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UMass Boston Advances To Championship Game With 9th Inning Heroics

MANSFIELD, Conn.  – Paired up as the 2-0 squads in the 2010 NCAA Division III regional here today, the University of Massachusetts Boston continued its improbable march to the NCAA Division III World Series as the seventh-seeded Beacons erased a 2-0 deficit and scored two runs in the bottom of the 9th to pull out a 3-2 victory over top-seeded Tufts Univcersity. With the win, UMB is in the championship round Saturday at 5 p.m., and will face the winner of the Tufts vs. either Wheaton College or St. Joseph’s College (Me.) contest, which takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday. Wheaton and St. Joe’s finish the activity Friday night with the day’s final elimination game.

The Beacons came into the bottom of the 9th trailing 2-1. Tufts, which had been rotating its pitchers throughout the game, brought in ace reliever Chris DeGoti (Miami, Fla.) to hold the lead in search of his 13th save of the season. It wasn’t to be as UMB opened the inning with a double to the left-centerfield fence from senior left fielder Drew Tambling (Sterling, Mass.). A deep fly ball into the left -field corner off the bat of sophomore center fielder Mark McCormack (Shelton, Conn.) was tracked down by Tufts senior left fielder Nate Bankoff, but he failed to squeeze the ball and it dropped for a two-base error as Tambling zipped to third base. Tufts recorded the first out on a foul pop, but a fly ball to left by junior catcher Tim Fontaine (Worcester, Mass.) allowed Tambling to tag up and score the tying run unearned. Up came junior first baseman Connor Reinfurt (Manchester, N.H.), who hit a hard grounder to sophomore third baseman Sam Sager (Cranston, R.I.). Sager knocked the ball down, recovered it but threw wildly to first as McCormack scored the winning unearned run. DeGoti took the loss, making him 1-2 this season.

Tufts had jumped on UMB starter Michael Andriano (Massapequa, N.Y.) in the 1st inning, combining two hits with a walk and an error to take a 2-0 lead in the first meeting between the teams since 2000. With one out, junior designated hitter Ben Walkley (Trumbull, Conn.) worked a walk and moved to second base on a ground single up the middle by Sager which the UMB middle infield almost turned into an out at second base. A wild pitch advanced both runners and junior right fielder Chase Rose (Scottsdale, Ariz.) lined a single into right field to drive in the go-ahead run. A sharp grounder that was playable at third base off the bat of sophomore first baseman Matt Collins (Hopkinton, Mass.) was the catalyst for an unearned run as Sager scored from third base on the error for the 2-0 lead. Andriano got out of the frame without further trouble.

Andriano pitched an outstanding game for UMB, going 8.2 innings while yielding just four hits and two runs, one of which was earned with four strikeouts, in one of his most effective outings of the year. He has made 12 appearances with seven starts. He did not get the win, however, as reliever junior Tony Damon (San Bruno, Calif.) got the final out in the top of the 9th and became the pitcher of record, making him 5-2 on the year.

Tufts head coach John Casey had incorporated a rotating pitcher strategy after sophomore starter Dave Ryan (Trumbull, Conn.) went just two innings. Sophomore Jake Crawford (Boise, Idaho) tossed the 3rd inning with a pair of strikeouts. Senior Tom Hill (Robbinsville, N.J.) ran into some difficulty during his appearance in the 4th as he issued a walk to leadoff batter Fontaine before Reinfurt slashed a single into left field. A sacrifice bunt by senior Jeff Outzen (San Mateo, Calif.) moved the runners to second and third with one out, but a pop up to first base and a routine groundout kept it a 2-0 Tufts lead.

The trouble continued into the 5th for Tufts as new pitcher freshman Dan Eisenberg (North Andover, Mass.) loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a hit batter with two outs. After running a 2-0 count on Reinfurt, Eisenberg was relived by junior Pat O’Donnell (Worcester, Mass.) who tossed two more balls to force in a run as Reinfurt got the RBI. The side was retired on a hard liner to center by Outzen to keep the Jumbos ahead, 2-1. UMB threatened again in the 6th as sophomore third baseman Mike Mattei (Spencer, Mass.) led off with a line single to right off O’Donnell. A sacrifice bunt and a swinging bunt advanced Mattei to third but he was left there after an inning-ending groundout.

Tufts then got two runners into scoring position for the first time since the 1st inning against Andriano but the lefty worked out of trouble in the 7th by inducing a groundout to second base as the score remained 2-1.

In the bottom of the 7th, the Beacons got their leadoff man aboard for the fourth consecutive inning, but again could not come up with the tying run as the sixth Tufts pitcher, junior Ed Bernstein (Foxborough, Mass.) got two strikeouts to retire the side after Fontaine produced UMB’s third hit of the game to put runners at first and second with one out.

UMB picked up its eighth straight win and 14th in its last 16 starts after going 17-13 through 30 games. Tufts saw its 12-game win streak halted.