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Southern Maine Captures 4th Baseball Championship

Southern Maine Captures 4th Baseball Championship

GORHAM, Maine -- For the second straight year, the University of Southern Maine baseball team has won the Little East Conference championship. The top-seeded Huskies defeated the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Corsairs, 4-2, Saturday afternoon to capture the title.

The Huskies have won five straight games, and 12 of the last 13, to improve their overall record to 37-7. This is the first time that the Huskies have won back-to-back tournament titles, and their fourth tournament championship (1997, 1999, 2012, 2013) since the conference added baseball in 1997.

By winning the LEC title, the Huskies also earned an automatic berth into the 2013 NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament. The entire field for the eight regional tournaments will be selected Sunday evening and announced Monday.

UMass Dartmouth, coached by former USM All-American Bob Prince, earned the right to face the Huskies in the championship round by winning a halted game from Friday over the University of Massachusetts Boston 21-5, then defeating second-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University 4-2 in an elimination game. The Corsairs, reaching the championship round for the third time, went 3-2 in the tournament and finished their season 18-23. The Corsairs came into the tournament as the fifth seed.

Junior Chris Bernard (Scarborough, Maine) led the Huskies 12-hit attack with three hits. Rookie Sam Dexter (Oakland, Maine/Messalonskee), senior Tucker White(Deerfield, N.H./Coe-Brown Northwood) and juniors Forrest Chadwick (Gardiner, Maine) and John Carey (South Portland, Maine) each had two hits apiece. Senior Nick Grady (Whitefield, Maine/Erskine Academy), who hit .588 with eight RBI in four games, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

Sophomore Andrew Richards (South Portland, Maine) earned his sixth win of the season hurling five innings of four-hit shutout relief. Richards walked one and struck out two in relief of freshman southpaw starter Tyler Leavitt (North Andover, Mass.) who went four-plus innings allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and one walk.

Freshman Connor Shaw (Goffstown, N.H.) and sophomore Nate Farias (Fall River, Mass.) had two hits each for the Corsairs. Both had a single and a double. Farias scored one of the UMD runs and Shaw had an RBI.

Sophomore left-hander Nate Fuller (New Bedford, Mass.), starting on two days rest, earned a one-pitch save against Eastern Connecticut before holding the Huskies in check. Fuller pitched seven-plus innings allowing four runs on 12 hits and two walks. He struck out two.

Southern Maine grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Dexter led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice by senior Anthony Pisani (Cheshire, Conn./Notre Dame) and scored on White's single up the middle.

UMD came back in the fifth against Leavitt and Richards to score twice for a 2-1 lead. Sophomore Alex Newton (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy) singled off Leavitt and moved to second on a wild pitch. Farias worked a walk from Leavitt to put runners at first and second. Both runners moved up on another wild pitch. Newton would score on an infield error to tie the game.

Richards was summoned from the bullpen and got the first two batters he faced on some nifty defensive plays by Carey and senior Nick Grady (Whitefield, Maine/Erskine Academy). Richard issued an intentional pass to sophomore Ryan Mederios (Acushnet, Mass./New Bedford) to load the bases, and Shaw made the Huskies pay with an RBI single to score Farias with an unearned run. Richards escaped further damage getting a fly out to end the inning.

In the sixth, the Huskies loaded the bases on consecutive singles by Chadwick, Grady and Bernard. Carey drove in Chadwick, and Grady moved to third, with a fly ball to right field. Junior Matt Verrier (Norway, Maine/Oxford Hills) brought home the go-ahead run with a groundout.

USM tacked on an insurance run in the seventh after Fuller got the first two outs. White stroked his ninth triple of the season off the right field fence and came home on Chadwick's single back through the box.

Richards retired the Corsairs in order in the eight. Farias reached Richards for a double with one out in the ninth, and moved up to third on a ground out before Richards closed out the game with a strikeout.