NORTON, Mass. – Junior Sean Ryan (Norton, Mass./Norton) went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run to lift the No. 1 seed Wheaton College baseball team past No. 3 Babson 3-1 in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament action Saturday afternoon at Sidell Stadium.
The win lifts the Lyons to 32-6 on the season and puts them one win away from their 12th conference tournament championship. Ranked No. 5 in this week's D3baseball.com poll, Wheaton will face the winner of the elimination contest between No. 2 Springfield and the Beavers (21-16) next Saturday morning at Sidell Stadium (11 a.m.).
Seven's were wild for Wheaton sophomore starting pitcher Alec Palioca (Wrentham, Mass./King Philip) as he scattered seven hits over seven innings to improve to 7-0 on the season. He walked one and fanned five. Sophomore Derek Richards (Framingham, Mass./Framingham) tossed a complete game for the Beavers, allowing six hits and three runs with one strikeout to fall to 3-5.
Wheaton opened the scoring with a pair of runs in its half of the first. Junior Eric Jensen (Gorham, N.H./Gorham) poked a one-out single through the left side, and Ryan followed with his third home run of the season and second in three games over the left field fence.
Babson cut its deficit in half in the fourth on an RBI single by senior Travis Jonasson (Needham, Mass./Catholic Memorial). Juniors Trevor Boyce (Canton, Mass./Catholic Memorial) and Chris Kucher (Westwood, Mass./Xavierian Brothers) put together back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second for Jonasson, who singled through the right side to bring in Boyce. Palioca got the next two Babson hitters to pop to Jensen at SS to end the frame.
In the seventh, the Lyons manufactured an insurance run to extend their lead to 3-1. Junior Dan Gusovsky (Andover, Mass./Andover) opened the inning with his conference-leading 14th double to left center field. Freshman Kevin Foley (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug) moved him to third with a sac bunt, and senior John Keating (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury) plated Gusovsky with a sac fly to shallow centerfield.
Wheaton senior reliever David Longley (Brunswick, Maine/Brunswick) ran into trouble in the eighth as freshman Dillon Gonzalez (Beverly, Mass./St. John's Prep) and Boyce strung together back-to-back singles to open the inning. Longley settled down and induced a pair of infield pop-ups from Kucher and Jonasson before senior Billy Miller (Sagamore Beach, Mass./Boston College H.S.) lined to Jensen at short to end the rally. Sophomore Ryan Grant (Easton, Mass./Oliver Ames) gave up a two-out single in the ninth before junior Pat Matvichuk (Middletown, Mass./Masconomet Regional) tapped out to first to end the game and give Grant his ninth save of the season.
"This was very similar to our first game today. This is playoff baseball with two good teams going at each other with good pitching," said Lyons head coach Eric Podbelski. "We only had three runs, but I feel like we swung the bats really, really well against a kid that stifled us last time. Up and down the lineup, we put a lot of good swings on the ball and hit a lot of balls right at people. I felt like we could have scored more, but he is a tough pitcher and limited the damage. Alec threw really well, too, and we played strong defense. We turned some double plays in key situations and our bullpen guys shut them down."
Ryan was the only Lyon to record multiple hits. Boyce went 3-for-4 for Babson while junior John Botelho (Tempe Ariz./Marcos de Niza) was 2-for-4. Gusovsky's double in the seventh extended his hitting streak to eight games.
With a pair of wins this afternoon, Wheaton improves to 41-7 all-time in the NEWMAC Tournament. The Lyons win over the Beavers gives them a 5-4 edge in the series in playoff meetings between the two programs.
The Lyons return to action Sunday with a 3 p.m. contest at Keene State.