Springfield, MA --- David Larson (Port Tobacco, MD) and Dominic Fusco (North Haven, CT) teamed up to allow just one run in 18 innings on the mound and Benjamin Chaffee (Franklin, MA) drove in the winning run by getting hit by pitch with the bases loaded in the top of the 18th as WPI won the NEWMAC West Division title with a marathon 2-1 victory over host Springfield in the first game of a NEWMAC baseball doubleheader on Saturday afternoon.
Extra innings was the theme of the day as Springfield used an RBI fielder's choice from Eduardo Martinez (Southwick, MA) to win the nightcap 6-5 in 11 innings.
With the split, WPI is 22-14 on the season while Springfield moves to 20-16. Both teams finish conference play with identical 8-9 records with WPI, who also won last Friday 14-4, taking the West division crown by virtue of the series victory. The Engineers are the second seed in the in the upcoming NEWMAC Tournament and would have not made the tournament had they been swept on Saturday as Clark had swept Coast Guard earlier in the day.
Runs were at a premium in game one. Springfield dented the scoreboard for only time in the fourth inning when Noah Bleakley (Granby, MA) smacked a one-out triple to right center and scored on Jack Simonetty's (Wappingers Falls, NY) RBI single to right. The Crimson and Gray leveled the score in the sixth after Martin McCormack (Quincy, MA) alertly sprinted home from third on a pick off play at first base.
From that point forward, each team only had a runner reach third base once until the 18th inning - Springfield in the bottom of the 12th and WPI in the top of the 14th. WPI finally broke the deadlock in the top of the 18th as singles by Steven Gallagher (Coventry, RI) and Josh Herlands (Glastonbury, CT) were sandwiched around a walk to Matt Howard (Worcester, MA) before Chaffee was hit by a pitch.
Springfield tried to rally in its end of the 18th as Martinez led off with a single and moved to second a sacrifice bunt and to third on a grounder but Fusco got a strikeout to clinch the win, the division and the number two seed in the NEWMAC Tournament.
Larson went the first 10 innings, fanning seven, while Fusco (3-1) was the winning pitcher, punching out eight. The closer went eight innings after pitching just 13 innings over the first 33 games of the season. Brian Johnson (East Haddam, CT) threw the first 11 innings for the Pride yielding just five hits and striking out five while Cole Donovan (Holderness, NH) threw six scoreless innings out of the bullpen for Springfield. Kenny Walton (New Providence, PA) (0-2) was tagged with the loss for SC.
Brandon Russo (Lisbon, CT) led all players in game one with four hits for the hosts. Bleakley and WPI's Jordan DeDonato (Danvers, MA) each had three hits in the opener.
Gallagher doubled in a run and Herlands used a sacrifice fly to give WPI the 2-0 lead after half an inning in the nightcap. Sprignfield's Matt Fraioli (Stamford, CT) drew a bases loaded walk in the fourth to cut the Pride deficit in half.
Sophomore TJ DellaCroce (Waxhaw, NC) pushed the Engineers lead to 4-1 with a two-run double to center in the top of the sixth; however, Springfield answered with a sac fly by Nick Fazio (Kings Park, NY) and an RBI single by Russo. Bleakley evened the game with a run-producing single in the seventh.
Larson and Russo traded RBI knocks in the 10th before Springfield ended it in the 11th.
Ben Arnold (Deerfield, MA) picked up the win for SC by pitching a scoreless 11th inning. Shawn Babineau (Ashland, MA) went the first 10 innings, giving the Pride a pair of starters to reach double digits in innings. Kyle Foley (Watertown, MA) threw six solid innings for WPI. Doug Rives (Bethany, CT), Nick Colucci (Lynnfield, MA) and Kyle Wood (Hauppauge, NY) all saw action in relief for the visitors with Wood shouldering the loss.
Gallagher, Larson and Bleakley all had three hits in game two.
Both teams with participate in next week's NEWMAC Tournament. Fifth-seeded Springfield will head to fourth-seeded MIT for a single elimination quarterfinal round contest at 3:30pm Thursday. Second-seeded WPI will host nationally-ranked third-seeded Babson Friday in the double elimination four-team portion of the tournament. First pitch is slated for 3:30pm at the New England Baseball Complex.