GORHAM, Maine – A pair of solo home runs in the top of the ninth inning would cap off a wild back and forth contest as fourth-seeded baseball (16-21) powered past the third-seeded Owls of Keene State College (18-22) by the final of 12-9 Wednesday afternoon in the first game of the 2013 Little East Conference tournament at the University of Southern Maine Baseball Stadium.
The win moved the Beacons into the winner's bracket, where they will now face second seeded Warriors of Eastern Connecticut State University tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 p.m. For the Owls they will face the top-seeded and host Huskies of Southern Maine in an elimination game for Keene State.
Thursday's win which saw a combined 33 hits respectively marked the first-ever tournament opening game win for UMB over the Owls. It was also the first win for the Beacons over Keene State since the 2010 tournament when the Beacons, who were the fourth seed, cruised to the program's first-ever conference title.
For the Beacons they finished with17 hits, which made-up greatly for their combined four errors. Of the 17 hits, the Beacons recorded two doubles, one triple, and the two jacks one of which came from Jamill Moquette (Boston, Mass.) and the other from Todd Ezold (Westfield, Mass.).
On the hill the Beacons pitching staff also got it done as Lucas Ilges (Gloucester, Mass.), Michael Boughton (New Britain, Conn.), and Patrick Austin (Torrington, Conn.) all did their part to earn the opening win. Boughton recorded the victory, while Austin who has been the number two starter all season recorded his first save of the year after going the final 1.1 innings.
Moquette and Ezold were joined by Nick Brothers (Fort Myers, Fla.) as three of the Beacons top hitters in Wednesday's victory. Each of them ripped three hits in the win, with Brothers who has not played since falling ill early in April finishing 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Moquette was 3-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored, while Ezold was 3-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored.
It would not take long for one of the teams to strike first in Wednesday's contest as the Owls jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom half of the opening frame. Eager to answer back UMB tacked on their first run of the afternoon in the top half of the next inning when Bryan Failla (Torrington, Conn.) hit an RBI single to left center which scored Kurtis White who lead off the inning with a single of his own. The two-run deficit would last only a mere half an inning as Keene State pushed their lead back to three in the bottom of the same inning.
After a scoreless third, UMB had their first big inning of the day scoring three runs to tie at 4-4 as Brothers recorded an RBI single, which scored Patrick Murphy (Stamford, Conn.) at second following his double down the right field line. Brothers would then steal second and with a walk to Moquette the Beacons had runners at first and second. Jose Pena (Boston, Mass.) would drive in both Brothers and Moquette on a huge two RBI triple to right center with two outs on the scoreboard. The Owls did get out of the inning after the triple, but with the score tied at 4-4 the momentum started to swing in the favor of UMB.
However Keene State clawed their way right back and a pair of RBI singles to make it 6-4 through the fourth. They then made it 7-4 after scoring the only run of the fifth inning. Down but most certainly not out UMB came roaring back in the top of the sixth scoring a game-high four runs in the inning. A Moquette single to lead off the inning proved to be the spark UMB needed. Pena would then reach and advanced to second on an error by the right fielder which moved Moquette over to third.
Ezold would then advance both runners on a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 7-5 in favor of the Owls. Senior Matt Consiglio (Southbury, Conn.) would follow suit as he drove in Pena on a sac-fly of his own to deep center field. Back-to-back walks and a double steal would then land runners on second and third with two outs on the board.
Jason Cholish (Exton, Pa.) who stepped in as a pinch hitter would then come-up huge for the Beacons as he cleared the bases on a two RBI single to right center. Looking to tack on a few more runs Brothers ripped another hard hit single to the outfield moving Cholish over to third. Brothers would then go on to steal second, but Keene State managed to get out of the inning before any more damage was done as they recorded the third and final out.
The bottom of the sixth would be perhaps the most dominant of the afternoon for the Beacons bullpen as Boughton retired the side in order to keep all the momentum in UMB's corner. With that quick inning and the bats still smoking hot UMB would tack on two more runs in the seventh to make it 10-7.
Boughton would continue his dominance in the bottom of that same inning as he kept the Owls off the board again. UMB did not manage a run in the top of the eighth which gave Keene the opportunity to close the gap between them and the now red-hot Beacons. The Owls would score two in the bottom of the eighth to make it a one-run game with two outs on the board. That is when the Beacons turned to Austin to put the final nail in the coffin, which he did to keep UMB's lead intact.
Now in the ninth UMB knew that they had to get on the scoreboard to kill any chance of an Owls walk-off in the bottom of the inning. They got those key runs in a big way as both Moquette and Ezold crushed solo shots over the left field wall to push UMB's lead back up to three.
That was all Austin needed as he allowed just two hits in the bottom of the inning, both of which were singles, to earn the save and the victory.
The trio of Beacons pitchers recorded a combined four strikeouts, while only walking one Owl respectively. Keene State did manage 16 hits, with six of the nine runs marked as earned. Keene States pitchers fanned six and walked five. Of the 12 runs allowed, eight were earned. Billy Hartmann had the best overall day at the plate for the Owls going 3-for-4 with two runs scored.
The Beacons will look to go 2-0 in the conference tournament for the first time since 2010 when they take on the Warriors tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Connecticut defeated UMass Dartmouth by the final of 10-9 in the second game.