MANSFIELD, Conn. - Plymouth State College freshman Nate Provencher (Wilton, NH) picked an excellent time to toss his first career complete game, leading the Panthers to a 4-2 victory over the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Thursday night in the opening round of the Little East Conference Baseball Tournament.
The Panthers, seeded third in the double-elimination tourney, were powered by a three-run, first-inning homer from Corey Mastin (Newmarket, NH) and a third-inning solo shot from Dakota Smith (Rochester, NH).
The story of Thursday's game, though, was the rookie righthander Provencher. He allowed just one earned run, scattering seven hits and three walks and striking out six. He surrendered a second-inning sacrifice fly and a ninth-inning home run, but held on to improve his record to 4-2 and lower his ERA to 3.73.
"The biggest thing about this game was Nate pitching a complete game," said PSC coach Dennis McManus. "I thought he would go 4-5 innings, but now we've got all of our other pitchers ready for the rest of the tournament. He was tough, and he pitched like a bulldog out there."
The Panthers jumped on UMD for a three-spot in the bottom of the first. Todd Steffanides (Fitchburg, MA) and Jim Freda (Windham, NH) led of with back-to-back walks, and an out later, Mastin deposited his fourth home run of the season over the left field fence.
"Corey's home run in the first inning was such a pick-me-up," said Provencher. "It made me feel good about going out there. It was the most meaningful game I've pitched in, especially with the injury to (PSC ace) Ben DuBois."
The victory improves PSC to 20-16-1 overall, marking the fifth straight season the Panthers have reached the 20-win plateau. The verdict sets up a second-round clash against second-seeded Southern Maine in Game Six of the tournament, Friday at 7:00 p.m. UMass Dartmouth, seeded fourth, drops to 14-21-1 overall and will met top-seeded Eastern Connecticut Friday at 3:30 p.m.
"This was a huge win," said McManus. "If we had lost, we would've had to play Eastern Conn. on Friday, but now we play Southern Maine, who we just beat last Saturday. We're planning on winning, but even if we lose, we can come back on Saturday. We've got a lot of confidence after beating USM last weekend beating UMass Dartmouth tonight."
The Panthers will likely start another freshman righthander Friday against Southern Maine: Jeff Morgan (Laconia, NH), who was the winning pitcher over USM last Saturday, and who, at 6-2, shares the team lead in victories.
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