WALTHAM, Mass. – Junior first baseman Lamarre Rey (Lynn/Pingree School) lined a walk-off single to left to cap a two-run ninth inning and give Bentley University a sweep of both Saturday's Northeast-10 Conference Northeast Division doubleheader with nationally-ranked Southern New Hampshire, 3-1 and 3-2, and the three-game weekend series with the region's top-ranked club.
The three wins at DeFelice Field boosted the Falcons to 22-19 overall, 7-6 in the Northeast Division and an impressive 22-11 against NCAA Division II East Region opposition. Southern New Hampshire, ranked sixth in Division II by the NCBWA and 12th by Collegiate Baseball, dropped to 33-9 overall and 9-6 in the Northeast.
The game one victory featured a masterful 13-strikeout effort by right-handed grad student Rob Finneran (Garden City, N.Y./Garden City HS) and some timing hitting in the seventh and eighth innings after Finneran and Bentley had trailed 1-0 most of the way.
Bentley went into the ninth inning of the nightcap down 2-1 and facing Penmen relief ace Alex Powers (Brewster), who had a microscopic 0.47 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 19 innings coming in to the day. He had quieted the Falcons in the eighth inning with back-to-back strikeouts after entering the game with runners on the corners.
Senior designated hitter Kevin Korwek (Madison, Conn./Daniel Hand HS) led off the bottom of the ninth with a ground ball to first that was mishandled for an error. Senior catcher Greg Baggett (East Bridgewater/East Bridgewater HS) lined a double into the right-center field gap, scoring Korwek with the tying run. An error was made on the relay throw, allowing Baggett to reach third with no outs in the inning.
Right fielder Bryant Johnson (Hopedale/Milford HS) was hit by a pitch, putting runners on the corners, and Rey lined a rope to left, sending in Baggett from third with the winning run.
Bentley, which had been blanked through five innings, got on the scoreboard in the sixth with a single run cutting the SNHU lead to 2-1. Sophomore left fielder Sean Keady (Norwood/Norwood HS) beat out an infield single and took second on a throwing error. A grounder to second off the bat of freshman center fielder Mike Muir (Norwood/Norwood HS) advanced Keady 90 feet to third and he scored on a single to right by junior second baseman Logan Gillis (Merrimack, N.H./Lawrence Academy).
Junior righty Jeff Croteau (Auburn/Auburn HS) went the distance for his fifth win in seven decisions. He scattered five hits, walked three, struck out five and retired 16 of the final 18 batters he faced. Keady was the only Falcon with more than one hit as he had two of the team's eight.
In game one, Southern New Hampshire picked up a run in the top of the first. Sophomore center fielder Brendan O'Brien (East Bridgewater) singled to open the contest, stole second, moved to third on a grounder to second and scored when the ball was mishandled.
It stayed a 1-0 pitching duel between Finneran and SNHU junior righty Jon Massad (Shrewsbury) into the seventh. Gillis hit a one-out double to the left field corner, and after a ground out and an intentional walk to Baggett, scored the equalizer on Johnson's single to left. That ball was misplayed, allowing Baggett to score the go-ahead run.
Bentley picked up some insurance in the eighth on a two-out double by Keady and a RBI triple to right center by Muir.
Finneran, Bentley's all-time leader in ERA, winning percentage and strikeouts, didn't need the insurance as he was virtually untouchable after giving up the run in the first. His 13 strikeouts were the most by a Falcon in 11 years, and he finished with a three-hitter. He retired 26 of the final 28 batters he faced, including 18 in a row from the first to the seventh, to win for the sixth time this spring.
Bentley pitching, in the three-game sweep, gave up only 15 hits, and the defense made just four errors. On the other hand, the Penmen made nine errors, with eight of the 12 Falcon runs unearned.
Bentley continues its six-game homestand with a non-conference game with Rollins College Tuesday at 1 pm.