Big First Inning Pushes Baseball to NEWMAC Triumph over MIT

Brian Schopka

Worcester,  MA --- Nick Bean (Middleboro, MA) went 3-for-3 with a pair of walks and Brian Schopka (Tinton Falls, NJ) fanned five in the final 2 1/3 innings to lead host WPI past regionally-ranked MIT 9-4 in a game played on Monday afternoon at Assumption's Rochleau Field.

The win extends WPI's winning streak to a season-best four games and puts the hosts (8-10, 4-3) within a game of first place in the NEWMAC.  MIT, ranked second in today's New England Division III coaches poll, slips to 11-4 and moves into a tie with Babson atop the conference standings at 5-2.

MIT had a chance to get on the board in the top of the first after Jonathan Rea (Palo Alto, CA) reached via a hit batsman and James McKinney (Wakefield, RI) singled.  The pair moved up following a groundout but a strikeout ended the inning and the opportunity.

In the bottom of the frame. the homestanding Engineers put up a five spot that began with a Bean single. After a passed ball, the junior came around to score on a single by Mitch McClune (Pembroke, MA) and a throwing error. A hit by Daniel Thomas (Manchester, NH) plated McClune.  Three batters later Thomas scored on an Alex Posch (Hopedale, MA) sacrifice fly before Shane Sampson (Worcester, MA) then put WPI up 5-0 with a two-run double that plated John Flynn (Albion, ME) and Bryan Watkins (Belmont, MA).

The visitors looked for momentum in the fifth as Bryan Macomber (Los Altos, CA) delivered a base hit and Brian Doyle (Hopkinton, MA) singled to third on a bunt. Rea reached on a fielder's choice to place runners on the corners before a grounder to first halted the effort.

WPI added a run in the fifth as Mike Gauvin (Leominster, MA) walked and crossed the plate on a double to right center by Bean.

A wild seventh saw the teams combine for six runs and use a total of six pitchers. MIT scored four of the runs as Sean Fannin (Reynoldsburg, OH) singled to bring in Macomber, who had slapped a double to left center. Fannin touched home plate following a double by Rea, who came around to score on a run-producing-single by McKinney.  The visitors closed the gap to 6-4 on an RBI single by Grant Iwamoto (Aiea, HI) before Schopka entered and stranded the bases loaded with a strikeout.

The Boynton Hillers took back two runs in the bottom half of the inning on a bases loaded walk by Thomas and a Watkins RBI groundout.

The final run came in the bottom of the eight as Sampson crossed the plate after a single, a stolen base, a sacrifice bunt and a McClune hit batsman.

Alex Julian (Sterling, MA) (1-0) earned the win as he allowed three runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings and struck out two. Schopka earned his first career   save by fanning five of eight batters faced.

Torre Swanson (Redding, CA) (2-1) struck out eight over six innings while surrendering six runs on nine hits for MIT. Tim Wilson (Nacogdoches, TX), Cameron Brown (Lakewood, CO), and Brandon Lowe (Brier, WA) also threw for the visitors with Lowe recording a strikeout.

Bean, Thomas and Sampson each registered multiple hits for the host Engineers, while McKinney and Macomber combined for five of MIT's 11 hits.

The teams face each other tomorrow in the middle game of the three-game series at 3:30pm in Cambridge.