HARWICH, Mass. – Top-seed and nationally ranked University of Southern Maine took advantage of costly Western New England errors to storm back from 5-0 down to take a 6-5 victory in Game 7 of the NCAA Division III New England Regional Baseball Championship on Thursday at Whitehouse Field.
The Huskies (39-7) continue through the winners’ bracket and will play the winner of No. 3 Endicott/No. 2 Wheaton (Mass.), while the Golden Bears (32-12) drop to the losers’ bracket and will face No. 6 St. Joseph’s (Maine) at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
St. Joseph’s of Standish remained alive in the tourney with a 7-5 elimination-game win over Salem State University.
Southern Maine tied the game at 5-all in the top of the seventh inning on a run-scoring double to center field by Chris Bernard. Two batters later, the Huskies took their first lead with two outs when Matt Verrier lifted a pop-up but second baseman Tim Clark couldn’t squeeze it for the final out, allowing Bernard to score from second.
Things started well enough for Western New England who took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when McKelvey lined a single down the left field line to score Rubino.
Southern Maine took advantage of a WNE fielding error to get back in the game with four runs in the sixth inning. Tucker White was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Nick Grady then hit what appeared to be a tailor-made double play ball to McKelvey at shortstop, who was unable to corral the grounder. The Huskies capitalized immediately as Bernard laced a single to left field to plate White for USM’s first run of the afternoon.
Senior Kyle McKelvey led a 13-hit Western New England attack with a solo home run and a RBI-single.
For St. Joseph’s, Brandon Chase hit a three-run inside-the-park home run to spark the victory over Salem State.
In the bottom of the first, Saint Joseph’s scored twice off one hit with the help of a Salem State miscue and some situational hitting. Freshman Zach Graham led off with a single to left and junior Alex Lorenc , attempting to drop down a sac bunt, reached on an infield error.
The runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch and Graham scored the game’s first run when sophomore Joe Coyne lofted a fly to right field. Lorenc, who also tagged up and moved to third on Coyne’s sac fly, promptly scored when the following batter, senior Mike Pratt, belted a fly ball to center.
St. Joe’s went on to add two runs on three hits in the fifth inning and three in the eight on Chase’s hit.
Chad Rafferty collected the winning decision and improves to 7-2 on the year after allowing three runs (two earned) off seven hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over seven solid innings.