BEVERLY, Mass. – The fourth-seeded Salve Regina University baseball team defeated second-seeded Endicott twice (10-3, 2-1) on Wednesday evening to capture the 2016 Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) championship at North Field.
With the pair of wins, Salve Regina (26-16-1) has earned the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament, and will represent the CCC later this month after the field is announced this Sunday on NCAA.com.
Endicott (29-15), ranked No. 6 in the NCAA New England Regional Poll, will now await the announcement of a potential at-large bid on Sunday as well.
GAME ONE – Salve Regina 10, Endicott 3
Trailing 2-1 in the top of the third, the Seahawks' offense exploded for nine runs on nine hits and zero errors, and never looked back. Zack Smith (New Canaan, Conn.) highlighted the offensive outburst in the third with a go-ahead two-run double down the left field line, while Ryan Kelly (Waldwick, N.J.) added a two-run single up the middle later in the frame to account for the majority of the scoring. Hunter Sleeper (Arlington, Mass.), Alex Perry (North Attleboro, Mass.), and Tristan Dacey (Wyckoff, N.J.) also drove in solo runs in the big inning for the Seahawks.
Endicott got a run back in the bottom half of the third on a Chris Seidl (Dracut, Mass.) RBI single through the left side of the infield, but Cory Poplawski (Syracuse, N.Y.) blanked the Gulls' offense the rest of the way to force the if necessary game between the two clubs.
Poplawski earned his fourth victory of the season with a complete-game effort (10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) on 118 pitches (89 strikes).
Endicott starter Will Ferreira (Nantucket, Mass.) suffered the loss (4-2) on 2 1/3 innings pitched, six hits, five runs (all earned), one walk, and a strikeout. Eric Nagle (Manchester, Conn.) picked up the bullpen after Ferreira's early exit as the junior reliever only allowed one run (earned) over 4 1/3 innings pitched (second longest appearance this season).
GAME TWO – Salve Regina 2, Endicott 1
In the winner-take-all-game, Salve Regina won its eighth CCC championship in program history behind strong pitching from Billy Humes (East Rockaway, N.Y.) and Dylan Jepsen (Sutton, Mass.).
Humes improved to 5-2 on the year by completing seven innings of work, while yielding four hits, one run (unearned), and three walks to go along with four strikeouts. Jepsen picked up his first save of the season on two shutout innings out of the pen (0 H, 0 BB, 3 K).
Owen Bautze (Sudbury, Mass.) took the loss (3-3) despite throwing a no-hitter through the first five innings of the contest (5 1/3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K). Colby Morris (Newburyport, Mass.) stymied the Seahawks over the remaining 3 2/3 innings of the matchup (1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K), which allowed the Gulls a chance at a comeback attempt.
Deadlocked in a pitchers' duel through the first five innings, Salve Regina finally cracked the scoreboard with two runs in the sixth inning on three hits (no errors). Smith gave the Seahawks a 1-0 lead when he drove home Kelly with a bases loaded RBI single through the left side of the infield, while Dacey plated the second run of the frame on a fielder's choice (1-6).
Endicott went on to cut its deficit in half at 2-1 in the eighth via a sacrifice fly to center field off the bat of Seidl, but Jepsen stranded the tying run at third base with a strikeout swinging to end the threat in the inning.
The Gulls also put the tying run at second base in the ninth, although Jepsen squandered Endicott's scoring threat once again, this time with back-to-back strikeouts to claim the CCC title.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORES
- Salve Regina has now won CCC titles in the following years: 1985, 1991-1994, 2001, 2005, and 2016.
- The Gulls have advanced to the CCC championship round in three out of the last four seasons (2013, 2014, 2016). Endicott captured the 2013 and 2014 CCC titles.
- Despite today's losses, the Gulls hold a 28-26 advantage in the all-time series versus Salve Regina.
- Mike Kochiss (Fairfield, Conn.) went 3-for-8 (one double), combined, in today's games.
FOR THE FOES
- Smith finished today's pair of games at the plate with a 5-for-8 line (one run scored, three RBI).
- Kelly was 3-for-10 with two runs scored and two RBI.
- The Seahawks won five games in the CCC Tournament, including four in a row while facing elimination.