The New Jersey Institute of Technology scored two unearned runs in the ninth inning on Friday afternoon to advance to the championship round of the America East baseball tournament with a 2-1 victory over the University of Maine at Joe Nathan Field in Stony Brook, New York.
UMaine (22-21) plays Stony Brook (30-18) in an 11 a.m. elimination game on Saturday. Stony Brook, which lost to UMaine 4-2 on Thursday, rallied to beat Albany 3-2 with three ninth-inning runs earlier Friday.
Freshman right-hander Noah Lewis of South Portland, who is 4-5 with a 4.42 earned run average, will pitch for UMaine.
NJIT, in its first season in America East, is 26-22 and plays Saturday’s UMaine-Stony Brook winner at 2:30 p.m. An if-necessary game would be Sunday at noon.
NJIT had rallied for four eighth-inning runs to wipe out a 3-1 deficit and beat Albany 5-4 on Thursday.
Julio Marcano opened the ninth inning with an infield chopper to the right of UMaine pitcher Alex McKenney that he legged out for a base hit.
David Marcano’s grounder down the third-base line was misplayed by Connor Goodman for an error and runners wound up on second and third.
Pinch-hitter Andrew Eppinger was walked intentionally to load the bases and Daniel Heffgot’s sacrifice fly tied the game before Luke Longo’s single to the base of the fence won it.
“It was a tough loss. We hit the ball hard all day but that howling wind blowing in was on their side. We would have scored a lot of runs,” UMaine coach Nick Derba said.
“(NJIT) barely hit the ball out of the infield all day long but they got the hits when they needed them. We had our opportunities but we didn’t cash in.
“That’s a game we would have normally won nine out of 10 times,” he said.
Eighth-inning singles by Goodman, Ryan Turenne and Sean Lawlor (RBI) had staked UMaine to a 1-0 lead.
Jake Rappaport came on in relief of Ryan Fischer and struck out Scout Knotts but Joe Bramanti singled to right to load the bases. However, Rappaport induced Jake Marquez to pop up to first to get out of the jam.
UMaine had two runners on with one out in the fifth and seventh innings but couldn’t come up with the timely hit.
McKenney, a right-hander from Hampden, pitched 8 1/3 innings of six-hit ball with four strikeouts and a walk. Both runs were unearned.
“It was definitely a tough pill to swallow,” said McKenney, who thought he pitched pretty well while absorbing his sixth loss in 10 decisions. “It’s a hard way to lose.”
Rappaport (8-2) picked up the win in relief of Fischer for the Highlanders. He tossed 1 2/3 innings of one-hit relief. Fischer allowed nine hits and one run over 7 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and one walk.
Turenne logged three hits for UMaine and Bramanti posted two.
NJIT didn’t have any repeat hitters. There were no extra-base hits in the game.