When and Where: May 20, 2016 – Rindge, N.H. (Pappas Field)
Score: Southern New Hampshire University 11, Molloy College 5
Records: SNHU 46-6, Molloy 31-23
Juniors Carson Helms (Farmington, Conn.) and Derek Bauer (Millis, Mass.) each crushed three-run homers to help the eighth-ranked Southern New Hampshire University baseball team stave off elimination with Friday's 11-5 victory against Molloy College at the NCAA East Regional at Franklin Pierce University's Pappas Field.
The Penmen, seeded second, will now play in another elimination game Saturday at 11 a.m. against the loser of Friday's middle game between top-seeded Franklin Pierce and fourth-seeded Felician College. Sixth-seeded Molloy sees its season come to an end with its second loss of the East Regional.
Southern New Hampshire fell behind, 1-0, in the second inning on Jack McCarthy's two-out RBI single to right-center. The Penmen eventually answered, however, with a three-run fourth. Helms led off with his 20th double of the season – a new single-season program record – and scored when Bauer smoked a liner past the first baseman and slid into third with a triple. SNHU then added a pair of unconventional runs, with Bauer scoring the first one when freshman Joshua Zbierski (Stafford Springs, Conn.) grounded into a 6-4-5 fielder's choice. Zbierski then chugged around to score all the way from first on a fly ball to center that fell in for an RBI single off the bat of sophomore Sean Webster (Boston, Mass.).
Helms made it 6-1 in the fifth when he swatted a towering three-run homer to left-center for his ninth long-ball of the year. Southern New Hampshire added another later in the frame on Zbierski's two-out, run-scoring single up the middle.
Molloy responded two innings later with a four-run sixth. Elijah Leerdam led off with a ground-rule double to left-center and then scored when Anthony Alberghina reached on a throwing error following his grounder to short. Alberghina later scored on a passed ball before McCarthy's second run-scoring single of the day cut it to 7-4 and knocked Valdespina from the game. Sophomore Mitchell Powers (Portland, Maine) came on and went strikeout-walk-sac fly-strikeout to escape the inning with relatively little damage done.
SNHU added a little more breathing room in the seventh when graduate student Ryan Gendron (Nashua, N.H.) led off with a ground-rule double to left, swiped third and scored on Zbierski's second two-out RBI single to center.
Molloy threatened in the bottom of the inning, putting two on with one out before head coach Scott Loiseau went to the bullpen and called on sophomore Jake Walkinshaw (Seymour, Conn.). The first batter he faced singled to left, but Webster threw a dart to the plate to cut down Alberghina trying to score from second. Following a walk that loaded the bases, Walkinshaw made it out of the inning with a huge strikeout that kept it 8-5.
The Penmen took advantage in the eighth as junior Zach Goldstein (Merrick, N.Y.) led off with a stinging single through the left side and stole second. With Goldstein still on second and two out in the inning, Molloy issued an intentional walk to Helms and Bauer made it hurt with a three-run jack to right for his 10th home run of the season that expanded the lead to 11-5.
With runners at the corners and just one out in the eighth, Walkinshaw induced a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play to dance out of trouble. After the Penmen went quietly in the top of the ninth, senior Joe McCarthy (Nashua, N.H.) used a pair of strikeouts to get out of a two-on, no-out jam and seal the victory.
Valdespina (10-3, 2.89 ERA) set a new single-season record for wins as he allowed five runs – three earned – on 11 hits, striking out five and walking two, over five-plus innings of work. Powers gave up a hit and a walk to go along with a pair of strikeouts in an inning-and-a-third of shutout ball. Walkinshaw turned in an inning-and-two-thirds of scoreless work as he relinquished two hits and two walks. McCarthy struck out two and allowed a hit and a walk in a scoreless frame.
Bauer went 3-for-5 with four RBI and a pair of runs scored as he finished a single shy of the cycle. Helms (walk, three RBI, three runs) and Gendron (HBP, two runs) were both 2-for-3, with Zbierski going 2-for-4 as he matched his career high by knocking in three runs and scored once.
- Southern New Hampshire, which has won 28 of 31, is on pace for its best record ever at 46-6. The 2012 squad that advanced to the Division II College World Series in Cary, N.C., was 39-13 through its first 52 games.
- The Penmen are making their fifth straight appearance in the NCAA Championship, as well as the fifth appearance, overall. They are now 11-10 (.524) all-time, including 10-8 (.556) in the East Regional.
- SNHU bounced back from being shutout for the first time in 74 games by scoring double-digit runs for the first time ever in 21 NCAA Championship contests.
- Southern New Hampshire is now 23-0 this season when scoring nine or more runs.
- Helms' 20th double of the season broke the record of 19 two-baggers held by both Matt Boulter and Kevin Spatkowski from the 2012 campaign.
- The 10th victory for Valdespina moves him past Tim Flight (2012), Junior Mendez (2013), Derrick Sylvester (2015) and junior Alex Person (Foxboro, Mass.; 2016) for most wins by a Penmen in a single campaign. Person will have a chance to equal Valdespina when he takes the ball Saturday.
- Goldstein has hit safely in 20 of 21, while junior Manny Cruz (Wolcott, Conn.) and Helms have both collected a base knock in 14 of 15. Goldstein and Cruz are tied for the longest hitting streak on the team at 11 contests.
- Cruz has reached base in 31 straight, with Goldstein holding a 23-game streak of the same variety.
The Penmen return to action Saturday, May 21 (11 a.m.) in an elimination game against Franklin Pierce or Felician.
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Thursday, May 19
Game 1: #4 Felician 3, #5 Bridgeport 0
Game 2: #7 Dowling 4, #2 Southern New Hampshire 0
Friday, May 20
Game 3: #3 Saint Thomas Aquinas 5, #6 Molloy 2
Game 4: #2 Southern New Hampshire 11, #6 Molloy 5 (Molloy eliminated)
Game 5: #4 Felician at #1 Franklin Pierce – 5 p.m.
Game 6: #7 Dowling vs. #3 Saint Thomas Aquinas – 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 21
Game 7: #2 Southern New Hampshire vs. Game 5 Loser – 11 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 8: Game 6 Loser vs. #5 Bridgeport – 3 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner – 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 22
Game 10: Game 8 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner – Noon (loser eliminated)
Game 11: Game 10 Winner vs. Game 9 Loser – 3:30 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Monday, May 23
Game 12: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 11 Winner – Noon
Game 13: Game 12 rematch* – 40 minutes after conclusion of Game 12
* Game 13 only necessary if Game 11 Winner wins Game 12