MANCHESTER, N.H. – Andy Lalli's (Lakeville, Mass.) fifth inning grand slam and eight strong innings on the mound from Zach LeBarron (Bennington, Vt.) led Southern New Hampshire University to a 6-3 win over Wilmington (Del.) University in an elimination game in the 2012 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship East Regional at Penmen Field Saturday. The Penmen improved to 40-13 with the win and will face the regional's lone unbeaten, Franklin Pierce University, at 7:00 Saturday evening, while the Wildcats see their season come to a close at 33-18.
With a win Saturday night, SNHU would find itself in a one-game, winner take-all contest for the East Region title and a berth in the Division II College World Series that kicks off May 26 in Cary, N.C. at 4:00 Sunday.
LeBarron scattered seven hits in his eight innings of work, allowing just one run and striking out seven without issuing a walk.
The game remained scoreless until the fifth when Southern New Hampshire plated five runs. The Penmen loaded the bases on a leadoff walk by Bryan Toland (Wildwood, N.J.) and back-to-back batters, Riley Palmer (Goffstown, N.H.) and Brendan O'Brien (East Bridgewater, Mass.) reaching on errors on sacrifice attempts. Kevin Spatkowski (Bristol, Conn.) followed that with an RBI single to center that scored Toland. After a Matt Boulter (Wrentham, Mass.) flyout, Lalli homered to left center for the grand slam and his fourth home run on the season.
The Penmen tacked on a run in the sixth as Jamie Wollerman (Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.) and Toland were hit by pitches to start the frame. Wollerman scored when Palmer reached on a throwing error by Wildcat pitcher Tim Racek on his sacrifice attempt. Toland was gunned down at the plate by Wilmington right fielder Jordan Oncay.
Wilmington got on the board in the eighth when Joe Harbach's single brought in Jordan Johnson. In the ninth, the Wildcats scored twice. Johnson's bloop single inside the left field line plated pinch runner Brandon Payne for the first run. Jonathan Rodriguez followed that up with a single up the middle to load the bases with one away and prompted Southern New Hampshire to bring in closer Alex Powers (Brewster, Mass.)
Powers got BJ Janney to strike out before Joe Harbach worked a walk to make a 6-3 ballgame. Mike Godwin ended the game when he popped out to SNHU first baseman Alejandro Diaz (Old Bridge, N.J.), who had entered in the ninth as a defensive replacement for Palmer. Powers picked up his seventh save of the season.
Justin DeLong took the loss for Wilmington, allowing four hits and five unearned runs while fanning two. Racek and Ray Gambone combined for 3.2 innings of one-hit relief for the Wildcats, striking out six. The Wildcats outhit the Penmen 10-5.
Franklin Pierce holds a 2-1 advantage in the season series with Southern New Hampshire, however, all three have been one-run contests.