Baseball Loses First Game of NAC Tourney to NEC, 8-5

Photo by Monty Rand Photography
Photo by Monty Rand Photography

CASTLETON, Vt. – New England College withstood a comeback by Husson University that forced extra innings, as the Pilgrims scored three runs in the top of the 10th inning to defeat the Eagles, 8-5, Sunday in game four of the 2017 North Atlantic Conference Baseball Tournament, hosted by Castleton University at Spartan Field.

With the victory, New England College improves to 24-18 and advances to the championship round of the tournament Monday, May 8. Husson falls to 22-19 and must play Castleton in an elimination game Sundayafternoon.

In the 10th inning, Conor Crouse (West Haven, Conn.) led off with a single and then beat the throw to second base on a ground ball to third base. Luis Atiles (Dorchester, Mass.) was hit by a pitch, loading the bases, and Evan Delaney followed with a single to center field that scored both Crouse and Jameson Carey (Amherst, Mass.). Delaney would advance to third on a Husson error and score on a single by Andrew Castano (Inwood, N.Y.).

Carey, who had moved from first base to pitcher in the eighth inning, overcame an error to lead off the bottom of the 10th inning, inducing two fly ball outs before grabbing a ground ball and flipping it to first baseman Jeam Castillo (Lynn, Mass.) for the final out of the game. Carey earned his fifth victory of the season by pitching 2 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out one batter.

New England College started Stanley Vargas (Boston, Mass.) showed some control issues in the first inning, throwing two wild pitches, the second one scoring Logan Rogerson (Brewer, Maine). Vargas did strikeout eight batters in the first three innings, but he allowed another Husson run in the third inning, as Mike Wong (Lewiston, Maine) hit a two-out single and then came around to score on a single by Sam Huston (Bangor, Maine).

Husson starter Ben Holmes (Dixfield, Maine) was on his game early, retiring the first 13 Pilgrim batters in order, including three strikeouts. With one out in the fifth inning, Castillo broke up the perfect game with a single, advanced to second on a ground out, and scored on a single by Garrett Waldron (Seffner, Fla.). Manuel Alejandro (East Hartford, Conn.) followed with a two-run home run over the left field wall to give NEC a 3-2 lead.

Carey drew a walk to lead off the top of the sixth inning and was sacrificed over to second base. After Delaney was intentionally walked, Castillo laced a double to right-center field, scoring both Carey and Delaney as well as ending the day for Holmes. Jesse Colford (Bangor, Maine) came on in relief and retired the next two batters on flyouts to end the Pilgrim scoring threat.

The Eagles took advantage of a Pilgrim error in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Luke Covey (Milton, Vt.) led off with a walk, advanced to second on the error, reached third on a groundout, and scored on a sacrifice fly hit by Cam Archer (Old Town, Maine). With two outs in the seventh inning, Christian Corneil (Bangor, Maine) hit a ball over the centerfielder's head and circled the bases, sliding into home safely as the throw towards the plate was off-target, pulling Husson to within one at 5-4.

Vargas finished the day with 11 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings but was replaced on the mound by Carey after hitting Ryan Rebar (Harmony, Maine) with a pitch with one out. Conor Maguire greeted Carey with a double to center field, scoring Rebar with the game-tying run, with Maguire advancing to third on another NEC error. The Eagles attempted a suicide squeeze, but Archer missed the bunt attempt, and Maguire was tagged out at home by Alejandro.

Colford took the loss despite allowing just four hits and one walk in 4 2/3 innings of relief work, as he gave up the three runs in the 10th inning. Colford threw more pitches (71) than Holmes (59), while Vargas threw 133 pitches one day after throwing 34 pitches in two innings as he picked up the save in NEC's victory over Lyndon State.

The Eagles will need to defeat Castleton in order to advance to the NAC championship game.