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Golden Bears Rally Past Nichols in CCC Tournament Opener, 6-2

Bob Hamel turned in a complete game performance as Western New England opened the CCC Tournament with a 6-2 win over Nichols on Friday. (Photo by Chris Marion)
Bob Hamel turned in a complete game performance as Western New England opened the CCC Tournament with a 6-2 win over Nichols on Friday. (Photo by Chris Marion)

WNE overcomes late 2-1 deficit with five runs in 8th inning

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (May 3, 2019) – The top-seeded Western New England University baseball team opened the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Tournament with a 6-2, comeback victory over fifth-seeded Nichols College on Friday afternoon at Archie Allen Field on the campus of Springfield College.

When play resumes tomorrow, Nichols (21-19) will take on Salve Regina in an elimination game at Trelease Park, with first pitch scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Western New England (23-12) will face the winner of that contest, needing just one victory to advance to the CCC Tournament championship series.

Top Performers
Senior catcher Brian Valeriano (Stratford, Conn.) went 1-for-4 at the plate and provided the key hit with his two-run double that broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Senior third baseman Aaron Rios (Stratford, Conn.) and senior outfielder Ben LaCroix (Branford, Conn.) both went 2-for-4 and were instrumental in Western New England's eighth-inning rally.

Senior lefthander Bob Hamel (Southwick, Mass.) was impressive on the mound, striking out six batters and allowing just one earned run while scattering nine hits over a complete game performance.

Nichols sophomore Nathaniel Cormier (Sandisfield, Mass.) and junior Kyle Bouchard (Fall River, Mass.) had two hits each for the Bison, while junior pitcher Jack Dicenso (Norfolk, Mass.) surrendered just one unearned run on seven hits over his six innings of work.  

Game Review
Nichols struck first with one run on three hits in the top of the first inning. Senior Joe Assenza (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) led off with a single to left center, before advancing to second on a groundout and coming all the way around to score when Bouchard beat out an infield single with two outs in the frame.

The Golden Bears responded with a sacrifice fly by sophomore Joe Webber (Marshfield, Mass.) in the bottom of the second, but the Bison regained the lead in the top of the fourth with the help of a pair of Western New England errors and a sac fly off the bat of graduate student Chris Anderson (Naugatuck, Conn.).

Western New England was unable to capitalize on a pair of scoring opportunities later in the game, included a bases-loaded situation in the seventh that resulted in an inning-ending double play.

The Golden Bears mounted the game-winning rally in the eighth, however, with five runs on three hits and one error. LaCroix led off with a double to right center, and Rios followed with a clutch RBI single up the middle that tied the contest. Following a Nichols pitching change, the next two batters reached on a walk and a hit by pitch, respectively. Valeriano then came up with one out and the bases loaded and delivered a two-run double down the left field line, putting the Golden Bears ahead for good. Western New England added two more runs to extend the lead to 6-2, and Hamel worked around a leadoff single in the top of the ninth to seal the win.

Notes
• With a career record of 26-4, Hamel is now tied for third place in program history in wins.
• Eight of Western New England's nine starters had a hit in the contest.