MANSFIELD, Conn. - Trailing 4-2 entering the ninth, the top-seeded Wheaton College baseball team rallied for four runs to stun Trinity (Conn.) College 6-4 and advance to the championship game of the NCAA New England Regional Friday evening at the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball stadium.
With the win, the Lyons (37-8) - who are ranked No. 9 in this week's D3baseball.com poll - improve to 3-0 at the regional and advance to face the winner of No. 3 seed Trinity and either No. 2 seed Saint Josephs's (Me.) or No. 5 Western New England Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. The last time Wheaton advanced to the championship contest with a 3-0 mark in the regional was 2006, when it went to the College World Series. The win was also the second all-time against the Bantams (34-10) and the first in four tries against them in the NCAA Tournament.
Trinity senior Kevin Mortimer (Spencer, Mass.) broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the eighth with a solo home run off senior starting pitcher Nolan Corr (Somersworth, N.H./Saint Thomas Aquinas) to put the Bantams in front 3-2. A pair of errors by the Lyons later in the frame led to an unearned run and sent Trinity to the ninth with a 4-2 lead.
Senior John Keating (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury) drew a leadoff walk to open the ninth for Wheaton, and freshman Tyler Contillo (Montville, Conn./Montville) drove a single to left to put runners on first and second. Following a sac bunt by senior Hal Landers (Salem, N.H./Salem) to move the runners to second and third, junior Eric Jensen (Gorham, N.H./Gorham) reached on a throwing error by the Trinity second baseman, allowing Keating to score from third and make it a 4-3 game.
Junior Sean Ryan (Norton, Mass./Norton) then grounded to third and force a play at the plate, where the Bantams gunned down junior pinch runner Justin Conner (Arlington, Mass./Arlington). Trinity junior relief pitcher Ben Goldberg (Plainview, N.Y.) walked the next hitter, senior Dan Haugh (Andover, Mass./St. Jopseh's Prep), to load the bases, then issued a 3-2 walk to freshman Apolinar De la Cruz (Providence, R.I./Classical) to bring in the tying run. Gusovsky followed with a grounder to second that couldn't be handled, allowing both Ryan and Haugh to score unearned and give the Lyons their first lead of the afternoon at 6-4.
In their half of the ninth, sophomore Ryan Grant (Easton, Mass./Oliver Ames) surrendered a leadoff walk but retired the next three batters to earn his 10th save of the season and second in three days at the regional.
Pitching in his 60th career game - which is No. 5 all-time in program history - senior David Longley (Brunswick, Maine/Brunswick) picked up his third win of the season, allowing no hits and no runs in 0.2 innings of work in relief of Corr. The senior starter surrendered six hits and four runs (two earned) with three walks and two strikeouts in 7.1 innings of work. In the process, Corr moved into sixth-place on the all-time innings pitched list at Wheaton with 199.
Bantams sophomore starter Peter Burrows (Floral Park, N.Y.) surrendered seven hits and four runs (three earned) in 8.1 innings. He walked three and struck out two before giving way to Goldberg in the ninth, who allowed no hits and two unearned runs with two walks to suffer the loss.
Ranked No. 24 in the D3baseball.com poll, Trinity grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the second when junior Stephen Rogers (Watertown, Mass.) laced a one-out triple and scored on an RBI groundout by freshman Adam Moossmann (East Northport, N.Y.). The Bantams doubled their lead in the fourth on a sac fly off the bat of freshman Keith Decker (Simsbury, Conn.). Wheaton tied the game in the fifth on a two-run double inside the third base line by Ryan.
Notes: Wheaton's 37 wins this season ties the 2002 team for second-place in program history ... Landers played in his 172nd career game, which ties him for No. 2 in program history. He also moved into a tie for No. 5 in career sacrifice hits with 18 ... Haugh played in his 171st career game, which is No. 3 all-time at Wheaton ... Ryan moved into second place in program history in single-season at bats (195), followed by Jensen, who climbed into a tie for third-place with 194. Ryan also recorded his 17th double of 2012, which is tied for the fourth-highest single-season mark at Wheaton ... Jensen moved into fourth-place in career assists (421).