NEW LONDON, Conn. – Mitchell College and Lesley University opened the 2018 New England Collegiate Conference Baseball Championship with wins on Friday afternoon at Alumni Field.
In the day's first game, the top-seeded Mariners bested fourth-seeded Becker College by a 7-3 final. Mitchell starter Eddie Santiago tossed a complete game and struck out 11 to improve to 6-2 on the season. Garet Griffin paced the offense by going 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.
Lesley held off a ninth-inning threat from third-seeded Elms College to secure a 6-5 victory. The Lynx trailed until a three-run fifth inning—highlighted by home runs by Nicholas Ferragine and Justin Clark—gave them the lead for good. Reliever Tom Muratore got into trouble in the ninth but cleaned up his own mess to record his first save of the season.
The NECC Baseball Championship continues on Saturday, May 5 with three games. Becker and Elms will face off in an elimination game at 9:30 a.m. while Mitchell and Lesley will meet in the winner's bracket at 12:30 p.m. The third game of the day is slated for a 3:30 p.m. start.
Game 1: Mitchell 7, Becker 3
After scoring a run in the first inning on a wild pitch, Mitchell added three more in the second to go up 4-0. The bottom of the order loaded the bases with no outs, and Eric Marriott was hit by a pitch to force in a run before Kyle Hartenstein plated two more with a single up the middle. The Mariners then tacked on another run in the third on an RBI single by Jeremy Santos to go up by five.
Becker put runners on base in each of the first four innings but came away empty. The Hawks finally broke through for three runs in the fifth to close the gap. Josiah Shepherd drew a two-out walk, stole second and then scored on a single up the middle by Tanyon Ventres. Kevin Perez followed with a two-run homer over the left-field fence—his first long ball of the season—to make it 5-3.
The Mariners threatened in the home half of the fifth, putting two runners on with no outs and chasing starting pitcher Daniel Diaz from the game. Reliever Christopher Ladou got the Hawks out of the jam with an assist from Willis Pollard, who made a diving grab in left field to save runs and end the inning.
Becker threatened again in the sixth as the first two batters reached base. This time it was Mitchell that benefitted from a defensive gem as Santos made a diving catch in left to keep runs off the scoreboard. Santiago then got a ground ball that resulted in an inning-ending double play to keep the score locked at 5-3.
With two outs in the seventh, a base hit by Santos ignited a Mitchell rally that led to a pair of insurance runs. The Mariners loaded the bases for Griffin, who sent a flare into right-center that scored both runs and extended the lead to 7-3.
Santiago retired the final 10 batters he faced to finish the game strong. He allowed three runs on nine hits over 9.0 innings and issued only one walk. Diaz (3-5 overall) surrendered five runs (four earned) on five hits and finished with five walks and four strikeouts in 4.0 innings of work.
Hartenstein became Mitchell's all-time leader in RBI in the contest. His two-run single in the second inning brought his career RBI total to 124.
Game 2: Lesley 6, Elms 5
Neither team scored in first three innings of the contest. Lesley appeared to jump on top in the third courtesy of a sacrifice fly, but Elms threw to the third-base bag for an appeal, and the umpire ruled that the runner left early and took the run off the board.
With the game still scoreless, the Blazers struck for three runs in the fourth. Nathan Ayala and Andy Vasquez supplied back-to-back RBI singles in the rally while Ben Ross beat out a comebacker to the mound to put the Blazers up 3-0.
The Lynx answered back in the home half of the fourth, loading the bases with no outs and scoring runs on a ground ball by Vincent Taliercio and a walk to J.P. Agiorgousis. Elms starter Thomas Owens did his best to limit the damage and escaped the inning with a one-run lead intact.
The ball started jumping off the bats in the fifth. Thomas Slane hit his first collegiate homer to lead off the frame, extending the Elms lead to 4-2. Ferragine responded with a leadoff, opposite-field blast in the home half to jump start the Lynx. Three batters later, Clark cleared the right-field fence with a two-run shot to give Lesley its first lead of the day at 5-4.
A one-out double by Agiorgousis led to another Lesley run in the sixth. He moved to third on a single by Matt Bavaro and scored on a ground ball by Ferragine.
Lesley reliever Daniel O'Donnell Jr. didn't allow a hit in the seventh and eighth innings before turning the ball over Muratore for the ninth. Elms ramped up the drama by loading the bases with no outs and pulled within one on an RBI single by Alex Hoss. Muratore then settled down and got a ground ball to third for a force out at home, followed by a pair of strikeouts to end the game.
Lesley starter Nick Iadevaio pitched 6.0 innings and allowed four runs on eight hits while striking out four in the victory. He improved to 7-2 on the season.
Owens (3-4 overall) surrendered six runs on eight hits and fanned five.