BOSTON – Senior Aaron Chouinard (Swansea, Mass.) threw a gem for UMass Dartmouth in its 2016 Little East Conference Tournament opener at Monan Park on Wednesday evening, leading the No. 3 seed Corsairs to a 2-1 victory over No. 4 seed Plymouth State.
With the victory, UMass Dartmouth will play in the night slate again tomorrow, facing off with No. 5 seed Eastern Connecticut, who defeated second-seeded Southern Maine by a 13-6 score on Wednesday afternoon.
Chouinard went eight full innings, striking out 10 while allowing just six hits, one walk and no earned runs. He out-dueled Panther starter Cody Gilchrist (Tyngsboro, Mass.), who permitted one earned run on five Corsair hits, fanning five in five innings.
The Corsairs and Panthers traded four scoreless innings until Plymouth State was first able to break through in the top of the fifth. Sophomore Cam Ruziak (Sterling, Mass.) first reached base on a dropped third strike, stealing second to advance to scoring position. Senior Justin Walsh (Goffstown, N.H.) then sliced a double to the gap in left center, putting Ruziak at third, before sophomore Nate Frederick (Worcester, Mass.) drove in the run on a single up the middle.
UMass Dartmouth forced a three-up, three-down sixth inning from the Panthers before striking back. The first three Corsair batters reached base, with sophomore Ervin Kantardzic (Roslindale, Mass.) getting to third on back-to-back hits from Taylor Cacciola (West Greenwich, R.I.) and Kenny Michael (Norwood, Mass.). A wild pitch then put Kantardzic across home plate, evening the score at one.
Plymouth State pitcher Matti Doxter (Somersworth, N.H.) redeemed himself with three-straight swinging strikeouts in the seventh, but another wild pitch with Kantardzic on the third in the eighth gave UMass Dartmouth its first and final lead of the game.
Closer Matt Cronin (Framingham, Mass.) entered for the Corsairs in the ninth, and picked up his seventh save on the season with two strikeouts. With the bases loaded, he forced a Panther groundout to freshman shortstop Erick Ramirez (Boston, Mass.) to keep the lead intact and close the contest.
Six separate Corsairs recorded hits on the contest, with Ramirez lacing a double. For Plymouth State, Walsh registered the lone multi-hit outing, going 2-for-3.
The Panthers face elimination tomorrow at 3:30, squaring off with No. 6 seed Western Connecticut, as the Colonials defeated No. 1 seed UMass Boston 4-3 on the opening day.