Panthers clinch berth in Little East Tournament
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Plymouth State University scored 10 runs on 13 hits in the nightcap Saturday afternoon to defeat Western Connecticut State University, 10-2, and earn a split of the Little East Conference doubleheader in the regular season finale at Panther Park; the Colonials took the opener in 11 innings, 4-3.
The victory in the second game for the Panthers clinched a berth in next week's Little East Tournament. PSU completes the regular season at the .500 mark at 20-20 overall and 7-7 in the Little East. Western Conn., which has one remaining game Saturday against Eastern Connecticut, is now 18-18 overall and 6-7 in conference play.
The University of Massachusetts Boston and the University of Southern Maine tied for the LEC regular season title, both with 10-4 records. The Beacons win the tiebreaker and will host the conference tournament, beginning Wednesday. Official seeds and first-game pairings will be announced after Saturday's game between Eastern and Western Connecticut.
GAME 1 – WCSU 4, PSU 3 (11 innings)
After four scoreless innings, Western Connecticut plated three runs in the top of the fifth. Senior John Kelly (Stratford, Conn.) connected on an RBI double to right field, junior Joe Costa (Hopewell Jct., N.Y.) singled in a run, and senior Chris Callahan (Southington, Conn.) capped the rally with a sacrifice fly.
The Panthers came back with one run in the last of the fifth and two in the sixth to tie the game. Senior Dave Hall (Groton, Conn.) drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth to plate a run; junior James Garnett (Newport, R.I.) hit his seventh home run of season to lead off the sixth inning, tying for the Little East lead in home runs; and sophomore Luke Mancini (Scotia, N.Y.) doubled down the left field line, went to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Cam Ruziak (Sterling, Mass.)
The game stayed 3-3 until the 11th inning when the Colonials pushed across the eventual game-winning run. Costa walked with two outs, stole second, and came around to score on Callahan's single to right center. PSU put one runner on in the bottom of the 11th but Western closed out the win.
Freshman Taylor Donofrio (Terryville, Conn.) earned the win in relief for the Colonials, allowing just one hit in 1.2 innings. PSU sophomore Taylor Doyle (Peterborough, N.H.) allowed just one run on five hits over five innings of relief, striking out five, but took the loss.
Junior EJ Lavoie (East Granby, Conn.) went 4-for-5 with a walk for the visitors, and classmate Frank Vartuli (Westport, Conn.) had three hits. Mancini had two hits to lead the Panthers.
GAME 2 – PSU 10, WCSU 2
The game was tied 2-2 in the middle of the sixth inning when PSU blew it open with three runs in the bottom of the sixth and four in seventh. Senior Mike Laflamme (Bedford, N.H.) led the Panthers, coming off the bench to contribute two hits, including a double, and three runs batted in.
Two Western errors led to PSU's first run in the fourth inning, and freshman Josh Goulet (Nashua, N.H.) singled home a run to make it 2-0. The Colonials tied it up in the sixth on consecutive RBI hits by senior Matt Greene (New London, Conn.) and Lavoie, Greene on a single up the middle and Lavoie on a double down the left field line.
A three-run rally in the last of the sixth put the Panthers up for good. Laflamme delivered a pinch-hit two-run double down the left field line, and then stole third and came around to score on an infield hit by junior Eric Leitch (Lanesboro, Mass.).
PSU tacked on four runs in the seventh inning. Mancini, Laflamme and sophomore Nate Frederick (Worcester, Mass.) all had RBI singles in the inning, and Mancini stole home on a double-steal with Goulet.
Goulet had two steals in the game to set the school record for stolen bases in a season with 26 in 29 attempts. The previous record of 24 was set by Jeff Hastings in 1992.
PSU freshman David Sampson (Bellingham, Mass.) earned the win (2-1) for PSU, pitching 5.1 innings and allowing two runs on five hits and three walks, striking out four. Senior Matti Doxter (Somersworth, N.H.) pitched the final 2.2 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three to post his second save. Sophomore Kyle Sanford (Torrington, Conn.) took the loss in relief for Western.
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