They sustain two one-run losses and exit tournament in three games
MANSFIELD, Conn. - Ranked ninth in the NCAA Division III New England ratings this week, the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball team needed to win the Little East Conference tournament to be guaranteed a spot in its 33rd NCAA tournament since 1976.
Following an opening win over third-seeded and defending champion Rhode Island College Wednesday, however, Eastern (29-13) was bounced from the tournament after sustaining consecutive one-run losses Friday to second-seeded Keene State College, 4-3 in 12 innings, and sixth-seeded Plymouth State University, 1-0.
Eastern awaits a possible NCAA tournament bid as an at-large selection when the tournament field is announced Monday.
The winningest program in LEC history with seven tournament championships, Eastern was idle Thursday due to rain, but had to come back immediately after its three hour and 17 minute extra-inning loss to Keene Friday morning. Plymouth, which had won only six games in 15 years of LEC tournament play, had opened the tournament Wednesday by upsetting top-seeded host University of Southern Maine before losing to Rhode Island, 10-5, Thursday.
Keene State 4 , Eastern 3 (12)
Sophomore Nick Vita stroked a two-out single up the middle to deliver senior Kyle Morrill with the winning run as the Owls defeated the Warriors in LEC tournament play for the fifth time in 14 meetings.
Morrill led off the 12th with a single, and moved to second on a ground out. After senior Peter Burgio received an intentional walk, Eastern senior Jim Dimon (Seymour) got the second out on a fly ball, but Vita went back up the middle to bring Morrill around to score.
Winning pitcher Tim Quagliaroli got the first two batters in the bottom of the 12th inning before surrendering a single to junior Drew Accomando (Monroe) . Sophomore Danny O'Connell (Braintree, MA) reached on an infield error, but Quagliaroli was able to get the final out on a popout to Vita.
Eastern forced extra innings with two runs in the eighth inning against KSC senior starter Tim Thiesing and Quagliaroli. Thiesing gave up a one-out single to O'Connell and a walk to junior Joe Balowski (Berlin) to bring Quagliaroli into the game. A fly out moved O'Connell to third, and he scored when Quagliaroli threw a wild pitch. Sophomore Gavin Lavallee (New Milford), who came on to pinch run for Balowski, scored on sophomore T.J. Larivee's (Salem, MA) single to left-center field.
Plymouth State 1 , Eastern 0
Senior righty Joe Hudson, making his first start of the season after 14 relief appearances, spun a brilliant game allowing only five singles, one walk and two hit batsman. as the Panthers defeated Eastern for only the fifth time in 35 LEC regular-season and tournament games and avenged two regular-season losses to the Warriors this season.
The Warriors got a runner to third base only one time, that coming in the sixth inning when Accomando reached third on a wild pitch.
The Panthers scored the only run of the game in the second inning as senior Ryan McIntosh led off with a double to left field. McIntosh moved to third on a one-out wild pitch by losing hurler Andrew Merritt (Norwalk). After a walk to junior Rew Wilson, junior David Tammaro beat out a fielder's choice to drive in McIntosh.
Plymouth had a potential second run cut down at the plate in the fourth inning senior Luke Merrill was tagged out trying to score on Wilson's fly ball to right field.
In Friday's two games, six Eastern pitchers surrendered only five earned runs but the Warriors managed only three runs on 12 hits and one extra-base hit. Dimmon gave up only one earned run in 5 1/3 innings. Accomando, senior Steve Cammuso (Rutland, MA), Larivee and sophomore Mike Vaccarelli (Wolcott) all had two hits but were the only Eastern players with more than one.
Eastern batted .211 in its three tournament games, with Cammuso, Vaccarelli and O'Connell all collecting four hits and Cammuso also reaching with a walk and hit-by-pitch.