GORHAM, Maine – Junior Ben Lambert (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy) earned his ninth win of the season to improve to 9-0, and senior Henry Curran (South Portland, Maine) picked up his second save of the season as the no. 2 nationally-ranked and top-seed University of Southern Maine Huskies defeated third-seed Rhode Island College Anchormen 3-1 in game seven of the 2019 Little East Conference Baseball Championship Friday afternoon at Ed Flaherty Field.
In an elimination game, both teams needed a win to stay alive, in a six-team, double elimi. Southern Maine improves to 34-6 with the victory and advances to play second-seed UMass Boston Beacons tonight at 7 pm. The Beacons are 2-0 in the tournament thus far. Rhode Island College is eliminated from the tourney with a 26-16.
Lambert struck out seven and allowed 10 hits and two walks in 8.0 innings of work. The Huskies' righty worked his way out of a pair of bases loaded jams in the game to help keep the Huskies' tourney chances alive. Curran fired a 1-2-3 top of the ninth, getting a pair of ground outs and a pop up to get the save.
Sophomores Sam Troiano (South Portland, Maine) and Jason Komulainen (Gorham, Maine) and freshman Arlo Pike (Buxton, Maine/Bonny Eagle) each had RBIs for the Huskies, who collected 11 hits off of Rhode Island College starter Tyler Shemick. Juniors Andrew Olszak (Danvers, Mass.) and Andrew Hillier (Bangor, Maine) and senior Jake Dexter (Oakland, Maine/Messalonskee) each had two hits a piece. Hillier had the Huskies' lone extra base hit with a double in the first.
Southern Maine got on the board early when Troiano knocked an RBI ground out to second base to score Hillier. Hillier reached safely with a one-out double down the right field line for the first of his two hits. USM went up 2-0 in the bottom of the second on Komulainen's two-out single to right center. With Lambert in control on the mount he score remained unchanged through the fifth.
In the top of the sixth, RIC pressured USM for runs loading the bases without an out. Senior Tyler Walsh (Cumberland, R.I.) led off the inning with a single up the middle and quickly moved to third when junior Ray Zincone (West Warwick, R.I.) doubled down the left field line. The Anchormen loaded the bases on an infield single from senior Tyler Calabro (Cumberland, R.I.) with no outs and seemed poised for a big inning. However, USM turned a double play cutting down the lead runner at home and the batter at first. With a runner at third, Lambert took care of the final better snagging a strikeout to end the inning.
Pike gave the Huskies a 3-0 advantage in the home half of the sixth with an insurance run on a sacrifice fly to center. Pike earned the RBI driving in senior Zach Quintal (Eliot, Maine/Marshwood) who led off the inning with an infield single.
RIC took one run back in the seventh with an RBI ground out from junior Ryan Rotondo (Warwick, R.I.), and the Anchormen had another runner in scoring position, but Lambert came back to record another ground out to end the side.
The Anchormen threatened again in the eighth, loading the bases this time with one out, on singles from Calabro and junior Rommy Morel (Providence, R.I.) and a walk to junior Sam Franco (Cranston, R.I.), but Lambert again came back strong with a strikeout and a ground out. In the ninth, Curran pitched a strong inning to end the game 3-1/
The winner of the LEC tournament will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament that begins next week, Friday-Sunday, May 17-19. Regional championships will have 58 teams from across the NCAA Division III landscape and will feature 13 regionals with four-team double-elimination tournaments and three two-team, best-of-five tournaments. The 16 teams that are Regional winners will advance to the Super Regional round, Friday-Saturday, May 24-25, and will feature eight two-team, best-of-three series tourneys, and the eight winners will advance to the NCAA Division III World Series. The NCAA Division III World Series will be hosted at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, Iowa May 31-June 4/5.
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