GORHAM, Maine – Led by Tournament MVP Bryan Kaufman (Farmingdale, N.Y.) 12 strikeouts through 6.1 innings 21st/22nd ranked baseball won the 2017 Little East Conference Tournament championship as they defeated the third-seeded Corsairs of UMass Dartmouth by the final of 8-6 Saturday afternoon at Ed Flaherty Field.
#21/22 UMass Boston 8, UMass Dartmouth 6
UMass Boston (33-10)
UMass Dartmouth (25-20)
HOW IT HAPPENED
With Saturday's championship, the Beacons earned the Little East Conference automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Regional tournament. Kaufman's MVP performance was nearly perfect as he allowed just one run, unearned, on four hits, without surrendering a walk. He struck out 12 of the 26 batters he faced over the final six plus innings.
The Beacons had to play comeback kings all game, as they trailed through the first three innings. A two-run fourth inning put the Beacons in the lead, and with another two-runs in the fifth, UMB knew that it was their game to win.
For the Corsairs Gianni Esposito was handed the loss after going three complete innings. During his outing, he allowed six runs, four earned, on four hits, and had two walks, and three K's.
The Corsairs broke the scoreless tie early in the second inning on an RBI double by Josh O'Neill. UMass Boston responded with their first of four straight two-run innings to take their first lead of the night. Huegi ripped a double to left field, which plated Anthony Searles (Shelton, Conn.) to tie the game at 1-1. A sac-fly by Josh Lopez (New Haven, Conn.) then gave UMB a slim one-run lead.
UMD got out the inning and quickly responded with a huge four-run third inning to make it a three-run ball game. The deciding play came when Brandon Polignone doubled to center field, which cleared the bases.
Down but not out the Beacons tacked on two more runs in the third, thanks to two RBI double by Luke Nagle (Pembroke, Mass.). After a scoreless top of the fourth for the Corsairs, UMB retook the lead for the final time in Saturday's title game, as they saw Dan Mantoni (Northbridge, Mass.) plate Huegi on a sac-fly, while Boudrias knocked- in the go-head run (6-5) on a single to right center.
With Kaufman starting to take over, the Corsairs were only able to muster-up one more run in the top of the fifth on the Beacons fourth fielding error of the contest.
Even at 6-6, UMass saw Mantoni rip a double the left field line which scored the go-head run, while a Boudrias groundout, which scored Lopez gave the Beacons all the insurance they would need.
From that moment on, Kaufman picked apart the Corsairs bats, while even though UMass Boston threatened, they were unable to plate any additional runs.
The pace of the game which was extremely slow moving through the first four innings, picked-up dramatically with both pitching staffs getting out-after-out. In the ninth, Kaufman retired the side in order and closed out the championship with a pair of K's.
BY THE NUMBERS
- UMass Boston won the rubber match with the Corsairs in the third meeting between the two squads.
- In their previous meeting the two teams had both of their games halted including Friday night's game
- Kaufman's 6.1 innings marked his second longest appearance of the year, while his 12 K's was as career-high performance
- Saturday's contest marked the first-ever meeting between their intra-state rival in the Little East championship game
- The Beacons recorded nine hits in the win, while the Corsairs finished with seven hits
- The Beacons 33 wins is now a program record besting the 32 from the 2010 season, in-which UMB won their first conference and NCAA Regional championship
The Beacons will find out where they will be traveling to first thing Monday morning. The bracket will be released on NCAA.com via press release.