NORTON, Mass. – Behind the arm of junior Frank Holbrook (Middletown, R.I./Portsmouth Abbey) and the bat of classmate Sean Ryan (Norton, Mass/Norton), the No. 9 Wheaton College baseball team won its 12th New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championship and third-straight with an 11-2 win over Babson College Saturday afternoon at Sidell Stadium.
With the win, the Lyons improve to 34-8 and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the third-straight season and 11th time in program history. Ryan finished the tournament batting .571 (8-for-14) with a home run, four RBI, three runs scored, and a pair of stolen bases to earn Most Outstanding Player honors. He went 3-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored in the championship contest.
Holbrook, meanwhile, picked up his second win of the tournament to improve to 7-0 on the season. In two NEWMAC playoff wins, he allowed eight hits and one run with two walks and 10 strikeouts in 16.0 innings for an earned run average (ERA) of 0.56. Holbrook tossed seven innings of four-hit ball this afternoon, allowing only four hits and one run while striking out four.
With the game tied at one entering the bottom of the fifth, the Lyons exploded for two in the fifth and seven in the sixth to blow the game open and grab a 10-1 lead. Ryan led off the fifth with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a fly ball by senior Dan Haugh (Andover, Mass./St. John's Prep), and scored on a single by freshman Apolinar De la Cruz (Providence, R.I./Classical) to give Wheaton a 2-1 lead. Da la Cruz later scored from third base on the third of four wild pitches thrown by Babson sophomore starter Matt Grenier's (Rochester, N.H./Spaulding) on the afternoon to put the Lyons ahead by two.
In the sixth, Ryan's double inside the third base bag scored junior Eric Jensen (Gorham, N.H./Gorham) and extended Wheaton's advantage to 5-1. Haugh and De la Cruz followed with doubles of their own to score two more and bring Wheaton's lead to 6-1. Three batters later, senior John Keating (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury) belted his third home run of the season and the first grand slam of 2012 for the Lyons to put them ahead by nine. De la Cruz capped the scoring with a sac fly in the seventh.
"The story today was about the nine guys in our lineup who didn't get frustrated when things didn't get going early on for us, who kept grinding out at bats and making the pitcher work," said Lyons head coach Eric Podbelski. "Once we got his (Grenier's) pitch count up and had seen him a couple of times, guys started to square up. It's a testament to staying the course, not getting frustrated, and continuing to compete."
De la Cruz finished the day 2-for-5 with three RBI and two runs scored while junior Dan Gusovsky (Andover, Mass./Andover) went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Both Jensen and senior Hal Landers (Salem, N.H./Salem) had two hits, as did Haugh, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. Jonasson and Cleary each recorded an RBI for the Beavers, who finish their 2012 season 22-19.
The game remained scoreless through four before Babson broke through to take a 1-0 lead in the fourth. The Lyons were unable to complete the back-end of a double play on a ball hit by senior Sean Cleary (Milton, Mass./Salisbury School), which allowed classmate Billy Miller (Sagamore Beach, Mass./Boston College H.S.) to come around from third with the game's first run.
Wheaton tied the game in the its half of the fourth on an RBI single by freshman pinch hitter Tyler Contillo (Montville, Conn./Montville). Gusovsky led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and moved to third on a sac bunt by freshman Kevin Foley (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug). Keating was hit by a pitch to load the bases, prompting Podbelski to send Contillo up to hit for Demeo. The freshman responded with an opposite field single to bring in Gusovsky.
"Every time you win a championship with a group of guys who has made that one of their goals at the start of the season, it's special," said Podbelski, who sent on to comment on Ryan's selected as MOP. "Sean Ryan means a great deal to our team. He's a great competitor and a really good player, not unlike a lot of guys on our team. He has had a very good year and worked hard to come back from his injury. It was hard thing for him to go through, but finally being allowed to play was such a big thing for him. I'm just happy that he is able to play baseball again."
Grenier was touched up for 12 hits and five runs over 5.2 innings of work. He threw a total of 123 pitches – including four wild pitches – hit Keating twice, did not walk a batter, and struck out four in just his second loss of the season.
Wheaton begins play in the NCAA Tournament on on Wednesday, May 16 at Eastern Connecticut State in Mansfield, Conn.