NORTON, MA- The top-seeded Wheaton College baseball team advanced to its 11th New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament championship round in the league's 13-year history, as the defending conference champions notched a 4-3 comeback victory over third seed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Friday afternoon at Sidell Stadium.
MIT sophomore Aric Dama (Winfield, IL/Wheaton North) entered the game with an impressive shutout stretch ans a 0.67 earned run average, but the Lyons doubled his earned runs against with three this afternoon. Dama extended his scoreless run to 27.1 innings before Wheaton scored twice with two down in the second. He allowed five hits, fanned four and walked four in 6.1 innings. Junior Torre Swanson (Redding, CA/Foothill) took the loss in relief. Classmate Bryan Macomber (Los Altos, CA/Los Altos) was MIT's lone multiple hitter, going 2-for-3 with a run.
Four of the game's runs transpired in the second, with MIT taking a 2-0 edge on a pair of two-out runs. Senior Ryne Barry (Phoenix, AZ/Thunderbird) singled home the Engineers' first run before eventually scoring an unearned run on a wild pitch, as the Lyons committed an error earlier in the frame. Wheaton responded with a two-out rally of its own in the home half, with Hadi Raad (Hastings-on-Hudson, NY/Hastings) delivering the big blow on a two-strike count, as he dropped a two-bagger just inside the right field chalk. After stranding two runners in the fifth, the visitors retook the lead in the sixth, using a hit batsman and consecutive base knocks to take a 3-2 edge.
The lead proved to be short-lived however, as the Lyons knotted the score in the seventh after leaving a pair of runners in scoring position the previous frame. Raad drew a walk to lead off the seventh, moved to second on junior Hal Landers' (Salem, NH/Salem) sacrifice and scored on senior Eric Laliberte (Nashua, NH/Bishop Guertin) double to right center.
Senior Tad Skelley (Wolfeboro, NH/Holderness School) provided Wheaton with the game-winning hit in the bottom half of the eighth. After sophomore Dan Gusovsky (Andover, MA/Andover) led off with a single and classmate Justin Connor (Arlington, MA/Arlington) walked, Gusovsky moved to third after obstruction was called on a pickoff attempt at second, setting up Skelley's base knock through the right side.
Skelley finished 2-for-4 with a run, Laliberte doubled twice with one RBI, while Raad had one hit with two RBI, a run and a double. Junior Dan Haugh (Andover, MA/Saint John's Prep) went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, while Gusovsky scored twice and had a hit.
Senior Kevin Calabro (Andover, MA/Andover) earned the win in relief of sophomore Frank Holbrook (Middletown, RI/Portsmouth Abbey School), who gave up a pair of earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and one walk over 7.1 innings. Calabro forced a pair of groundouts to end the eighth, while freshman Ryan Grant (Easton, MA/Avon Old Farms School) extended his shutout streak to 15 innings and collected his seventh save of the spring.
Winners of six straight, the Lyons, who are ranked 21st nationally and second in New England, improved to 25-7 and will await tomorrow's victor between MIT and second seed Babson College. Babson and MIT are scheduled to play at Wheaton tomorrow at 12:00 p.m., with the following game slated to begin at 3:30 p.m. Should the Lyons lose on Saturday, the winner-take-all game would take place on Monday at 3:30 p.m. With today's loss, MIT, which is receiving votes in the regional poll, fell to 19-10.