MANCHESTER, N.H. – Alex Powers (Brewster, Mass.) (pictured left) hurled 3.1 innings of scoreless relief and a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the sixth proved to be the difference as top-seeded Southern New Hampshire University earned its first-ever NCAA Division II East Region baseball championship with a 4-3 win over second-seeded Le Moyne College in Sunday afternoon's championship game at Penmen Field. With the win, the Penmen improve to 42-13 and advance to the Division II College World Series in Cary, N.C. at the USA Baseball Training Complex, while the Dolphins, in their first season playing at the Division II level after reclassifying in baseball from Division I, see their season come to a close at 43-15-1.
SNHU will face Minnesota State-Mankato (48-10), the champions of the Central Region, in the first round of the eight-team double-elimination tournament on Saturday, May 26 at 5:00 pm.
Powers, who entered the game in the top of the sixth with a man on second and two out, did not allow a hit in his effort out of the bullpen and struck out five while issuing a leadoff walk in the top of the ninth to Paul Speicher. Speicher moved to second on a sac bunt by Matthew Ciraco and over to third on a groundout by Kyle Kalaska, but after a tough at-bat by Vincent Redmond in which he fouled off several pitches, Powers got Redmond to ground to short and end the ballgame.
Southern New Hampshire scraped what turned out to be the winning run in the bottom of the sixth against Dolphin reliever Mark Kuzma, who came in after starter Ed Kohout worked the first five innings. Jamie Wollerman (Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.) led off with a single to left, followed by Riley Palmer (Goffstown, N.H.), who reached on a throwing error on his sacrifice attempt. Bryan Toland (Wildwood, N.J.) moved the pair over with his sac bunt before Kuzma loaded the bases by hitting Brendan O'Brien (East Bridgewater, Mass.). Kevin Spatkowski (Bristol, Conn.) then worked a walk to bring in Wollerman and knock Kuzma from the game. Kevin Carroll came in and got Le Moyne out of further trouble by inducing a 5-2-3 double play.
Le Moyne took a 1-0 lead in the first when Brett Botsford led off the game with a single and eventually scored on a sac fly to center by Ryan Mahoney. Southern New Hampshire tied the game in the second with two outs on a Palmer triple deep to the gap in right-center that brought home Jon Minucci (Madison, Conn.), who led off the inning with a hot-shot single to short.
Botsford and Zach Wiley gave Le Moyne a 2-1 lead in the third with back-to-back doubles to lead off the inning, but the hosts tied the game in the fourth as Minucci and Greg Pezzuto (Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.) registered back-to-back singles to lead off. After moving over on a Wollerman sac bunt, Minucci scored on a wild pitch with Toland at the plate and two outs.
Le Moyne again reclaimed the lead in the fifth as a sac fly by Matt Marra brought in Botsford, who had singled with one out and moved to third on a single to right by Wiley. Southern New Hampshire loaded the bases with one out in the fifth when Minucci sent a ball to center that looked to have a chance for the second Penmen grand slam of the tournament, but was hauled in on the track to bring in Spatkowski.
Consensus East Region Pitcher of the Year Tim Flight (Portsmouth, R.I.), working on two days rest after throwing eight shutout innings in Thursday's tournament opener against Dowling, started and went three innings, recording a pair of strikeouts and allowing five hits and two runs. Jon Massad (Shrewsbury, Mass.) went the next 2.2 innings and allowed two hits and one run with three strikeouts before giving way to Powers, who upped his record to 5-1.
Kohout, who started and tossed five innings in Friday's 17-4 Dolphin rout of Dowling, scattered six hits and allowed three runs in his five innings while notching a pair of strikeouts. Kuzma was tagged with the loss, while Carroll, Le Moyne's closer, did not allow a hit in his 2.2 innings out of the bullpen, striking out three.
Spatkowski was named the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament, while Flight, O'Brien and Andy Lalli (Lakeville, Mass.) were all named to the All-Tournament Team along with Spatkowski. Speicher, Wiley and Pat Weise were named to the All-Tournament Team from Le Moyne.