Johnson & Wales University-Providence used a four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning to surge past Husson University 8-5 on Friday in an elimination game of the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament at Hartford, Connecticut.
Husson dropped two straight games in the double-elimination regional and ended its season with a 22-9 record after the North Atlantic Conference champion earned its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011.
Johnson & Wales, which qualified by winning its first Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship, improved to 14-15 and is 1-1 in the regional.
Husson jumped out to a 3-0 lead with two runs in the top of the third inning and another run in the fourth, and added a run in the top of the sixth to tie the contest at 4-4.
But Johnson & Wales took control of the game in the bottom of the inning. Griffin Snyder hit a two-run home run and Joe Maracic added an RBI single as the Wildcats grabbed an 8-4 lead.
Husson countered with a run in the top of the seventh as Ethan Stoddard hit a bases-loaded fielder’s choice to drive home Kobe Rogerson and close the gap to 8-5, but Johnson & Wales reliever Dane DellaValle retired all eight Husson batters he faced to earn the save.
Husson outhit Johnson & Wales 10-8, with Rogerson hitting a double and two singles with two runs scored for coach Chris Morris’ Eagles. Stoddard added two hits, two runs scored and an RBI and Nick Swift had two RBIs.
Cam Graham got the pitching start for Husson and yielded four runs (three earned) on just three hits over five innings, but the senior left-hander was hurt by three balks, two of which enabled Johnson & Wales baserunners to score.
Graham had not been charged with a single balk during his previous seven starts this spring covering 38 2/3 innings. The entire Husson pitching staff had been charged with just one balk in its 30 games before Thursday’s contest.
Reliever Harrison Lendrum allowed three straight hits — including Snyder’s go-ahead, two-run homer — to open the sixth inning, and all three of those baserunners came home to score during the decisive rally.
Graduate student Jesse Colford came on and yielded the final run of the sixth inning, then held Johnson & Wales scoreless for the rest of his three-inning relief stint.
Husson took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third as Akira Warren singled and Rogerson doubled before Warren scored on a fielder’s choice by David LeBlanc and Rogerson scored on Chris Ewanik’s sacrifice fly to left field.
The Eagles added to their lead an inning later as Stoddard singled, stole second and scored on Swift’s two-out RBI single.
J&W closed to within 3-2 in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with no one out before Ramiel Rodriguez scored on a balk and another run scored on Maracic’s sacrifice fly.
The Wildcats took a 4-3 lead in the fifth with one run scoring on a balk and the second on a Husson error.
Husson tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the sixth. Stoddard walked and was sacrificed to second by Jackson Curtis, then Tyler Parke singled and Swift followed with a sacrifice fly to left to plate Stoddard.
Johnson & Wales starter Steve Rocchio (3-2) earned the pitching win despite yielding 10 hits and five earned runs over his 6 1/3 innings.