VIDEO: Highlights from Wheaton/Western New England / Top of the ninth & Wheaton celebration / Awards Ceremony / Interview with Wheaton SP Frank Holbrook / Interview with Wheaton head coach Eric Podbelski
MANSFIELD, Conn. - The Wheaton College baseball team advanced to the College World Series for the second time in program history and first since 2006 with a 2-0 win over Western New England University Sunday afternoon at the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball stadium.
Senior Dan Haugh (Andover, Mass./St. John's Prep) and freshman Apolinar De la Cruz (Providence, R.I./Classical) drove in runs in the first inning while junior Frank Holbrook (Middletown, R.I./Portsmouth Abbey) - pitching on three days rest - tossed seven shutout innings to earn his program-record ninth win of the season. He allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out five and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.
The Lyons (38-9) will face Webster University - which won the Central Region - on Friday, May 25 at 11 a.m. EST in Grand Chute, Wis. Earlier this season, the Lyons defeated the Gorloks 1-0 in Auburndale, Florida.
Western New England, who was making its seventh-consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament, finishes its regional run at 38-13. After falling to the Lyons on Thursday evening, the Golden Bears won four-games in a 48-hour period and forced the if-necessary game on Saturday.
The Lyons scored their two runs in the opening frame and never looked back. Senior Hal Landers (Salem, N.H./Salem) and junior Eric Jensen (Gorham, N.H./Gorham) opened the game with back-to-back singles and moved into scoring position on a sac bunt by junior Sean Ryan (Norton, Mass./Norton). Haugh and De la Cruz followed with singles through the left and right side, respectively, to plate the only two runs of the game.
Holbrook took over from there and has surrendered just one run in his last 28 innings of work. The only runner that reached second base was junior Kyle McKelvey (Schenectady, N.Y.) in the eighth inning. Sophomore Ryan Grant (Easton, Mass./Oliver Ames) relived Holbrook in the eighth and recorded the final six outs to tally his 12th stop of the year.
Western New England senior starter Mark DiTommaso (Hebron, Conn.) settled down after a shaky first inning and retired 15 of the next 18 batters from the second through the sixth inning. He stranded a pair of runners in scoring position in the third and fourth frames.
In the bottom eighth, Wheaton loaded the bases with one out on an intentional pass to Haugh, but senior Mike Lawlor (Windsor, Conn.) fanned his next batter and then registered a fly out to end the threat.
In the top of the ninth, the lone batter that reached was junior Tim Clark (West Springfield, Mass.) on an infield miscue with two outs, but he was stranded when Grant induced a ground-out to end the contest.
Holbrook, Palioca, De la Cruz, Jensen, and Landers were each named to the all-tournament team.
Notes: During their only other CWS appearance, the Lyons advanced to the championship game, where they lost to Marietta 7-2 in Grant Chute, Wisconsin ... the Lyons are now 7-2 against teams from the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) this season: 4-1 against Western New England, 1-1 against Endicott, and 1-0 against Curry and Roger Williams ... Haugh played in his 172nd career games, which moves him into a third-place in program history with Jake Yagjian (2005-08) ... with a pair of hits on Sunday, Landers moved into No. 2 all-time at Wheaton with 242 career hits ... De la Cruz now has 46 RBI this season, which is tied for No. 10 on Wheaton's single-season list with Alan Beausoleil (2001) ... Jensen moved into sixth-place in steals (48) in program history with a third inning steal of second base. His 152 putouts this season is No. 2 on Wheaton's single-season list ... Holbrook now has 16 career wins, which gives him sole possession of No. 8 all-time at Wheaton. He has thrown 75.2 innings this season, which is tied for the third-highest single-season mark in program history ... Grant's three saves this week pushed his season total to 12, which is No. 2 in program history.