MANSFIELD, Conn. – The third-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth baseball team mounted a furious comeback in the top of the ninth inning, but top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University was able to hang on for a 7-6 victory this morning to advance to 2014 Little East Conference Baseball Championship Game.
UMass Dartmouth (21-21) will await the winner between second-seeded University of Southern Maine (29-11) and sixth-seeded Rhode Island College (13-22) in Game 9, an elimination game, this evening at 6 p.m. The winner of Game 9 will have to defeat No. 16 Eastern Connecticut (31-7) twice tomorrow to earn the conference tournament title and automatic berth into the 2014 NCAA Division III tournament field.
Trailing 7-3 in the ninth inning, the Corsairs sent eight batters to the plate to produce three runs on three hits. Pinch hitter sophomore Joe Zottoli (Holden, Mass.) led off the frame with a single and junior Ryan Medeiros (Acushnet, Mass.) accepted a four-pitch walk to chase Warriors' starting pitcher Greg Porter (Mystic, Conn.) after eight-plus innings of work.
Junior George Agostini (Dighton, Mass.) greeted relief pitcher Pat Barnett (Windsor, Conn.) with a single down the left field line to load the bases. Eastern Connecticut was willing to trade an out for a run as junior Cory DeMedeiros (Fall River, Mass.) was credited with a RBI ground out to the third basemen. Classmate Alberto Vasquez (Roxbury, Mass.) drilled a single to shortstop to drive in Medeiros and advanced Agostini to third. Junior Ben Monteiro (Swansea, Mass.) whittled the visitors' deficit to one run with an RBI sacrifice fly to centerfield, but Barnett was able to earn his second save of the season by stranding the tying run at first base.
Vasquez powered the UMass Dartmouth offensive attack with three singles, a double, and RBI in five plate appearances. The junior first basemen recorded his second multiple-hit game of the tournament and 12th of the season. Agostini and Monteiro each penned three hits into their ledgers, while DeMedeiros registered his third consecutive multi-hit game.
After allowing three runs in the top of the first inning, Porter regained his form as the Warriors' ace. The senior from Mystic, Conn. scattered 12 hits and stranded eight base runners, while striking out seven to collect his seventh win of the season (7-3).
Eastern Connecticut chased UMass Dartmouth freshman Sean Callahan (Colchester, Vt.) (4-1) early in the third inning, scoring twice in the bottom of the first to cut the Corsairs' lead to one, then moving ahead for good with two in the second on an RBI single by Mike Vaccarelli and a deep sacrifice fly to left by Nik Ververis. Kyle Hart's leadoff single in the third spelled the end of the day for Callahan, and Vaccarelli recorded his 12th tournament hit in 13 at-bats with a two-run double to left-center to make it 6-2. Vaccarelli came home with the third run of the inning on Corey Keane's single.
Sophomore Aaron Chouinard (Swansea, Mass.) kept the visitors within striking distance, allowing two runs, four hits, two walks, while striking out four in six innings of relief. The left-hander settled into a groove after the fifth inning, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters he faced.