NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Junior right-hander JP Ashline (Clinton/Acton-Boxboro Reg. HS) went the distance for his sixth win of the season as Bentley University held off Merrimack College, 4-3, in Northeast-10 Conference Northeast Division baseball Wednesday afternoon at Warrior Diamond.
Bentley, ranked fifth in the NCAA Division II East Region, strengthened its hold on third place in the Northeast Division standings, improving to 11-7 in the Division, 26-12 in East Region games and 26-21 overall. Only once in the program's 44-year history have the Falcons won more games in a season.
Ashline was staked to a 2-0 lead before taking the mound in the first and the Falcons remained in front the entire way despite Merrimack (17-29, 4-14 NE-10 NE) cutting the Bentley lead from two to one three different times.
In the first, freshman center fielder Mike Muir (Bridgewater/Xaverian Bros. HS) drew a one-out walk and scored on a double to left by junior second baseman Logan Gillis (Merrimack, N.H./Lawrence Academy). After another walk and a steal of third by Gillis, an infield single by senior DH Greg Baggett (East Bridgewater/East Bridgewater HS) plated Gillis to make it a 2-0 game.
An RBI double by freshman catcher Joe Burnham (Woburn) in the bottom of the second cut the lead in half, but Ashline escaped further trouble, leaving runners the corners.
Bentley got the run back in the fifth. Sophomore shortstop Will Brennan (Locust Valley, N.Y./ Locust Valley HS) led off with a single through the right side, moved up 90 feet on a sacrifice bunt, reached third on a single by sophomore left fielder Sean Keady (Norwood/Norwood HS) and scored on a wild pitch.
Merrimack responded an inning later with junior center fielder Mark O'Flynn (Ipswich) doubling down the right field line to score senior first baseman Tim Curran (Weymouth).
The Falcons, who made it eight wins in their last ten games, restored the lead to two runs with a two-out rally in their next at bat. Keady doubled and scored on Muir's single to left center.
It was the Warriors' turn to score in the eighth, with Curran scoring on O'Flynn's bases-loaded grounder to first. Ashline stranded the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position when he got junior second baseman Alan Pastyrnak (Bristol, Conn.) to strike out looking to end the inning.
Merrimack, which out-hit the Falcons 10-8, got two of those singles in the ninth, but Ashline again escaped, with Curran grounding out to second for the final out.
Ashline, who improved to 6-2 with his third straight win, walked two and struck out four. He stranded six runners in scoring position.
Brennan had three of the Falcons' eight hits, boosting his team-best average to .347. Keady, 2-of-5, was the only other Bentley player with more than one.
Bentley completes the regular season this weekend at DeFelice Field with a three-game series against UMass-Lowell. The two clubs will play two on Saturday, beginning at noon, and will meet again Sunday at 1 pm.