WALTHAM, Mass. – Merrimack College's first two batters of the game reached and scored, and the Warriors held on to cool off Bentley University, 4-3, in Northeast-10 Conference baseball Tuesday afternoon at DeFelice Field.
The loss was just the second in the last 13 games for the Falcons and kept Bentley's magic number for clinching the NE-10 Northeast Division title at two, with three games at UMass-Lowell left in the regular season.
Bentley (26-17, 18-9 NE-10, 13-5 division) outhit the visiting Warriors 11-7, with senior catcher Kevin Korwek (Madison, Conn./Daniel Hand HS) having three to extend his consecutive game hitting streak to 26.
The Falcons rank second nationally in Division II in fewest walks per game, but it was a base on balls that started the game, and another one that led to Merrimack's all-important fourth run.
Senior left fielder Casey Cotter (North Hampton, N.H.), the conference's only .400 hitter, led off the game for Merrimack with a walk and moved to third when freshman first baseman Frank Crinella (Springfield). Both scored on a one-out single through a drawn-in infield by Warrior senior DH Joe Mantoni (Northbridge).
It stayed a 2-0 game until the sixth when an RBI single by Merrimack junior third baseman Eddie Newton (North Billerica) pushed the Bentley deficit to three runs.
Bentley got one back in the bottom of the sixth. Freshman first baseman Evan Mondor (Rehoboth/Dighton-Rehoboth Reg. HS) singled to left, advanced 90 feet on a ground out and scored from second on Korwek's second hit of the afternoon.
In the seventh, junior right fielder Tom Nagy (Fairfield, Conn./ Ludlowe HS) doubled and junior left fielder Dante Padovani (Lynnfield/Lynnfield HS) singled to put runners on the corners with two out. A double to left center Sean Keady (Norwood/Norwood HS) easily scored Nagy, but Padovani was thrown out at the plate to end the inning and keep Merrimack in front.
The Warriors (24-16, 15-11 NE-10 and 10-8 division) added an unearned insurance run in the eighth, one that would prove to be very important an inning later. Cotter walked, was safe at second on a throwing error following a grounder to third, took third on a single by senior right fielder Mark O'Flynn (Ipswich) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mantoni.
With his team down 4-2 with one out in the ninth, Bentley freshman DH Bryan Rocha (Rehoboth/Dighton-Rehoboth Reg. HS) doubled to left and scored on Padovani's single up the middle. Padovani took a wide turn around first when the throw went to the plate and couldn't get back to the base in time before the catcher fired the ball to first, making it two outs and nobody on as opposed to one out and one on.
Senior righty Beau Batchelor (Peabody) got the next batter on a grounder to second for the final out to save the game for sophomore righty Tim Cashman (Rowley), who beat the Falcons for the second time this month. He struck out five over seven innings and didn't walk a batter. Senior righty Lamarre Rey (Lynn/Pingree School) took the loss for the Falcons and he uncharacteristically walked five while fanning three.
Bentley, ranked seventh in last week's NCAA East Regional rankings, will close out the regular season with a three-game set at UMass-Lowell. The two teams will play at 7 pm both Thursday and Saturday at LeLacheur Park and will finish up at 3 on Sunday.