HARWICH, Mass. -- Senior Matt Verrier (Norway, Maine/Oxford Hills) went 3 for 4, including his eighth home run of the season, to lead the second-seeded University of Southern Maine Huskies to an 8-4, winner's-bracket victory over the fourth-seeded Endicott College Gulls in the NCAA Division III New England Regional Tournament Friday afternoon at Whitehouse Field.
The win moves the Huskies, the lone unbeaten team in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament, into the championship round needing one win to clinch their second straight, and eighth all-time, regional title. Friday's game was a rematch of last year's regional final. The Huskies' third straight win improved their record to 34-12.
The Gulls slipped to 32-15 overall. They will await the winner of Friday night's late game between St. Joseph's College (Me.) and M.I.T. to play an elimination game Saturday (12:00 p.m.) for the right to face the Huskies in the championship round.
Verrier had a single, double and home run for his 11th multiple-hit game of the season. Sophomore Sam Dexter (Oakland, Maine/Messalonskee) and senior Chris Bernard (Scarborough, Maine) had two hits apiece for the Huskies.
Sophomore left-hander Tyler Leavitt (North Andover, Mass.) and junior right-hander Andrew Richards (South Portland, Maine) combined on the mound for the victory. Leavitt went five-plus innings allowing three runs to pick up his eight win of the season. Richards earned a four-inning save, his seventh of the season.
Sophomore Cody Hall (Rutland, Mass./Wachusett Regional) had three hits and an RBI to pace the Gulls' 14-hit attack. Senior Brett Holmgren (Middleboro, Mass./Coyle Cassidy) had a triple and a single, and seniors EJ Martinez (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep) and Tad Gold (Martha's Vineyard, Mass.) each had a double and a single.
Senior Tyler Hill (Las Vegas, Nev./New Hampton) went the first seven innings on the hill for the Gulls allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits and one walk. Hill (4-4) struck out two.
Endicott grabbed the early lead with a single run in the first against Leavitt. Junior Harry Oringer (Dartmouth, Mass./Coyle Cassidy) singled with one out, stole second and scored on Holmgren's single to left.
The Huskies responded with three markers in the second. Bernard and Verrier opened the frame with singles to put runners on the corners. Bernard scored on an infield error to tie the game, and Verrier would score on junior Jake Glauser's (Goffstown, N.H.) groundout. Senior Troy Thibodeau (Danvers, Mass./New Hampton) scored the third run on a wild pitch by Hill.
Martinez trimmed the deficit to one when he scored on Hall's single in the home half of the second inning.
The teams traded runs in the sixth as Verrier hit a one-out, solo home run for the Huskies. Martinez had a leadoff double for the Gulls and scored on an RBI groundout by rookie Mike Kochiss (Fairfield, Conn./Fairfield Ludlowe) to make it 4-3.
The Huskies added an insurance run in the eighth inning, and three more in the ninth to push their lead to 8-3. Glauser sparked the ninth-inning outburst with a leadoff double. He would score on a pinch-hit single by senior Forrest Chadwick (Gardiner, Maine).
Endicott scored a single run against Richards in the ninth when Holmgren hit a one-out triple and scored on Gold's single. Richards settled down to get the final two outs on fly balls.