Three-run, ninth-inning rally vaults Warriors past WPI in 6-5 victory
Sunday's championship round will be broadcast live by WILI Radio (1400 AM), beginning at 12:55 p.m.
Tristan Hobbes (31) (below) )
MANSFIELD, Conn. - Tristan Hobbes (Utica, NY) stroked a game-tying two-run single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning and the top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University baseball team went on to score the game-ending run on an infield throwing error as the Warriors advanced to the championship round of the 2009 NCAA Division III New England Regional Tournament with a 6-5 victory over fourth-seeded WPI Saturday afternoon at the Eastern Baseball Stadiuim.
Eastern (39-7) had eliminated seventh-seeded Husson University (33-14) with an 18-hit barrage earlier in the day to reach the losers' bracket final against WPI (30-13), which was drubbed, 14-0 in Friday night's winners' bracket final by defending national champion Trinity College and did not leave the field until 11:30 p.m.
Against WPI Saturday, the Warriors trailed 5-3 entering the ninth inning, but rallied for three runs to record their fourth tournament win in two days after an opening loss to eight-seeded Babson College Wednesday afternoon.
"It's a shame someone had to lose that ballgame, because their kid (pitcher Conor Fahey) pitched a heckuva ballgame and our kids just hung around and hung around and were fortunate at the end to escape," said head coach Bill Holowaty. "We know the feeling of WPI, we've faced that many times and had those heartbreaks"
Eastern, which has won the last four New England tournaments in which it has competed, earned a spot in the championship round with the win over WPI, but will have to defeat third-seeded and defending regional champion Trinity College (32-5) twice Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. Trinity was idle Saturday after defeating second-seeded University of Southern Maine and WPI on Friday. Eastern has reached the championship round of the New England/Northeast Regional tournament the last 22 times in which it has competed since 1980.
With one out in the ninth inning against first-team All-New England righty Fahey, No. 3 hitter Jim Schult (Wappingers Falls, NY) singled hard off the glove of third baseman of Nick Bean, and Shawn Gilblair (Windham) sent him to third with a smash off the glove of new first baseman Jameson Kokolis (Manchester, NH) which might likely have turned into a unassisted double play if Kokolis was able to hang onto the scorcher. With Andrew Dyer (Topsfield, MA) running for Gilblair, Melvin Castillo (Danbury) walked to load the bases for Hobbes. Hobbes, who had flown out to deep center field with the bases loaded to end the fifth, ripped a single into right-center to score Schult and Dyer to tie the game at 5-5. Robert Perry (Manchester), who had driven in five runs with two home runs earlier in the day against Husson, then grounded a pitch from Fahey hard inside the third base line. Bean made a brilliant play to his backhand to prevent the ball from going into the outfield, but his throw across the diamond to Kokolis skipped past the first baseman as Castillo raced in from third with the game-winning run.
Andrew Dyer (at right)
"We got the breaks, we hit those two balls hard that went through their gloves," pointed out Holowaty "It was a fortunate win for us, and a tuff loss for them. Who thought that we were going to do that? The kids did. The kids had scrappy at-bats at the end. They made good contact, and we were fortunate. I thought that the home run in the top of the ninth inning might have been the dagger, but somehow we recovered. This is a group of guys who have been very competitive all year long. It's been a good run, and hopefully we can get by Trinity tomorrow and make it a longer run. We don't' want to stop our season."
WPI erased a 3-1 deficit by scoring four runs in its final four at-bats to bring its two-run lead into the ninth. The Engineers scored two runs in the sixth on two hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly, and took the lead in the seventh when Paul Galligan came home from third on a throwing error to first by the Eastern catcher on a third strike in the dirt. Galligan had singled to right-center to open the seventh, and stole second and third. WPI added an insurance run in the ninth to go up 5-3 on a leadoff home run by No. 3 hitter Matt Moreau.
Fahey, who had pitched into the eighth inning of his team's 7-6 first-round win over Suffolk Wednesday, carried a seven-hitter into the ninth inning. In three starts over the last eight days, Fahey has thrown in excess of 400 pitches.
"It's tough when you're battling a kid with that much guts. Give him credit, he's a senior, he wanted to win that game as much as anybody else on the field," said Hobbes, who had twice made outs with the bases loaded prior to the ninth inning. "I was sitting on the bench, hoping for one more chance. I hit it, saw that no one was in front of it, and it was a little bit of relief.
We got timely at-bats. You've got to give credit to our team. We've got a bunch of guys here who didn't want to go home," declared Hobbes. "We came up big. We got a couple of breaks with those two line drives off gloves. (But) that's what it takes to win games like these. It was just production 1 through 9 (in the batting order). Our team didn't want to lose. Our pitching staff has been great. We got good outings from all of our guys so far, and we need two more outings tomorrow to move on."
Gilblair, the New England Player-of-the-Year this season, reached base five times with three hits and two walks. He recorded his 21st double of the year (one shy of the season record) in the second, singled and scored in the fourth, and walked in the fifth and seventh before singling in the ninth. Schult, who had two hits to back his own seven-hit complete game against Husson, had two more hits against WPI, with his ninth-inning leadoff single the 100th in his 83-game two-year career.
Eastern righty James Kukucka (Vernon) allowed only six hits through six innings - equalliing his career high of eight strikeouts -- but was lifted after giving up a leadoff single in the seventh inning of a tie game.
Moreau, cleanup hitter Scott McNee and Bryan Watkins all had two hits against three Eastern pitchers, with Moreau scoring twice. The game was the first meeting ever between Eastern and WPI, which won its first two games in its first NCAA appearance ever. After being eliminated in three games in its conference tournament, th e Engineers defeated Becker College and Worcester State College to capture its first ECAC championship last weekend and brought a six-game winning streak into the NCAA tournament.
Robert Perry (at right in photo)
In eliminating Husson earlier Saturday, Eastern recorded 18 hits - four of them home runs and nine of them for extra bases -- against four pitchers. Perry swatted a two-run home run in the second and a three-run shot in the fifth. Castillo was 3-for-5 (two doubles) with three runs scored and two RBI, and No. 9 hitter Steve Cammuso (Rutland, MA) was 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. John Parke (Middlefield), Schult, Gilblair, Perry, and Joe Cousineau (Newington) all contributed two hits each. Schult gave himself a 1-0 lead with a solo home run in the top of the first, and Cammuso tagged a two-run shot in the fourth. Schult (4-0) gave up seven hits and only one earned run in his first complete game in eight starts. He fanned a career-high 11 and walked two.
The regular-season meeting between the No. 3 nationally-ranked Warriors and fifth-ranked Bantams was cancelled due to rain. The teams have met only once in NCAA regional play, Eastern posting a come-from-behind 9-6 win at the Eastern Baseball Stadium on the way to its third national championship.
Eastern Conn. 6, WPI 5
WPI (30-13) 100 002 101 -- 5 8 4
Eastern Conn. (39-7) 001 200 003 -- 6 10 1
Conor Fahey (8-2) and Joe Walsh. James Kukucka, Chris Wojick (7), Wes Dutton (9) and Steve Cammuso, Andrew Magliola (7), Steve Cannata (9). WP-Dutton (1-1). 2B-Matt Moreau, Scott McNee (W), Shawn Gilblair (E); HR-Moreau (W).
Eastern Conn. 18, Husson U. 3
Eastern Conn. (38-7) 120 343 050 -- 18 18 2
Husson (33-14) 201 000 000 -- 3 7 1
Jim Schult (4-0) and Steve Cammuso. Chris Morris (5-3), Kyle Leeman (4), Ryan Walker (8), Aaron Sullivan (8) and Nick Arthers. 2B-Melvin Castillo 2, John Parke, Shawn Gilblair,
N. Arthers, TJ Frail (H); 3B-Joe Cousineau (E); HR-Robert Perry 2 (4), Schult (9), Cammuso (4) (E).