WEST HAVEN, Conn. – Two throwing errors with two out in the bottom of the 11th inning resulted in a stunning 4-3 loss to the University of New Haven for the Bentley University Falcons Thursday afternoon in a rain-delayed contest in the 2013 Northeast-10 Conference Baseball Championships at Frank Vieira Field.
Bentley, the second seed out of the Northeast Division, and Merrimack College, the fourth seed from the Northeast, will square off in an elimination game Friday morning at 10 am. Meanwhile, top seeded New Haven and third-seeded Le Moyne College will play at 12:30 Friday in a winners' bracket game of the double-elimination tournament.
The disappointing loss spoiled a remarkable performance from Bentley senior right-hander JP Ashline (Clinton, Mass./Acton-Boxboro Reg. HS), who pitched all 11 innings in a game that included a weather delay of two hours and five minutes after the fifth inning. His final pitch of the afternoon came more than four-and-a-half hours after his first of the outing.
After Ashline retired the first two batters of the bottom of the 11th, junior third baseman Nate Witkowski (Melrose, Mass./Malden Catholic HS) threw the ball wild after fielding a grounder off the bat of junior third baseman Brendon Buckley (Monroe, Conn.), with Buckley advancing to second on the play.
That brought UNH leadoff hitter Stephen Clout (Bristol, Conn.) to the plate and the senior right fielder hit a slow grounder to short. The throw from junior shortstop Will Brennan (Locust Valley, N.Y./ Locust Valley HS) was off the mark, and Buckley was able to rush home from second with the winning run.
New Haven (31-13) never had the lead in the game before that point, but had battled back to tie the contest three times after the Falcons took one-run leads in the first, second and fifth.
Bentley junior center fielder Sean Keady (Norwood, Mass./Norwood HS) led off the game with a nine-pitch walk, and freshman first baseman Evan Mondor (Rehoboth, Mass./Dighton-Rehoboth Reg. HS) followed with a double to the left field corner. One out later, senior catcher Kevin Korwek (Madison, Conn./Daniel Hand HS) opposite-fielded the ball to right for an RBI single, with Keady scoring his 41st run of the year.
New Haven matched in the first on a two-out RBI single by junior left fielder Kyle Cullen (Dumont, N.J.), the Chargers' third hit of the opening inning.
Bentley came right back in the second. Freshman DH Bryan Rocha (Rehoboth, Mass./Dighton-Rehoboth Reg. HS) reached on a bunt single to start the inning, stole second and scored on Keady's single to left center.
The 2-1 lead held up until the bottom of the third when Clout walked, took second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a single by sophomore center fielder Brendan O'Reilly (Devon, Pa.) and scored when the two successfully executed a double steal.
Bentley regained the advantage in the fifth. Keady got it started with a lead-off walk, advanced on a sacrifice and a ground out and scored on a Brennan single to the shortstop hole.
After the bottom of the fifth, lightning and rain forced a lengthy delay to a game that started 20 minutes late due to weather.
The Falcons, who didn't have a base runner off a pair of New Haven pitchers after play resumed, maintained the 3-2 lead until the eighth. Senior second baseman Joe Romanelli (Baldwin, N.Y.) was hit by a pitch and junior DH Chris DeMorais (West Hartford, Conn.) followed with a double, putting two in scoring position.
Ashline, now 6-3 on the year, struck out the next batter, but the ball got away, about 12 feet from the plate. Romanelli tried to score from third, but Korwek was able to track it down and throw to a covering Ashline for the second out. But the Chargers were able to score the tying run a batter later on a single up the middle by senior second baseman Andrew Johnson (Branford, Conn.).
Senior closer Peter Jay (Shelton, Conn.), who entered the game with a microscopic 0.33 ERA, earned the win for New Haven after three perfect innings with five strikeouts. That was in relief of senior righty Frank Vilacha (Dartmouth, Mass.), who also retired nine straight Falcons.
Not enough can be said about the effort of Ashline, who finished with seven hits allowed, four walks and eight strikeouts in a career-high 10.2 innings. It was almost two separate games for him as he threw 80 pitches before the two-hour break and 97 after play resumed.
Bentley matched New Haven in the hit department, all by different players. The Falcons stranded the bases loaded in both the first and fifth innings.
Merrimack was blanked by Le Moyne, 8-0, in the other Thursday game with the Warriors limited to five hits by Kevin Carroll.
Bentley and Merrimack played three times this season with the Warriors winning two (6-1 on Apr. 2 and 4-3 on Apr. 30) and the Falcons once (5-1 Apr. 16).