HARWICH, Mass. – The Endicott baseball team has advanced in the NCAA Division III New England Tournament after the #4-seeded Gulls defeated #5 MIT 6-4 at Whitehouse Field on Wednesday morning in their first game of regional postseason action. Endicott will take on the #8 Mitchell on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 PM after the Mariners upset the tournament's top seed Eastern Connecticut State 4-3 (11 inn.) in extra-innings.
Endicott and Mitchell have never played in either team's history dating back to the Gulls' first season in 1995. Endicott is the automatic qualifier out of the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) while Mitchell also earned an automatic bid by way of winning the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) title.
Endicott (31-14) got a go-ahead, two-RBI single to right by senior first baseman Brett Holmgren (Middleboro, Mass.) and 3 2/3 innings of solid relief from sophomore right-hander Davarn Nova (Wareham, Mass.) as the Gulls rebounded from an early 2-0 deficit to win their NCAA Tournament opener.
Sophomore starter JJ Branch (Milford, Mass.), the CCC Pitcher of the Year, took the mound for Endicott and lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and two walks with five strikeouts before handing the ball over to Nova in the top of the sixth. MIT had tied the game at 4-4 one inning earlier on a RBI groundout to short by junior outfielder Hayden Cornwall (Newport Beach, Calif.) and on a wild pitch by Branch.
Branch started off the top of the sixth by giving up a leadoff single to center by sophomore catcher Kendall Helbert (St. Louis, Mo.) who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Gulls head coach Bryan Haley called for Nova out of the bullpen who got the final two outs of the inning on a fly out and a foul out to strand the go-ahead run in scoring position.
In the bottom half of the sixth inning, Endicott saw Holmgren come up with a big two-out hit to score sophomore shortstop Cody Hall (Rutland, Mass.) and junior second baseman Harry Oringer (Dartmouth, Mass.). Both Hall and Oringer reached on singles and Oringer put himself into scoring position by stealing second base in a first and third situation.
MIT threatened to put runs on the board in the top of the seventh after junior K.J. Parent (Knoxville, Tenn.) walked to lead off the inning and Cornwell followed with a double down the left field line. On Cornwell's double, Parent was waived around third base but a relay from freshman left fielder Cam Farnham (Andover, Mass.) to Hall to junior catcher Chase Sullivan (Cumberland, R.I.) got the base runner in time. Nova was able to escape the jam with no runs charged against him despite Cornwell reaching third base on a wild pitch.
Nova struck out two of the three batters in the top of the eighth and allowed runners to get on first and second with just one out in the ninth, but the sophomore forced a sharp ground ball to Oringer who stepped on second and fired to first for the game-ending double play.
Farnam went 3-for-5 in the game and extended his hit streak to 17 games with a leadoff, first-pitch single in the bottom of the first. Oringer and Hall both had two hits in four trips to the plate and both registered a run scored and a RBI. Gulls sophomore outfielder Steve Morganelli (Milford, Mass.) scored a run and drove in one in the bottom of the fourth. Senior centerfielder Tad Gold (Martha's Vineyard, Mass.) recorded a hit in the win and pushed his personal hit streak up to 16 games.