Top seed ends Panther nine’s season
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Top-ranked Eastern Connecticut State University rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to edge the Middlebury College baseball team, 5-4, in an NCAA Division III regional final in Rochester and end the Panthers’ record-breaking season.
The 42-3 Warriors won their 16th straight game, two against the Panthers in the regional, and advanced to a Super Regional next weekend.
Middlebury (31-14) ended as the NESCAC champion and an NCAA qualifier for just the second time in program history and broke or tied more than two dozen school records in the process. They won two games at the regional.
In the final the Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first after Beau Root singled and Jack Stolper sliced a two-out single to left. Eastern scored two in the fourth on a run-scoring balk and a Jack Rich RBI double.
The 2-1 score stood until the eight, when Root drilled a three-run homer after Lucas Flemming led off with a bunt single and Zip Malley singled. Eastern brought in reliever Bryan Albee, who is tied for second nationally with 11 victories.
But the Warriors tied the game in the bottom of the ninth when Alec Ritch hit a batter, and Ryan Bagdasarian connecting on a two-out, two-run homer. Luke Broadhurst followed with a single and Matt Malcom plated the winning run with a double off the wall off losing pitcher George Goldstein.
Middlebury’s pitching staff limited Eastern to seven hits. Alex Price allowed only one hit in two scoreless innings, Sawyer Duarte yielded two unearned runs and one hit in two innings, Cole Crider recorded four outs, while Alec Ritch went 3.2 innings and allowed two run.
Jack Wallace earned the win with a scoreless final inning, while starter Aidan Dunn gave up three runs in seven innings.
The Panthers opened the regional by downing host Rochester, 10-5, on Friday afternoon.
In the second, Middlebury scored twice on singles by Sammy Smith, Andrew Ashley, and Nathan Samii and an error to take a 2-1 lead. Rochester regained the lead in the same inning on a John Moses double and a Dan Tirabassi homer.
Middlebury took the lead for good with four in fifth inning. Root reached on an error and Ritch walked. Collins singled in Root home to make it 3-3, and Jack Stolper walked before Ritch scored on a wild pitch. After Chris Borter walked, Smith tripled two runs home.
In the seventh Collins tripled and Smith singled him in. A Joseph Rende two-run homer with two outs in the eighth made it 8-5, but Goldstein came in to record the final four outs and earn the save.
The Panthers added three insurance runs in the ninth on a Stolper two-run homer followed by a Borter double and singles by Smith and Ashley. Price (5-2) earned the win, allowing three runs in six innings and striking out seven. The strikeouts gave Price 82 on the season, a program record. Nolan Sparks (6-2) took the loss, giving up five runs over 4.2 innings.
On Saturday, Eastern Conn. scored 13 unanswered runs over the final three innings to break open a tie game and defeat Middlebury, 17-4.
The Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the third on John Mesagno’s two-run homer, but Flemming answered with his own two-run bomb to tie the game in the bottom of the inning, followed by a Root triple and a Ritch sacrifice fly to make it 3-2. Borter homered in the fourth to make it 4-2.
But the Warriors tied the game with runs in the fourth and fifth and broke the game open in the late going.
Broadhurst and Malcom homered for Eastern Conn., and Rich, Jason Claiborn and Noah Plantamuro added three hits apiece. Tommy Benincaso (6-0) earned the win, giving up four runs (two earned) on seven hits over 7.2 innings.
Duarte got the start for Middlebury and allowed two run on two hits over four innings. Freddy Mosier (1-1) took the loss in relief.
The Panthers made it to the championship round by defeating Swarthmore, 8-4, in a game started on Saturday; suspended in the seventh inning with the Panthers leading, 5-4, due to rain; and completed on Sunday morning. Swarthmore, which eliminated Rochester after losing to the Warriors, finished at 23-19.
Middlebury took a 3-1 lead with three runs in the third. Rich singled in Samii, and Collins hit a two-run triple. Homers by Paul Cooke and Michael Sepe in the bottom of the inning put Swarthmore on top 4-3.
In the fifth, Ritch singled in Root and Malley, and on Sunday Root hit a two-run shot and Collins added a solo homer to create the final score. Ritch (who earned the win with three hitless frames), Crider (who hurled two innings), and Goldstein (a scoreless ninth) combined to keep Swarthmore scoreless over the final six innings.
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