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IN HOME DEBUT, EASTERN BASEBALL PLAYS GIVE-AWAY IN 10-INNING LOSS

In setback, All-America Castillo becomes program's all-time RBI leader

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Saturday at Mansfield

vs. UMass Boston (2), noon

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MANSFIELD, Conn. -- For the Western Connecticut State University baseball team, it turned out to be a good Friday, after all.

Senior shortstop Sam McNeil's two-out, three-run double in the top of the ninth inning capped a five-run rally and the Colonials scored three tie-breaking runs in the tenth on one hit, a walk, two hit batsmen and an Eastern Connecticut State University infield error in a 9-6 win in the Little East Conference opener for both schools Friday afternoon at the Eastern Baseball Stadium.

Above: Melvin Castillo
 
Ranked No. 11 nationally, Eastern (10-4, 0-1 little east) had an eight-game winning streak snapped in losing to Western (5-7, 1-0 little east) for the sixth time in 71 meetings in its first home game of the season. Eastern was the pre-season favorite to win the conference after claiming last years LEC tournament title, Western being rated sixth.

Western scored eight of its runs in its final two at-bats. Of the eight runs, three scored after batters reached on hit-by-pitch, two after walks and one after getting aboard on an error.
 
Until the top of the ninth inning, the game was dominated by starting pitchers Jim Schult (Wappingers Falls, NY) of Eastern and Josh Murray of Western. Until the last inning, the only runs allowed by either starter were solo home runs by Eastern All-America senior third baseman Melvin Castillo (Danbury) on the first pitch he saw in the fourth and a game-tying shot by Western senior first baseman Dan Baccaro in the sixth.

Eastern broke a 1-1 tie by scoring five runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 6-1 lead, but Western sent ten batters to the plate in the top of the ninth. Eastern pitchers allowed three hits in the inniing, walked two and hit two. Senior centerfielder Dan Amarante and senior pinch hitter John DiGiovanni drove in the first two runs of the inning before McNeil unloaded a long bases-clearing double to dead center to tie the game. In the tenth, sophomore leftfielder Anthony Ruffo was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give Western a 7-6 lead and late-inning sophomore infield replacement Tim Nelson plated two more with a single.
 
With his one-out home run to right-center in the fourth, Castillo became the program's all-time leader with 196 RBI. The home run extended his program record to 41. Sophomore catcher Steve Cammuso (Rutland, MA) had two doubles among his three hits for Eastern, while Castillo and junior first baseman Andrew Dewing (Swampscott, MA) each had two hits. Dewing's RBI single drove in the first run of Eastern five-run eighth inning, and Cammuso added a two-run, bases-loaded single.
 
Senior righty Steve Bainer stranded the tying run at the plate to gain the save for Western. With two outs and two on, he got left-handed-hitting junior Tyler Turgeon (Norwich) on a game-ending foul fly to the catcher after Turgeon had fouled off five pitches with the count full,
 
Schult left the game in the ninth with a 6-1 lead after hitting the first two batters and getting a ground ball out. He fanned six and walked only one and gave up five hits and did not figure in the decision. In his first appearance of the season, the 6-foot-5 inch tired in the eighth after pitching seven strong innings. He allowed only four hits with six strikeouts and only one walk before hitting the first batter of the eighth, then surrendering four consecutive singles with one out.after Eastern junior leftfielder Rob Perry's (Manchester) bases-loaded RBI single made it 3-1. Senior righty Jeff Gordon of Western hit a batter to force in the third run of the inning, and Cammuso stroked the first pitch he saw into left field for two more runs to make it 6-1.

Eastern hosts the University of Massachusetts Boston Saturday at noon in a conference doubleheader. Senior righties Will Musson (Wethersfield) and Matt Fontaine (Cranston, RI) are expected to open on the mound in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Musson  is 1-0 with a 6.43 ERA, Fontaine 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA.