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Rhode Island Captures Baseball Championship

Rhode Island Captures Baseball Championship

MANSFIELD, Conn. – Sophomore No. 9 hitter Kevin Carey (Wakefield, R.I.) tripled in the tying run and junior shortstop and leadoff hitter Kyle Allaire (Uxbridge, Mass.) plated the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in a two-run fifth inning as Rhode Island College became the first sixth seed to win the Little East Conference Baseball Tournament with a 7-5 win over top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University Saturday afternoon at the Eastern Baseball Stadium.

With the victory, Rhode Island (21-18) qualifies on an automatic basis for the NCAA tournament for the second time. As the No. 5 seed in 2005, the Anchormen defeated No. 4 seed Western Connecticut State University, 6-1, in the championship game at the Eastern Baseball Stadium.

Eastern (32-11) needed two wins over Rhode Island to claim its eighth tournament title after dropping a 6-4, 12-inning decision to the Anchormen in Wednesday's opener. It marks the first time in eight championship round appearances that the Warriors did not win. RIC has won both times when reaching the finals.

Rhode Island overcame deficits of 3-1 and 4-3 with timely hitting, capitalized on five Eastern errors, and turned double plays in the fourth, fifth and seventh that limited the Warriors to one total run in those innings.

After winning two elimination games Friday, Eastern led 3-1 Saturday but the Anchormen scored single runs in the third and fourth. RIC tied the game 3-3 in the fourth without a hit, pushing across the tying run on a walk, hit batter and infield error. After sophomore DH Joe Balowski's (Berlin, Conn.) RBI single gave Eastern a 4-3 lead in the top of the fifth, the Anchormen scored the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the inning when Carey plated senior catcher Justin Corso (Cranston, R.I.) with a triple through the gap in right-center, and scored what proved to be the winning run on Allaire's sacrifice fly to right when just beat the throw from senior rightfielder Jim Schult (Wappingers Falls, N.Y.).

Rhode Island commited only one error in the game, while Eastern made five errors. The Anchormen capitalized on errors in scoring their single runs in the second, third and fourth. In the second, an infield error, walk and key catcher's interference on what appeared would be a 5-2-3 double play allowed RIC to cut a run off Eastern's early 3-1 lead.

Junior righty Rob Rushton (Freetown, Mass.) pitched 4 2/3 innings of one-run, two-hit relief to gain his fourth win in five decisions. Rusthon replaced junior righty starter Mike DeWald (Hope Valley, R.I.) while Eastern was scoring the go-ahead run in the fifth on Balowski's second RBI single. Facing his first batter, Rushton got an inning-ending 5-3 double play started by junior third baseman J.P. Stone (Narragansett, R.I.) to help RIC escape further damage.

Down by three, Eastern scored its only run off Rushton on a leadoff home run in the eighth by senior first baseman Andrew Dewing (Swampscott, Mass.) to cut the gap to two, but Rushton retired the final six in order – allowing only one ball out of the infield.

Corso had three of his team's ten hits, scored twice and drove in a run and senior leftfielder Ronnie Bracchi (Wappingers Falls, N.Y.) had two hits, scored two runs and drove in one with a two-out double in the third.

Rhode Island senior Gary Levesque (East Providence, R.I.) was voted the team's Most Outstanding Player with a complete-game pitching win over No. 3 seed UMass Dartmouth Thursday, and an opening save against Eastern that ended a 15-game losing streak at the hands of the tournament's top seed. Although he was 0-for-5 in the final, the cleanup hitter reached safely on an infield error and scored the team's second run in the third. He had five hits, drove in two runs and scored three runs in 19 tournament at-bats. In addition to his go-ahead RBI in the seventh, Allaire led all tournament players with 25 assists.

Schult and Balowski each had two hits in the final. In five tournament games, Schult was 10-for-23 with 12 RBI and six runs scored. He plated seven runs with a grand slam and two-run home run in the team's 15-8 elimination win over fourth-seeded Keene State Friday night which moved the Warriors into Saturday's final.