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UMass Boston Captures 1st Little East Baseball Championship

UMass Boston Captures 1st Little East Baseball Championship

MANSFIELD, Conn. – Sophomore center fielder Mark McCormack (Shelton, Conn.) hit a grand slam home run that proved to be the difference to lead the fourth-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston baseball team over number six seed University of Southern Maine, 7-3,this afternoon in the 2010 Little East Conference Baseball Championship Game hosted by Eastern Connecticut State at ECSU Baseball Stadium in Mansfield, Conn.

The Beacons improve to 28-15 on the season and earn an automatic bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, which begins on Wednesday, May 19. The Huskies fall to 22-21-1.

UMass Boston broke the game open with six runs in the bottom of the second, highlighted by a grand slam home run from sophomore center fielder Mark McCormack (Shelton, Conn.). Junior first baseman Connor Reinfurt (Manchester, N.H.) opened the inning with a single to right field and junior designated hitter Dan Noonan (Westport, Mass.) worked a walk before sophomore third baseman Mike Mattei (Spencer, Mass.) loaded the bases after reaching on an error. Junior right fielder Jose Roman Santos (Tenares, Dominican Republic) delivered an RBI single to center field and freshman shortstop Matt Consiglio (Southbury, Conn.) followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game at 2-2. Senior left fielder Drew Tambling (Sterling, Mass.) worked a full count walk to re-load the bases before McCormack crushed a 2-0 pitch over the right field wall for his third homer of the tournament and seventh of the season for a 6-2 lead.

The Huskies were held in check by LeBrun, who did not allow a hit over six and two-thirds innings since a rough first inning, but were able to score a run in the seventh to cut the deficit to 6-3. Freshman center fielder Tucker White (Deerfield, N.H.) drew a leadoff walk, but was erased when freshman second baseman John Carey (South Portland, Maine) hit a bullet that looked like it was ticketed for center field, but UMB junior second baseman Ryan Walsh (Newton, Mass.) made a diving stop to his right and flipped to Consiglio for the middle out before the return throw to first for the double play. LeBrun looked like he would escape unscathed, but sophomore catcher Zach Fernandes (Eliot, Maine) singled to left and scored on a triple by sophomore right fielder David Ricker (Winthrop, Maine) that got under the dive of the Beacons' left fielder. UMass Boston matched the run in their half of the inning when Noonan stroked a two-out double to left field and Mattei drove him in with a single to right to make it 7-3.

Southern Maine threatened to score off UMB sophomore reliever Matt Young (Colchester, Conn.), loading the bases with two outs with walks from junior first baseman Mike Eaton (Sabattus, Maine), freshman third baseman Nick Grady (Whitefield, Maine) and White, but freshman relief pitcher Daniel Heefner (Tracy, Calif.) came in to get a ground out to get out of the jam. Heefner remained in the game to set down the Huskies in order to record his second save of the season and give the Beacons their first-ever Little East Conference Championship.

Southern Maine struck first after loading the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning, scoring a pair of runs. Sophomore left fielder Roberto Valenti (Lawrence, Mass.) beat out a chopper to second to lead off the contest and was followed by a single from sophomore shortstop Anthony Pisani (Cheshire, Conn.) and Eaton loaded the bases after being hit by a pitch. Senior southpaw Andrew LeBrun (Stoneham, Mass.) struck the next batter out for UMB, before senior pitcher Collin Henry (Penobscot, Maine) skied a high sacrifice fly to right field to plate Valenti with the game's first run. Pisani took third on the out to put runners on the corners to set up a double steal with Eaton taking second and Pisani scoring on the throw to second base to make it 2-0.

LeBrun improves to 4-2 on the season for UMass Boston after allowing three runs on four hits and three walks, while striking out five in seven innings of work. Heefner retired all four batters he faced and struck out a batter in one and a third innings of work to earn the save. Henry suffered the loss to fall to 5-4 for the Huskies, allowing four runs (three earned) on three hits and a walk, while fanning a batter in one-plus innings of work. Sophomore lefty reliever Greg Holmes (West Newbury, MA) was outstanding in relief for Southern Maine, yielding just one run on four hits and no walks, while striking out four in six and a third innings of work.

McCormack finished the day going 3-5 with a run scored and four runs batted in, while Reinfurt was 2-4 with a run scored. Valenti, Pisani, Fernandes and Ricker all had a hit for the Huskies.