WORCESTER, Mass. - The Wheaton College baseball team fended off a pesky Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) team by a 10-7 count on Friday afternoon in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) action at College of the Holy Cross' Fitton Field, as the Lyons remain alive in their quest for a share of the regular season title.
Wheaton, which is receiving votes in this week's D3baseball.com national poll and ranked sixth in the region by the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA), is now 20-7 overall and 11-5 in league play, which ties Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for second place. Babson College is tops in the league at 13-5. The Lyons need to sweep WPI tomorrow and have MIT lose once to Clark University to earn the top seed in next week's NEWMAC Tournament. WPI fell to 11-19 and 7-9.
Sophomore Eric Jensen (Gorham, N.H./Gorham) was 4-for-5 with four RBI and a grand slam for the visitors, while senior Tad Skelley (Wolfeboro, N.H./Holderness School) went 3-for-5 with a career-best three doubles and two runs. Classmate Sean Munley (Ewing, N.J./The Hun School of Princeton) batted 3-for-4, sophomore Dan Gusovsky (Andover, Mass./Andover) was 2-for-3 with two RBI, while senior Hadi Raad (Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y./Hastings) and junior Hal Landers (Salem, N.H./Salem) had two hits each.
Junior hurler Nolan Corr (Somersworth, N.H./Saint Thomas Aquinas) picked up his fifth straight win despite giving up six runs with four strikeouts and three walks in five-plus innings. Classmate David Longley (Brunswick, Maine/Brunswick) tossed 1.1 shutout frames, while freshman Ryan Grant (Easton, Mass./Avon Old Farms School) earned his sixth save after recording a 1-2-3 ninth.
WPI junior Nick Bean (Middleboro, Mass./Middleboro) went 2-for-4 with four RBI, freshman Matt Blakeman (Bedford, N.H./Bishop Guertin) was 2-for-4 with two RBI, and senior Bryan Watkins (Belmont, Mass./Belmont) added two hits. Senior Kyle Boucher (Manchester, N.H./Calvary Christian) took the loss in relief, allowing six runs on seven hits with one strikeout and one walk in three innings.
Wheaton took a 2-0 lead after one before the Engineers responded with three runs in the second. A Gusovsky sacrifice fly in the third knotted the score, but Bean's RBI single the following inning put WPI back in front by one. The Lyons answered with five runs on four hits in the sixth to take an 8-4 advantage, as Skelley doubled and was sacrificed over to third before back-to-back hit batsmen loaded the bags for Jensen, who sent his blast to left field. Gusovsky's double provided Wheaton with its eighth run.
The Engineers refused to go away, as Bean's two-out triple down the left field line cleared the bases and pulled WPI within one. A Landers two-out triple in the seventh gave the Lyons a bit of breathing room before Raad's ninth-inning single made the score 10-7. Grant took care of the rest in the home half of the ninth, fanning his first batter, inducing an infield liner and forcing a groundout to short.
Wheaton hosts WPI in a doubleheader tomorrow afternoon, as the teams square off in the league's regular season finale beginning at 12:00 p.m.