WNE completes CCC play with 13-1 league record
BEVERLY, Mass. (April 27, 2019) – The Western New England University baseball team clinched the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) regular season championship and hosting rights for the CCC Tournament with a doubleheader sweep of Endicott College on Saturday at North Field.
Western New England 17, Endicott 4 (7 innings)
Western New England erupted offensively in the opener with 17 runs on 18 hits. Senior Brian Valeriano (Stratford, Conn.) sparked the outburst with a 3-for-4 effort, a home run, two walks and four RBI out of the leadoff spot in the batting order, while senior Aaron Rios (Stratford, Conn.) went 4-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored. Senior Joe Cassella (Wallingford, Conn.) added three hits, while senior Alex Loparco (Riverside, Conn.), junior Zac Nussbaum (Bridgewater, Mass.) and sophomore Sebby Grignano (Meriden, Conn.) all finished with two hits and three RBI. Loparco accomplished a career milestone in the victory, becoming the seventh Golden Bear to record 200 hits with his RBI single in the top of the fourth.
Senior lefthander Bob Hamel (Southwick, Mass.) picked up the win (4-1) with a complete game performance, as he stuck out five batters and allowed four runs over seven innings.
Endicott was led by freshman Ryan Prosser (Holden, Mass.), who went 2-for-3 with a double and one RBI, while freshman Christian Allaire (Sandown, N.H.) drove in a pair of runs for the Gulls.
After two scoreless frames, the Golden Bears took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on a two-out, RBI single to right field by Cassella.
The Gulls responded in the bottom half of the inning, as senior Matt Bald (De Pere, Wisc.) drove in Prosser with a two-out RBI single, but Western New England regained the lead with three runs in the top of the fourth on RBI hits by Nussbaum, sophomore Joe Webber (Marshfield, Mass.) and Loparco.
The home team again answered, this time plating three runs to tie the contest for the second time with an RBI double from Prosser and a two-run single off the bat of Allaire.
Western New England took control of the contest with seven runs in the top of the fifth, however. After the first two batters reached base, Rios singled through the left side to give the Golden Bears a 5-4 edge. Nussbaum and Grignano added RBI singles, before Valeriano broke the game open with a grand slam to left center.
Hamel kept the Gulls off the board the rest of the way, and Western New England tacked on six runs in the top of the seventh to extend the final margin to 13.
Western New England 5, Endicott 2
Valeriano led the Western New England offense again in game two, going 3-for-5 at the plate with a triple. Cassella went 2-for-5 with a double, while Rios, Nussbaum and freshman Ben Harrison (Newtown, Conn.) drove in one run each.
Senior righthander Paul Wetmore (Hamden, Conn.) got the start on the mound and improved to 6-1 after striking out six batters and surrendering two runs over five innings.
Endicott junior Brendan McDonald (Quincy, Mass.) accounted for two of the Gulls' five hits, and Allaire went 1-for-3 with a walk and one RBI.
Harrison staked the Golden Bears to a 1-0 lead with a solo home run in the top of the third, and Western New England doubled its advantage the following inning on a two-out, RBI single by Nussbaum.
Endicott, which was held scoreless over the first four frames, broke through with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the contest. Freshman Joseph Millar (Lake Hopatcong, N.J.) led off with a double down the left field line, and Prosser followed with a double to left center before Allaire drove in Millar with a single through the right side. Later in the frame, a passed ball allowed Prosser to score from third with the game-tying run.
The Golden Bears put together a two-out rally to regain the lead in the top of the sixth. Senior outfielder Ben LaCroix (Branford, Conn.) got it started with a single to left center, before advancing all the way to third on an Endicott error. Rios came up next and delivered an RBI single to right field, putting Western New England back in front, 3-2.
In the top of the seventh, the Golden Bears plated a pair of insurance runs to extend their lead to 5-2, which would stand as the final score. Valeriano tripled with two outs and came in to score when Loparco reached on an error, and Loparco then crossed the plate on a wild pitch.
Western New England's bullpen preserved the win with four scoreless frames of relief. Junior Jeff Zebrowski (South Hadley, Mass.) worked the sixth inning, while senior Will Krasovec (Haverhill, Mass.) handled the seventh and eighth before senior Sean Halligan (North Branford, Conn.) shut down the Gulls in the ninth to earn his seventh save of the season.
Both teams will be back in action on Monday, as Western New England (22-11, 13-1 CCC) hits the road to face Babson and Endicott (21-15, 9-5 CCC) travels to UMass Boston.