NEW LONDON, Conn. — Southern Vermont College earned the right to play for the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Baseball Championship as the third-seeded Mountaineers defeated No. 2 Elms College in an elimination game Saturday afternoon at Mitchell College's Alumni Field.
SVC was forced into the must-win contest after falling 21-7 to top-seeded Mitchell in an earlier showdown Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers and MC now have a rematch set for Sunday morning at 9 a.m. back at Alumni. A Mitchell win would give the Mariners their third straight NECC tournament title while a Southern Vermont victory would result in a second Sunday contest, winner-take-all.
"The resiliency in our guys was amazing today," commented Southern Vermont head coach Dave Gage. "The opportunity to represent SVC in a championship game is something we are proud to do."
A day after breaking its program wins record, SVC got to the 20-win mark for the first time in team history as the Mountaineers moved to 20-19 with Saturday's decisions. Southern Vermont defeated Elms for the second time in as many days, bouncing back strongly after being swept in a regular season three-game set just last weekend.
Southern Vermont opened up for 15 hits in its win over the Blazers, four being from freshman center fielder Zack Stacey (Saratoga, N.Y.) who tallied two home runs for five RBIs.
Mitchell 21 – Southern Vermont 7
MC took to an early 2-0 lead with a pair of scores in the top of the first, only to see the Mountaineers come back with three of their own in the home half to go on top. Each side added a solo run in the second before SVC gained a little separation with another single score in the third. The Mariners would then break it open in the fifth, however, putting up a crooked seven to stake a lead they would hold until the end.
MC added another three over the next two innings before Southern Vermont notched one in the home half of the seventh. Mitchell extended its lead with five in the eighth and another three in the ninth, going up large enough to make a lone Mountaineer score in the bottom of the final inning not be a factor.
Stacey went 2-for-4 in the effort with a run scored while sophomore shortstop John Arancio (Oradell, N.J.) was 1-for-2 with a walk, two runs scored and four runs batted in. Freshman catcher Dan Mason (Bloomingdale, N.J.) had a 1-for-3 showing at the dish with a walk and a run scored as senior second baseman RJ Pingitore (Perth, N.Y.) was also 1-for-3, scoring once and driving in another run. Freshman first baseman Joe Braim (Schuylerville, N.Y.) and sophomore right fielder Niko D'Agnese (Mahopac, N.Y.) each went 1-for-3 with a double as Braim scored a run and tallied an RBI.
Mountaineer junior right-hander Joshua Hay (South Glens Falls, N.Y.) suffered the loss (4-5), giving up four earned runs and striking out four in his 4.2 innings with the start.
MC jumped on top first, going up 2-0 with a two-run homer in the opening box. Southern Vermont came right back to go ahead with its own long ball in the bottom of the frame after Mason worked a walk and Pingitore singled to the infield. Arancio came to the plate and launched his third home run of the year, a three-run dinger putting the Mountaineers up 3-2.
Mitchell got one back in the top of the second to tie the game, the run scoring after getting on with the help of an SVC fielding miscue. Southern Vermont would go right back on top, however, scoring once in the home half of the inning after Braim got aboard courtesy of a Mariner fielding error. He moved up to third on a wild pitch and advanced 90 more feet with a D'Agnese sacrifice bunt, and the Mountaineer rookie then made his way across the plate on a two-out wild pitch.
Southern Vermont padded its cushion with one run on two hits in the third, Braim knocking a two-out double to left-center for Arancio to come in and make it a 5-3 game.
The Mariners would seize control in the fifth, chalking up seven runs on seven hits while being benefitted from three SVC mishaps in the field. MC put up another in the sixth and two more in the seventh, taking a commanding 13-5 upper hand.
SVC cut into its deficit with one run in the bottom of the seventh, Pingitore sending a fly ball deep enough to center for Stacey to tag up and score from third. The Mariners answered with five in the top of the eighth, and they then put it out of reach with three more in the ninth.
Arancio tagged a sacrifice fly to center in the home half of the ninth for freshman first baseman Cody Sullivan (Brunswick, N.Y.) to come across the plate. It would fall far short of making an impact, however, as Mitchell finished off the win to remain unbeaten on the weekend.
Southern Vermont 12 – Elms 2
On the verge of being knocked out of the tournament, SVC came out strong in the must-win elimination game to stay in the hunt for the crown. The Mountaineers led from wire to wire, going up 4-0 through the second before EC came back with two in the top of the third.
Southern Vermont responded with one of its own in the home half of that inning before notching four more over the next two frames. SVC then capped it with one in the seventh and another two in the eighth while keeping the Blazers at bay to finish off the crucial victory.
Stacey exploded at the plate, going 4-for-5 with two homers, a walk, five runs batted in and four runs scored. Mason was 3-for-6 with two doubles, two RBIs and a run scored while Pingitore went 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored.
Braim had a stellar outing on the mound, giving up just the two runs on four hits to pick up the win (2-2). He fanned nine Blazer batters in the victory.
Arancio tallied a 2-for-5 showing at the dish as D'Agnese, Sullivan and sophomore third baseman Rob Spatafore (Mahopac, N.Y.) all scored two runs apiece. SVC junior Dylan Angelo (Ft. Johnson, N.Y.), a Mountaineer that spends the majority of his time on the hill and hadn't registered a plate appearance since his freshman season, went 1-for-4 with a double, a walk and an RBI while playing left for Southern Vermont.
Braim started off on fire, striking out the Blazer side in order to end the top of the first and bring his offense to the plate. Stacey started things with a single through the left side, and he then came all the way around to score when Mason tagged his first double to right. Braim allowed Elms to load the bases in the top of the second, all with two outs, but he recorded his fourth K of the day to get out of the jam.
The Mountaineers then gave their freshman some run support in the home half of the frame. D'Agnese led off with a double to left, and Sullivan slapped a base hit the other way to put runners at the corners. An Angelo ground out moved Sullivan up, but the runners would then be able to trot around the diamond as Stacey sent his first collegiate home run inside the left field foul pole.
EC got on the board with two in the third, cutting it down to a one-run game. SVC got one back in the bottom of the box after Spatafore walked to start it. He moved up to second on a wild pitch with two outs, and Angelo then came through with a big double shot out to left-center. Angelo moved to third with another wild offering before Stacey walked and stole second to put a pair in scoring position, but Elms got out of it with a called third strike to end the inning.
Braim allowed just a lone walk in the top of the fourth, making way for his team to come back to the plate and give Southern Vermont some distance from EC. A Pingitore walk to lead-off the Mountaineers' turn at bat would come around to hurt as he moved to third before getting knocked in on a grounder to short. Braim then made quick work of the Blazers in the fifth, striking out the leadoff batter before retiring the next two.
The Southern Vermont bats kept rolling in the home half of the fifth as SVC got across the plate three times. Sullivan worked another leadoff walk and then moved up 90 feet on a Stacey single to third. Mason wrapped an ensuing double to left-center, scoring both runners to make it an 8-2 ballgame. Mason then came in from second as Pingitore sent a single back up the middle for the one-out RBI.
Braim got Elms to strand a runner at second in the sixth before he registered his third 1-2-3 inning of the game in the top of the seventh. Stacey came up first in the bottom of the inning, pulling his second dinger of the game over the fence in left to put his team on top 10-2.
The first two Blazer batters in the eighth reached safely, only to see Braim settle in and retired the next three in-a-row to get back in the dugout. The Mountaineers provided him with two more insurance runs in the home half after loading the bases with one out. A wild pitch allowed Spatafore to cross home, and Stacey then grounded out to third for his fifth RBI of the contest.
Braim returned to the hill and retired the side in order for the fourth time, getting the final out to go down swinging for Southern Vermont to live another day.