Panthers' Cinderella run ends in title game
GORHAM, Maine – Plymouth State University's Cinderella run in the Little East Conference Baseball Tournament fell one game short Sunday afternoon as the sixth-seeded Panthers were defeated by top-seeded University of Southern Maine, 6-1, in the LEC Championship game, played at the USM Baseball Stadium.
The Panthers, who pulled off three upset victories in the tournament en route to reaching the title game, including two elimination-game triumphs, gave a valiant effort against the top-seeded Huskies but came up just short. USM (27-17), the regular season conference champion, had to defeat Keene State College in Sunday's first elimination game, 3-2, before upending the Panthers. USM captured its third LEC Tournament title and first since 1999, earning an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III National Championship.
Plymouth State, which prior to this week hadn't won an LEC Tournament game since 2001, advanced to the final with three wins in four days over the #1, #2 and #4 seeds. PSU winds up the season at 20-22.
Senior Luke Merrill gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning, blasting his third home run of the season off the left field fair pole. PSU put two more runners on in the inning on a double by Ryan McIntosh and a walk by junior David Tammaro but USM worked out of the jam.
The Huskies took the lead for good with three runs in the top of the third inning. After loading the bases with no outs, junior Nick Grady was hit by a pitch, sophomore Forrest Chadwick hit a sacrifice fly, and sophomore John Carey reached on a fielder's choice to drive in the third run.
USM tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning, as freshman Jake Glauser doubled home a run and Chadwick delivered a two-run single.
The ended up as the extent of the scoring, as senior Dustin Stanton pitched 6 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing just four hits while striking out four. Sophomore Logan Carman started for USM and allowed just two hits and a run in 2 1/3 innings before giving way to Stanton.
Senior Bobby Chatfield, who was the winning pitcher in PSU's Game 1 victory over USM, took the loss after a three-inning effort. Senior Joe Hudson, working on one day's rest after tossing a shutout on Friday, pitched four innings of relief, giving up only a pair of unearned runs. Junior Rew Wilson and senior Jonathan Bishop also each tossed a scoreless inning of relief.
The teams had to endure a 30-minute rain delay at the end of seven innings.
The Panthers, who qualified for this year's tournament on the final weekend of the regular season, had gone 0-3 in its only two LEC Tournament appearances in the last 10 years (0-1 in 2002, 0-2 in 2009). PSU is led by 28th-year head coach Dennis McManus.
-- 30 --