HARWICH, Mass. – The four-seed in the NCAA Division III New England Baseball Regional Tournament, Endicott, dropped a 8-4 decision to #2 Southern Maine on Friday evening as the Gulls suffered their first loss of the double-elimination tournament while the Huskies remain unbeaten and earned a spot in the championship game.
Endicott (32-15) will next face the winner of #5 MIT and #6 St. Joseph's (Maine) which is being played late on Friday evening. Endicott's game versus the surviving team will take place on Saturday, May 17th at 12:00 pm with the victor advancing to play Southern Maine at 4:00 pm.
Huskies senior catcher Matt Verrier (Norway, Maine) went 3-for-4 with a homerun and a triple shy of the cycle while both sophomore shortstop Sam Dexter (Oakland, Maine) and senior right fielder Chris Bernard (Scarborough, Maine) each had two RBIs to fuel the Southern Maine offense. Southern Maine also benefited from standout relief pitching from junior righty Andrew Richards (South Portland, Maine) who, after coming in with just a 3-2 lead, pitched the final four innings for his seventh save of the season.
Endicott saw three players record multiple hits in the game including a 3-for-4 day at the plate for sophomore shortstop Cody Hall (Rutland, Mass.) and two hits apiece for seniors Brett Holmgren (Middleboro, Mass.), Tad Gold (Martha's Vineyard, Mass.), and EJ Martinez (Brooklyn, N.Y.). Holmgren, Gold, and Hall as well as freshman Mike Kochiss (Fairfield, Conn.) all had RBIs in the loss. Gold and fellow outfielder Cam Farnham (Andover, Mass.) both extended their career-high hitting streaks in the game with Gold reaching 18 straight and Farnham making it 19 contests in-a-row with a base knock.
Southern Maine starter Tyler Leavitt (North Andover, Mass.) earned the win (8-3) despite allowing three earned runs through five innings on eight hits and a walk. Gulls senior pitcher Tyler Hill (Las Vegas, Nev.) suffered the loss (4-4) as he lasted seven innings before handing it over to the bullpen.
After Hill used only seven pitches to set down the Huskies lineup 1-2-3 in the top of the first, the Endicott offense got on the scoreboard first to take a 1-0 lead. With one out, junior second baseman Harry Oringer (Dartmouth, Mass.) singled to left then stole second to get into scoring position setting up senior first baseman Brett Holmgren in the three-hole. Holmgren followed with a single laced to the opposite field that scooted under the left fielder's glove. Oringer scored from second and Holmgren advanced an extra base but the Gulls would cause no further damage.
Southern Maine came back in the top of the second and produced three runs courtesy of an Endicott error, a RBI groundout, and a wild pitch to take a 3-1 lead. After back-to-back singles by seniors Bernard and Verrier put runners on first and third, a groundball to third base by senior Troy Thibodeau (Danvers, Mass.) allowed Gulls third baseman Matthew Paola (Middlebury, Conn.) to get an out at the plate as Bernard raced home but an errant throw let the runner score to tie the game. Huskies junior Jake Glauser (Goffstown, N.H.) hit a groundball to short to score Verrier from third, who had advanced 90 feet on a wild pitch, to give Southern Maine a 2-1 lead. Two batters later, Hill threw wild again to allow Thibodeau to put the Huskies ahead by two at 3-1 going into the bottom of the second.
The Gulls came right back in the bottom of the second to cut the Southern Maine lead down to 3-2 as Hall singled down the left field line to plate Martinez who had reached on a hit up the middle and advanced two bases on a single to right by Kochiss. Endicott would strand Kochiss at second base as the next two batters were retired.
After going scoreless for three innings as Hill settled down on the mound, Southern Maine came back alive with as a solo shot over the left field wall off the bat of Verrier to extend their lead back up to two runs at 4-2. It was Verrier's eighth homerun of the season to bring him a triple shy of the circle to that point in the game.
In the bottom half of the sixth, Martinez started off the inning with a double down the left field line to force Leavitt out of the game and after advancing to third on a fly out to right by Gulls sophomore Steve Morganelli (Milford, Mass.), Martinez made it a one-run game as he advanced home on a RBI groundout by Kochiss.
In the top of the 8th, Endicott head coach Bryan Haley took the ball from Hill after a tough-hop, leadoff single to short by senior John Carey (South Portland, Maine) and gave it to freshman lefty Luke Morse (Westford, Mass.). Hill, responsible for Carey on the base paths, saw that runner round the bases and score to put Southern Maine up 5-3. With the bases loaded, no outs, and Carey on third, Verrier grounded into a 6-4-3 double-play to plate the fifth Husky run. Morse settled down to strikeout Thibodeau for the final out of the inning.
Hill (4-4) finished with a pitching line of 7.0 innings pitched, five runs allowed (three earned) on seven hits and a walk with two strikeouts.
In the top of the ninth, Southern Maine tacked on important insurance runs via a RBI single up the middle by pinch-hitter Forrest Chadwick (Gardiner, Maine) to score Glauser, who doubled to lead off the inning, a RBI groundout to second base by Carey, and a line drive single to left by Dexter that scored Nick DiBiase (Portland, Maine). Southern Maine took an 8-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
In Endicott's final trip to the plate Richards, who earned the four-inning save, allowed a triple to right center by Holmgren and a RBI single to center by Gold but Southern Maine secured a spot in the NCAA Division III New England Regional Championship with an 8-4 victory.