The WPI baseball team saw its season come to an end Saturday despite a pair of strong pitching performances. The Engineers lost the opening game of the NEWMAC Tournament to top seed and nationally-ranked Wheaton 2-0 before being eliminated by Springfield 3-1 in a contest played at Babson. Senior starters Sean Minor (Sherman Oaks, CA) and Eric Johnson (Rutland, VT) and freshman Taylor Landry (Kennebunk, ME) combined to just allow two earned runs in 16 innings of work.
In the opener, junior Frank Holbrook (Middletown, RI) tossed a complete game shutout to propel the host Lyons at Sidell Stadium.
Senior Dan Haugh (Andover, MA) and junior Sean Ryan (Norton, MA) each recorded an RBI for Wheaton (31-6), who later defeated Babson 3-1 in the winner's bracket final and in the process, secured a berth in next Saturday's championship game.
Ranked No. 5 in this week's D3baseball.com poll, the Lyons scored the only run they would need in their half of the first. Senior Hal Landers (Salem, NH) – who with the at-bat moved past current San Diego Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia (1999-2002) into first-place in program history in that category (656 AB) – led off with a single and moved up 90 feet when junior Eric Jensen (Gorham, NH) was hit by a pitch. Following an error on a botched pickoff attempt which allowed Landers and Jensen to move to second and third, Haugh lifted a sac fly to right field to plate Landers.
Holbrook, meanwhile, was dominant early on, retiring the side in four of the first five innings, tallying five strikeouts along the way. In the sixth, Wheaton manufactured its second run of the afternoon to double its lead. Jensen reached base on a fielder's choice with one down and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Ryan followed with a ground ball to short that he legged out for an infield hit, and Jensen hustled around from second base and beat the throw to the plate.
Holbrook allowing a single to senior John Flynn (Albion, ME) in the seventh and a leadoff bunt single to senior Mitch McClune (Pembroke, MA) in the eighth, but induced inning-ending double plays in both frames to squash the Engineers rally hopes.
WPI threatened again in the ninth, placing runners on first and second with one down but Holbrook responded by recording the final two outs to polish off his complete game.
Holbrook faced three batters over the minimum of 27 and scattered four hits on the afternoon. He walked his only batter of the game in the ninth and finished with six strikeouts to improve to 6-0 on the season. Minor battled through seven innings and gave up seven hits and two runs (one earned) with one walk and five strikeouts. He also hit four Wheaton hitters. Landry tosses a perfect eighth inning for the Crimson and Gray.
Ryan went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .393 while freshman Kevin Foley (Southbury, CT) notched his fifth two-hit game of the season. Gusovsky went 1-for 4 to extend his hitting streak to seven while both Jensen and freshman Apolinar De La Cruz (Providence, RI) saw their hitting streaks snapped at 10 and 19 games, respectively.
In the second game, Springfield College senior Greg Marakovits (Rocky Hill, CT) struck out 12 batters in a complete-game five-hitter to eliminate the Boynton Hillers.
With the win, Springfield (20-14) advances to next Saturday's play at Wheaton, where they will take on third-seeded Babson in a rematch of today's first game. Babson won that contest by a score of 4-3. The winner of that tilt will then meet top-seeded Wheaton in the championship round later that afternoon.
Marakovits (4-2) was brilliant on the mound for the Pride, allowing just one run on five hits, walking three and fanning 12. His only blemish came in the top of the third inning, when WPI senior McClune drew a leadoff walk and later scored the first run of the game on a one-out double to center by Flynn.
That 1-0 lead held up until the bottom of the fifth, when Springfield finally pushed a run across against Johnson. Junior Kyle DiFranco (East Longmeadow, MA) and senior Mike Corletta (Westtown, NY) hit back-to-back singles with one out and, after a fly out to center, first-year Steve Starr (Lebanon, CT) ripped a single up the middle to plate DiFranco and tie the score, 1-1.
The difference in the game proved to be a pair of unearned runs in the home half of the seventh, beginning with an errant throw on a fielder's choice that put runners on the corners with just one out. First-year Shane O'Leary (Kings Park, NY) followed with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-1 in favor of the Pride, and moments later a wild pitch enabled Corletta to Scamper home from third for a 3-1 Springfield advantage.
WPI threatened in the top of the eighth, when a single by Flynn and a walk to Walsh (Windham, NH) put the tying runs on with one down. Second baseman Corletta then made a fantastic play on a groundball to his left with Marakovits covering for the second out of the frame, and the senior right-hander followed with his 11th strikeout of with runners at second and third to get out of the inning unscathed.
The Engineers brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but a double play followed by Marakovits' 12th and final strikeout finished off the 3-1 Springfield victory.
Johnson (3-3) was outstanding in defeat for WPI, surrendering just one earned run on six hits, walking two and striking out four in seven strong innings. Landry again came on and pitched a scoreless eighth for the Engineers, allowing one hit and one walk. The freshman appeared in 20 of WPI's 39 games this season, all in relief.
WPI concludes the 2012 season with a 22-17 record.