MANSFIELD, Conn. - The Wheaton College baseball team suffered its first loss at the 2012 NCAA New England Regional on Saturday, dropping a 6-4 decision to Western New England University at the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball stadium.
Ranked No. 9 in this week's D3baseball.com poll, the top-seeded Lyons (37-9) and No. 5 seed Golden Bears (38-12) will play Sunday afternoon at noon with the winner advancing to the College World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin next week.
Freshman Apolinar De la Cruz (Providence, R.I./Classical) went 2-for-4 for the Lyons, who fell behind 5-0 in the second but rallied for two in the second and two in the fourth to get to within one at 5-4. Freshman Kevin Foley (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug) brought in Wheaton's first run of the afternoon on an RBI groundout, and senior John Keating (Duxbury, Mass./Duxbury) followed with an RBI single to right.
In the fourth, senior Hal Landers (Salem, N.H./Salem) tapped out to first to first to bring in Foley from third to make it 5-3, followed by an RBI single off the bat of junior Eric Jensen (Gorham, N.H./Gorham) to bring Wheaton to within one.
On the hill, sophomore Mike McGinnis (Mashpee, Mass./Mashpee) settled down after a rough second inning and worked his way through five innings, allowing seven hits - five of which came in the second - and five runs with one walk and one strikeout. Junior Corey Laliberte (Fall River, Mass./Durfee) came on in the sixth and tossed two scoreless innings of relief before being touched up for a solo home run in the ninth off the bat of senior Mike Taylor (Andover, Mass.) that made it 6-4.
Junior Kevin Jefferis (Cheshire, Conn.) started for the Golden Bears and surrendered seven hits and four runs in four innings of work. He walked one and struck out two. Lawler entered the game in the fifth and held the Lyons without a hit for the remainder of the game. He fanned three and surrendered one walk - a two-out pass to junior Dan Gusovsky (Andover, Mass./Andover) in the sixth - to improve to 5-2 on the season.
Western New England took a 3-0 lead in the second on RBI singles by juniors Kyle McKelvey (Schenectady, N.Y.) and Matt Anthonis (Guilford, Conn.), and sophomore Steve Ambrosino (Laurel Hollow, N.Y.). Junior Mike Rubino (Northford, Conn.) followed with a two-run single to push the Golden Bears lead to 5-0.
Anthonis and junior Tim Clark (West Springfield, Mass.) each recorded two hits for Western New England.
Notes: A win on Sunday would send the Lyons to the College World Series for the second time in program history. Their only other appearance came back in 2006, when they lost to Marietta 7-2 in the national championship contest in Grant Chute, Wisconsin ... Wheaton suffered its first loss to Western New England in four tries this season (3-1) to fall to 16-7 all-time against the Golden Bears. The Lyons move to 28-21 all-time in the NCAA Tournament ... Wheaton allowed a total of four runs to the Golden Bears in the first three meetings between the programs this season. The Golden Bears surpassed that total with five in the second inning of today's game ... the Lyons are now 6-2 against teams from the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) this season: 3-1 against Western New England, 1-1 against Endicott, and 1-0 against Curry and Roger Williams.