Darby wins sixth straight as starter, Cammuso drives in four runs
GORHAM, Maine. Junior lefty Tom Darby (Middletown, RI) won his sixth straight decision as a starter and sophomore Danny O'Connell (Braintree, MA) and senior Steve Cammuso (Rutland, MA) drove in first-inning runs to help lift the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball team to a 6-3 verdict over 2011 tournament champion Rhode Island College in an opening game of the 2012 Little East Conference Baseball Tournament at the USM Baseball Stadium.
At left: Steve Cammuso
A winner of seven of its last nine, fourth-seeded Eastern (29-11) faces No. 2 see Keene State College (30-11) in a winners' bracket game Thursday at 3:30 p.m. The Owls trimmed No. 5 Massachusetts Boston, 6-5, in Wednesday's second game. Top-seeded University of Southern Maine was upended by No. 6 Plymouth State University, 3-2, in Wednesday's first game.
Southern Maine faces UMass Boston in an elimination game Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and Plymouth meets Rhode Island at 12:30 p.m. If Eastern defeats Keene State, it will face the Plymouth-Rhode Island winner Friday at 9:30 a.m.
Eastern snapped a four-game losing streak at the hands of Rhode Island (25-16), which had swept the Warriors, 12-7, 8-0, two weeks ago at Mansfield after downing Eastern twice in the 2011 LEC tournament at Mansfield.
Darby (6-0) allowed three runs on seven hits and four walks through the first five innings but the Warriors never trailed after taking the early 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Leading 3-1, Esatern scored three times in the fifth after there were two out and none on. O'Connell reached on an infield single and junior Joe Balowski (Berlin) walked before Cammuso launched his third home run of the season to left off RIC junior righty David Hoey (6-2). In RIC's regular-season shutout of Eastern, Hoey became the first RIC pitcher in 35 years to hold the Warriors scoreless in a complete game.
After commiting seven errors in the two regular-season losses to the Anchormen, Eastern put together its first errorless game in three weeks Wednesday and only its fifth all season.
O'Connell had three hits and Cammuso and sophomore Mike Vaccarelli (Wolcott) two each. Cammuso plated four runs and scored two and O'Connell scored twice.
Since winning six straight, Rhode Island has now split its last 16. The Anchormen stranded 14 runners on base against four Eastern pitchers. Down 6-1 in the bottom of the fifth, RIC scored once on a leadoff triple by No. 9 hitter Kevin Carey and a ground ball, but Darby stranded runner son second and third with a fly ball to right and swinging strikeout. The Anchormen also left the bases loaded in the seventh when junior righty Evan Chamberlain (Amston) fanned Cody Ortega to end the inning.
Senior righty Michael Hepple (Newington) pitched a scoreless ninth to gain his fourth save. With the tying run at bat, Hepple got Ortega to ground to Vaccarelli at third to end the game.
Since moving into the starting rotation a month ago, Darby is 6-0 in six starts witih a 1.70 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 37.0 innings, with opponents batting just .215 against him.
Eastern has won the LEC tournament the last three times that it has been hosted by Southern Maine, defeating Keene twice in the final and Southern Maine once. The Warriors are now 13-2 in their last 15 games played at USM in this tournament.