MANSFIELD, Conn. – Senior southpaw
Michael Andriano (Massapequa, N.Y.) hurled eight-plus innings to
earn his first career playoff victory and lead No. 4 seed
University of Massachusetts Boston over top-seeded and defending
champion Eastern Connecticut State University, 5-2, Friday night in
the winners’ bracket final of the 2010 Little East Conference
baseball tournament at the Eastern Baseball Stadium.
By avenging two regular-season losses at the hands of Eastern (30-12) on this field, UMass (27-15) moves into the tournament’s championship round for the first time, receiving two chances to win one game. Eastern faces No. 6 seed University of Southern Maine (21-20-1) Saturday at 11 a.m., with the winner facing UMass at 2:15 p.m. If necessary, a decisive game will be played Sunday at 11 a.m., with the winner earning an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament.
Andriano won his first game in LEC playoff competition and earned his first victory this season after three losses in helping the Beacons to their tenth win in their last 12 outings. Eight of the nine hits he allowed were singles and six of his nine strikeouts were called, including the game-ending against pinch hitter Robert Perry (Manchester, Conn.), who represented the tying run.
Eastern senior righty Matt Fontaine (Cranston, R.I.) fanned eight and allowed only seven hits before being lifted with one out in the seventh. The Warriors staked Fontaine (6-2) to a 1-0 lead in the first when the first three batters reached on singles. Andriano, however, never gave up more than one hit in an inning after that until the seventh.
Eastern looked like it would break up the game early by loading the bases with its first three hitters reaching and senior third baseman Melvin Castillo (Danbury, Conn.) at the plate, but could only come up with a run when Castillo hit a hard ground ball to third where UMass Boston sophomore third baseman Mike Mattei (Spencer, Mass.) handled the play, stepped on third and threw home, but hit the junior right fielder Shane Kingsley (Beacon Falls, Conn.) in the back. Andriano struck out the next hitter and got a harmless fly out to center to get out of trouble. Kingsley, senior shortstop Travis Bass (West Hartford, Conn.) and junior first baseman Andrew Dewing (Swampscott, Mass.) collected successive singles to open the frame and load the bases.
UMass Boston pulled even, but might have had more in the third. Junior right fielder Jose Roman Santos (Tenares, Dominican Republic) started the frame with a single to left and freshman shortstop Matt Consiglio (Southbury, Conn.) was brushed by a pitch to put runners on first and second. Senior left fielder Drew Tambling (Sterling, Mass.) moved the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and sophomore center fielder Mark McCormack (Shelton, Conn.) followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to score Santos with the tying run, but Consiglio also tagged and then was called out for leaving the base early on the play to end the inning.
The Beacons took their first lead of the night when junior second baseman Ryan Walsh (Newton, Mass.) crushed the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for his eighth home run of the season and a 2-1 edge. The four-bagger gave him 282 career total bases to break the school record held by Adam Waxman (2000-03).
UMass Boston tacked on single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to take a 5-1 margin. Walsh beat out an infield single to shortstop, stole second, stole third and came around to score on a sacrifice fly to center field by junior first baseman Connor Reinfurt (Manchester, N.H.) for a 3-1 lead in the sixth. Mattei reached on an infield single to third to lead off the seventh, stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw by the Warriors’ catcher, where he scored on a one-out RBI single to left by Consiglio to give the Beacons a 4-1 margin. Tambling followed with a single through the right side to knock out Eastern Connecticut senior starting pitcher Matt Fontaine (Cranston, R.I.) and bring in junior lefty reliever Bill Roveto (South Windsor, Conn.), who got the left-handed McCormack to hit into an inning ending double play. Senior reliever Chris Wojick (Uncasville, Conn.) came on for the eighth and junior catcher Tim Fontaine (Worcester, Mass.) drew a one-out walk, moved to second on a ground out and scored on a Mattei single to right field for a 5-1 lead.
The Warriors got a run back in the eighth when senior second baseman John Parke (Middlefield, Conn.) smacked a leadoff double, stole third with one out and just beat the throw at home on a sacrifice fly to center off the bat of junior Jim Schult (Wappingers Falls, N.Y.) to make it 5-2. Eastern Connecticut threatened in the ninth when Kingsley drew a leadoff walk. UMass Boston junior closer Tony Damon (San Bruno, Calif.) came into the game and walked Bass after a full count to bring the tying run to the plate. A fly out and a pair of strikeouts later gave the Beacons the victory and Damon his second save of the day and fifth of the season.
Heading into this year’s tournament, UMass was 4-11 all-time against the other five teams in the tournament. Eastern has won seven tournament titles, five of them coming in the last seven years.