GORHAM, Maine – Sean Callahan never allowed more than one hit in an inning over his eight-inning stint and Mac Curran hit a fifth-inning grand slam to carry third-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to a 9-2 victory over fourth-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University in an opening-round game of the double-elimination 2017 Little East Conference Baseball Tournament Wednesday afternoon at the USM Baseball Stadium on the campus of the University of Southern Maine.
Having reached the championship round of the last three LEC tournaments – winning two --Eastern (20-15) faces elimination against fifth-seeded Keene State College (15-21) in a second-round game Thursday at 12:30 p.m. The Owls opened with a 5-4 win over No. 1 seed Southern Maine (28-10) Wednesday morning.
The Warriors look to avoid losing their first two conference tournament games since 2002, when they went on to capture their fourth NCAA Division III national championship.
For the second time in less than two weeks, Callahan (3-3) pitched eight innings to outduel sophomore righty Jordan Muchin (West Hartford) and defeat Eastern. Callahan walked four but spaced five hits, never giving up more than one in an inning.
With the score tied 2-2, UMass reached Muchin for two runs on a two-out, two-run triple by leadoff hitter Nate Tellier, then broke the game open on Curran's grand slam in the fifth to move out to an 8-2 lead.
Making only his sixth start of the year, sophomore second baseman William Coleman's (Northford) second-inning sacrifice fly plated freshman DH John Mesagno (Tappan, NY) to give Eastern a 1-0 lead, and after the Corsairs went ahead with two in the bottom of the inning, senior All-America centerfielder Alex Zachary's (Enfield) RBI double in the third sent in sophomore leftfielder Alexander White (West Hartford) to make it 2-2.
Zachary doubled twice but was the only Eastern player witte h more than one hit. White opened the game by doubling on the first pitch, but Callahan stranded him with two outfield fly balls and an inning-ending strikeout. The team's leadoff hitter, White left the game in the fourth with a thumb injury sustained attempting to catch a leadoff single in the second.
Sophomore righty Brian Hnatuk (Trumbull) pitched 3 2/3 stellar innings to close out the game for Eastern. He allowed only two hits and a walk and one eighth-inning run while fanning three. It was the second impressive outing in the LEC tournament for Hnatuk, who was the winning pitcher in last year's 13-9 championship win over Western Connecticut. In that game, Hnatuk entered the game while the Colonials were scoring three runs to take an 8-5 lead in the fourth inning. He allowed only one hit and one run in two innings as the third of five Eastern pitchers.
Keene and Eastern ended the regular season last Thursday by splitting a doubleheader at Keene, NH. The Owls won the first game, 4-1, behind Mike Crimi's four-hitter over eight innings (Crimi, however, pitched Wednesday against Southern Maine), but had 17 hits in a 12-6 win in the nightcap. Sophomore righty John Parker (Brunswick, ME), Thursday's probably starter, pitched into the sixth inning of that game for his third win without a loss.