NORTON, Mass. – MIT made the race for the regular season New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference baseball title come down to a single game as the Engineers stunned No. 11 Wheaton College on its home field with a doubleheader sweep of the Lyons, taking game one 4-3 in extra innings and game two by a score of 3-2. Sophomore K.J. Parent (Knoxville, Tenn.) hit a game winning home run in the opener and senior Henry Zhu (Overland Park, Kan.) saved both games to lead MIT to the victories.
MIT (20-6, 13-4 NEWMAC) took advantage of three errors by Wheaton (23-10, 13-4 NEWMAC) to score a run in the first in game one, with junior Creed Mangrum (Sandy, Utah) scoring on the third error for an early 1-0 lead.
As MIT did in the first, the Lyons made use of a pair of miscues by the Engineers to score three times in its half of the first. Wheaton loaded the bases without a hit, and with two down Tyler Contillo delivered a two-run single to down the line in left. With runners on first and second, Paul O'Neill followed with a base hit to left and when the throw back in was errant, the Lyons were able to add a third run to their total.
That was all that MIT starter, senior Aric Dama (Winfield, Ill.), needed as he kept Wheaton off the scoreboard for the next six innings. He improved to 6-1 by scattering 10 hits over seven innings while striking out five and walking a pair.
In the third MIT crept to within one when sophomore Parker Tew (Chapel Hill, N.C.) led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice and came around to score on a two-out single by sophomore Hayden Cornwell (Newport Beach, Calif.). The Engineers came back in the next inning to tie things up, getting a leadoff double from freshman Nate Rodman (Corvallis, Ore.) to start things off. He was then sacrificed to third and came in to score when sophomore Karl Sorenson (Blacksburg, Va.) slapped a single through the right side.
Dama and Wheaton starter, Frank Holbrook, hung zeros up on the board over the next three innings to send the game into extra innings. Holbrook retired the first two hitters in the eighth, but Parent parked one over the fence in left, putting MIT back on top. Zhu then came in from the pen and retired the side in order to preserve the win. Holbrook suffered his first loss of the season, giving up nine hits and four runs, three earned, over eight innings as he fell to 7-1.
Wheaton picked up the first score in game two, getting a single run in the first. With one away Eric Jensen was hit by pitch, stole second, and then moved to third on a single by Sean Ryan. He then came in with the run on a groundout to first by Apolinar De La Cruz.
MIT scored all of its runs in the fourth when it batted around to plate three. Cornwell led off with a single, moved up on a sacrifice and then scored on a base hit by Rodman. That brought in Eric Dumas from the bullpen for the Lyons and he gave up a single and a walk to load the bases. Rodman was thrown out a home on a comebacker to the pitcher, but Tew delivered a run-scoring single to left that put MIT on top. A throwing error on senior James McKinney's (Wakefield, R.I.) grounder allowed another run to score to make it 3-1.
Wheaton answered in its half of the inning when De la Cruz led off with a single, moved to second on a base hit by Dan Gusovsky, and then to third on a wild pitch. Tyler Contillo then made it a one-run game with a sac fly to right.
Pitching for both teams was in control the rest of the way. Senior Max Ockner (Chesterfield, Mo.) started for MIT and went 5.1 innings, allowing the two runs on just four hits while striking out two to improve to 4-2. After walking his only hitter with one down in the sixth, junior Rob Bertucci (Belleville, Ill.) came on to get the final two outs of that inning, with Zhu working around an error on the leadoff hitter's grounder to third in the seventh to record his seventh save of the season to set a new MIT record.
Corey Laliberte started for Wheaton in game two, allowing two runs on five hits over 3.1 innings to take the loss, falling to 3-2 on the year.
Cornwell had a combined 5-for-8 day to lead the MIT hitters, driving in one run and scoring another. Parent had three hits for the day for the Engineers. Ryan and O'Neill both had three hits over the two games to lead Wheaton.
Tied for first-place, MIT and Wheaton will battle for the regular season crown in a winner-take-all contest tomorrow. To accommodate an on-campus event at MIT, the game has been moved to Parsons Field at Northeastern University with a start time of 3:30 p.m.