|Eastern Connecticut State University||University of Southern Maine|
GORHAM, Maine — Sophomore Andrew Hiller (Bangor, Maine) snapped a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning with an RBI single down the right-field line and later scored as the University of Southern Maine Huskies went on to defeat the Eastern Connecticut State Warriors 5-3 in an elimination game of the 2017 Little East Conference Baseball Championship Tournament Friday afternoon at Ed Flaherty Field.
The Huskies, 30-10 overall and 2-1 in the tournament, advance to Game 10 of the tournament against an opponent to be determined. The Warriors, the defending tournament champion, concluded their season 21-16 with their second loss.
In other games Friday, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth defeated the University of Massachusetts Boston 8-7 in the completion of a halted game from Thursday. UMass Boston came right back to knock off Keene State College 6-3 in an elimination game. After USM’s game, UMass Boston was leading UMass Dartmouth 10-4 with one out in the top of the ninth inning when the game was halted due to darkness. That game will be resumed Saturday morning starting at 11:00 a.m.
Eastern Connecticut took a 2-0 in its first turn at bat on a two-out, two-run single off the bat of junior Collin Russell(Sandwich, Mass.). Russell would go 4 for 5 in the game.
Southern Maine countered in the fourth when senior Matt Bender (Walpole, Mass.) led off the inning with a double and scored on a one-out single by sophomore Kip Richard (Kennebunk, Maine).
Senior Alex Zachary (Enfield, Conn./Enrico Fermi) got that run back for ECSU with one swing of the bat that resulted in his ninth home run of the season.
Bender was in the middle of the Huskies’ two-run rally in the home half of the fifth that tied the score. With two on and two out, Bender’s fly ball to right-center field was apparently caught on a diving catch for the final out. After an appeal and umpire conference, it was ruled no catch giving Bender a single and two RBI to tie the game.
In the sixth, USM took the lead for good as sophomore Jake Dexter (Oakland, Maine/Messalonskee) opened the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Devin Warren (Smithfield, Maine/Messalonskee). Hillier, inserted into the lineup at first base for this game, singled down the right-field line to score Dexter from second. Sophomore Zach Quintal (Eliot, Maine/Marshwood) roped a double down the left-field line to put runners at second and third. Rookie Andrew Olszak’s (Danvers, Mass.) ground ball to first brought Hiller home with an insurance run.
USM dodged a potential Eastern run in the seventh when Dexter through out Zachary at the plate after he tried to second from second base on Russell’s single off Hillier’s glove.
Dexter came on in relief of sophomore Matt Correale (Peabody, Mass.) with two outs in the eighth to get the final four outs for his 10th save of the season. Correale would get his fifth win of the season going 2 2/3 innings allowing no runs on two hits while striking out three.
Eastern Conn. outhit USM 12-9 in the game. Zachary (3 for 4), rookie John Mesagno (Tappan, N.Y.) and senior Christian Budzik (Cromwell, Conn.) joined Russell in the multiple-hit column. Sophomore left-hander Nick Rascati(Wallingford, Conn.), making his first start of the season, took the loss after giving up five runs in 5 1/3 innings. Rascati allowed eight hits and walked one while fanning three.
Bender went 3 for 4 to lead the Huskies’ attack. Richard and Hillier also had two hits.