WEST HAVEN, Conn. – Two unearned runs in the third inning staked Merrimack College to an early lead and the Warriors went on to register a 3-2 win over Bentley University in an elimination game in the Northeast-10 Conference Baseball Championships Friday morning at the University of New Haven's Frank Vieira Field.
Bentley, which stranded 10 base runners and was just one of 11 with runners on base, finished its season at 27-22 overall. Merrimack improved to 28-18 and will advance to play another elimination game later this afternoon.
Merrimack, after being retired in order in the first two innings, scored two unearned runs in the top of the third. After senior second baseman Alan Pastyrnak, Jr. (Bristol, Conn.) reached on an error and moved to third on a sacrifice and ground out, senior left fielder Casey Cotter (North Hampton, N.H.), the NE-10 Player of the Year, drew a four-pitch walk and stole second to put two runners in scoring position. Freshman shortstop Mike Forgione (North Branford, Conn.) hit a slow grounder to short for an infield single, scoring Pastyrnak. When the ball wasn't fielded cleanly, Cotter raced in from second with the second run.
Bentley got one run back in the bottom half of the third. Junior left fielder Dante Padovani (Lynnfield, Mass./Lynnfield HS) reached third on a single off the third-base bag, a hit batter and a sacrifice, and scored on a sacrifice fly by senior second baseman Logan Gillis (Merrimack, N.H./ Lawrence Academy).
The bottom third of the Merrimack lineup strung together three straight hits in the top of the seventh, with Pastyrnak scoring on a single to left by freshman catcher Pat Florence (Lowell, Mass.) to make it a 3-1 game.
The Falcons again made it a one-run game a half-inning later. A bases-loaded sac fly by senior catcher Kevin Korwek (Madison, Conn./Daniel Hand HS) brought in junior center fielder Sean Keady (Norwood, Mass./Norwood HS) but after reloading the bases, the Falcons squandered a chance to at least tie the game with Merrimack closer Joe Mantoni (Northbridge, Mass.) got an inning-ending strikeout.
Merrimack threatened to add to its lead in the ninth, loading the bases with two outs, but senior right-hander Lamarre Rey (Lynn, Mass./Pingree School) got Cotter to fly to center for the final out.
In the bottom of the ninth, Mantoni retired the Falcons in order, on a pop up, strike out and ground out, to lock up his seventh save. He retired all seven batters he faced while preserving the win for sophomore righty Joe Carnevale (East Providence, R.I.). He allowed four hits and struck out five in six innings of work.
Senior righty Jeff Croteau (Auburn, Mass./Auburn HS) took the loss for Bentley, dropping his record to 7-5 on the year. In eight-plus innings, he allowed seven hits and one earned run with two strikeouts and one walk. He finished his season one win shy of the school single season record and with a 1.95 ERA.
Keady was the only Bentley player with more than one hit, finishing with two along with two steals, pushing his school record total to 37.
It was the final career game for Croteau, Rey, Gillis and Korwek, and the Falcons will also lose starting pitchers JP Ashline (Clinton, Mass./Acton-Boxboro Reg. HS) and John Yohe (Merrick, N.Y./ St. Dominic HS) to graduation.