- It's A Comeback For The Ages As DWC Storms Past Mitchell For Second Straight NECC Championship,
And A Return Trip To The NCAA Tournament -
|Eagle senior and tourney MVP Rich Lizotte (left) is euphoric with catcher Tyler Bonin after the final out in Sunday's NECC Championship while Erick Bourdeau (background) joins in (Sarah Pyne photo).|
Nashua – Prior to the seventh and final game of the 2013 New England Collegiate Conference championship tournament, Head Coach J.P. Pyne pulled his team together and offered them a vision for the future.
The Eagles had just rallied to take a 12-8 game six victory after giving away a 7-1 lead against second-seeded and archrival Mitchell College to force the winner-take-all final game in the double elimination tournament.
After losing to the Mariners handily the day before, Pyne had appealed to his team to write the conclusion to their story rather than have someone else write it for them. "Since we lost the game yesterday to Mitchell (an 11-2 thumping), one of the little themes that we had was to work as hard as we could to make the story of this season, this playoff, that much better when we retell it 20 or 30 years from now," Pyne recalled. "And right before the second game I said 'imagine the story, guys, if we do this.'"
What a story it is. And continues to make.
Needing two victories entering the final round of the New England Collegiate Conference championship tournament, the host and top-seeded Eagles scored the most memorable comeback in program history, capturing the game six opener and then roared back from deficits of 5-0 and 6-1 in the nightcap to score a 9-7 victory in the game seven clincher, giving them their second straight tourney title Sunday afternoon at Harvey Woods Field.
The Eagles, who continue to add wins to the best overall mark in program history, improved to 28-10 overall, and now await an opponent and destination for a second-straight trip to the NCAA tournament, expected to begin next weekend.
The squad, which has now won three of the last four NECC tourney titles, becomes the first program in DWC history to head to a second NCAA tournament and is only the fifth team to ever reach a national tourney joining last year's squad, women's basketball (2011), men's soccer (2010) and men's cross country (2008).
"It's still sinking in," said a beaming Pyne after the stunning victories that made DWC only the second team in NECC tournament history to take both games six and seven and come out of the loser's bracket to win a title.
"Our team has some extraordinary veteran leadership (12 seniors) and that showed today, Pyne said. "Mitchell is a great program and we had to overcome a great team today. We just kept coming back and not giving in. Our coaching staff is truly proud of the entire team effort we made."
Tournament Most Valuable Player and senior Rich Lizotte (West Warwick, R.I.) took top honors with a mesmerizing performance in the field, at the plate and on the mound. The senior shortstop and reliever finished a tournament-best .455 with three doubles and three RBI, committed just one error in the field in 41 chances, and added three saves allowing no earned runs over 3 2/3 innings.
On Sunday alone, Lizotte was everywhere combining to hit 7 for 11 with two doubles, scored four runs, knocked in one, stole a base, was flawless in the field in 14 chances, and picked up saves in both victories.
"He was remarkable for us," said Pyne. "He was due for a breakout series like this and he just did a little bit of everything to help us out. He deserved that award."
|In what's becoming a familar site, the Eagles pose with the championship trophy and banner on Sunday. It's the program third tourney title in the last four seasons (Sarah Pyne photo).|
After a hard-fought and emotional rollercoaster of a game six in which the Eagles outlasted the Mariners after giving up a 7-1 lead only to snap an 8-8 tie with a pair of runs in the eighth and ninth innings, game seven was even wilder.
Mitchell sent their ace, rookie Tyler Shamas, back to the mound a day after his superb four-hitter had silenced the Eagles in Saturday's game four trouncing, forcing the hosts to come out of the loser's bracket and face a daunting uphill climb on Sunday.
And for the first five innings, it looked like Shamas could pull off the impossible. The extraordinary rookie defied the odds and again held the Eagles at bay, allowing just one run on four hits. Inspired by the performance, the Mariners jumped on Eagle rookie starter Sean Hannon, putting up five runs in the third.
With Hannon pulled, Pyne went to senior starter Zack Hurley, who had allowed three earned runs in just 2/3 of an inning in the 11-2 shellacking the day before. Pyne never doubted Hurley would be better.
"He wasn't fazed by the situation," said Pyne of Hurley, who with the exception of Saturday's short stint, hadn't pitched since April 27th against Elms. "He was huge today. One of the great advantages I think we've had all season is our bullpen and he's another guy who's been through it all for us - a weekend starter, a week day starter, but also someone who can come out of the bullpen. He gave us great work today and he deserved to get credit for the win."
Hurley did more than great work, in fact. The rangy right-hander effectively shut the door on a Mariner offense that was looking to put the game away by the middle innings. Instead, Hurley allowed just one earned run on three hits, walking two and striking out seven - as in a season-high seven.
Hurley's best moment came in the fifth as he allowed a leadoff walk to Marc Dorsi and back-to-back singles to both Kenneth Olszewski and Evan Peck. Peck's hit had scored Dorsi for a 6-1 game and sent Olszewski to third and Peck later stole second. With two runners suddenly in scoring position, another single would have put DWC's chances in a world of hurt.
Instead, Hurley reached back and got both the talented Neftali Arroyo and fellow threat Nova Crespo on swinging third strikes. Crisis averted. "It was a key sequence for him (Hurley)," Pyne acknowledged. "They were two huge strikeouts that really lifted the team."
Shamas meanwhile, hadn't shown signs of blinking. That all changed in the sixth.
Elliot Kilgore was nicked to open the frame and Tyler Bonin and Lizotte followed with singles to load the bases. Erick Bourdeau – who finished the day a shocking 5 for 7 with 4 RBI - followed with a hard single to center scoring two for a 6-3 game.
The gutsy Shamas's time had come yielding to Josh Zurita, but DWC kept the pressure on as rookie Devin DeCarteret reached on a fielder's choice to reload the bases and Joe Morin poked a lazy single into right for a 6-4 game.
Chasse then turned on a 1-2 delivery sending it into center, bringing home DeCarteret and Bourdeau to tie it. After another Mariner pitching change, Marstaller answered with the biggest blow of the day, a moonshot double to dead center sending Chasse and Morin home. He would later score on a Kilgore single to left.
When the dust finally cleared, 12 men had come to the plate and the Eagles had plated eight runs on seven hits. It was 9-6.
|The Eagles celebrate pigpile-style after Sunday's final out
(Sarah Pyne photo).
The rally was reflective of something Pyne had told the team earlier in the game. "When we were down (5-0) I told them that it's not going to be a six-run homer that wins this game. Instead it's going to be guys who can string together a series of quality at bats. And that's all they did."
From there, Hurley did the rest, allowing one hit in the seventh, and retired the order in the eighth.
Enter Lizotte, who was touched for one unearned run in the top of the ninth. Mitchell pushed an unearned run across to cut the lead to two and put the tying run at the plate with two out, but Brigham pulled an Olszewski pop foul on the third base side softly into his glove to end it, sending the Eagles back to the NCAA's.
Marc Dorsi led Mitchell in the final with three hits and knocked in a run. Gavin LaLima added a pair of hits. Josh Zurita was credited with the loss (2-2) in relief of Shamas.
DWC had forced the seventh game despite nearly imploding with a season-worst six errors in the 12-8 victory. The Eagles made up for the gaffes by pounding out a remarkable 19 hits and every member of the lineup knocked in at least one run. Seven players had at least two hits.
In all, the teams combined for 20 runs, 33 hits and eight errors.
Lizotte was an unconscious 5 for 6 with two doubles, scored three times and knocked in one.
Remarkably, only Bourdeau and Morin knocked in more than one run, as each had two RBI.
Peck was 3 for 5 knocking in one, Olszewski had a two-run double in the sixth, and Gavin LaLima had two hits.
Reliever Jeff Dowling (Branchburg, N.J.) was touched with the loss (1-3).
The Eagles had built a 7-1 lead with one run in the top of the first, three in the second, and three in the top of the fifth.
But Mitchell answered with three in the bottom of the fifth on a tiring Dubela and tied it in the sixth on Olszewski's two-bagger.
But RBI doubles from Kilgore and Lizotte in the eighth put the Eagles up for good and RBI singles from Brigham and Tyler Bonin (Litchfield, N.H.) in the ninth iced it.
Along with Lizotte, the all-tournament team included Bonin and DuBela, Olszewski, Shamas and Arroyo, Dan McCormack and Curtis Lebeau from Elms, and Nick Lemay and Tony Cantalupo from Becker.
2013 New England Collegiate Conference Baseball Championship
Friday, May 3
GAME 1: at (1) Daniel Webster 3, (4) Becker 1
GAME 2: (2) Mitchell 7, (3) Elms 6
Saturday, May 4
GAME 3: (4) Becker 6, (3) Elms 1
Game 4: (2) Mitchell 11, (1) Daniel Webster 2
Game 5: (1) Daniel Webster 6, (4) Becker 4
Sunday, May 5
GAME 6: (1) Daniel Webster 12, (2) Mitchell 8
GAME 7: (1) Daniel Webster 9, (2) Mitchell 7