (Ridge, N.Y./Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan) plated another SVC run in the fourth to make it 6-2.
Southern Vermont tacked on three more runs in the fifth thanks to a two-run double by Mason and an RBI single by Pingitore. Stacey left the yard again in the seventh to make it 10-2, and in the eighth he grounded out to drive in SVC's final run of the day.
The complete game was a collegiate first for Braim, who improved to 2-2 overall. Elms starter Tom Owens (Enfield, Conn./Suffield)didn't make it out of the second inning and surrendered four runs (three earned) on six hits.