Bats Spark Rally from 9-0 Down as Baseball Clinches NEWMAC Tournament Bid

Vinny D-Ambrosio

Springfield, MA --- Facing deficits of 9-0 and 11-5, the WPI baseball team rallied to defeat host Springfield 12-11 to salvage a doubleheader split and, in the process, secure a spot in next week's NEWMAC Tournament.  The host Pride took the opener by a 2-1 count. 

With the split, the Engineers (19-13) claim the three-game series with Springfield (6-21, 4-12 NEWMAC) and finish their NEWMAC slate with a 9-8 record.  WPI will take the West Division title, and the tournament's No.2 seed, if Clark does not win all four of its remaining conference games.  The Cougars host Emerson in a doubleheader Sunday and entertain MIT and Babson in single games on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Depending on Coast Guard's result with Emerson on Monday, Clark needs to win two or three of the games to clinch a tournament bid. 

In game two Springfield struck first with seven runs in the bottom half of the first inning, starting when CJ Monroe (Wolcott, CT) pushed a single to left field, scoring Shane O'Leary (Kings Park, NY) to score the first run of game. Dan Bergami (Schenectady, NY) would drive home Steve Starr (Lebanon, CT) to make it 2-0, before Brent Poulin (Atascadero, CA) made it a 3-0 game when he drove home Monroe with a single up the middle.  After Adam Zandri (Ridgefield, CT) drove home Bergami to push Springfield's lead to four, Poulin scored on a wild pitch, before Mark Joao (Wappingers Falls, NY) singled home Billy Peterson (Wareham, MA) to cap off the seven-run first inning. 

The hosts added to its lead in the bottom of the third, when O'Leary drove home Zandri with a single to left, before Starr singled up the middle, allowing Joao to score to make it 9-0 Pride. 

Alex Venditti (Newton, MA) sparked the Engineers comeback in the top of the fourth inning, when he doubled to right center, driving home Vinny D'Ambrosio (Mahopac, NY) to get WPI on the board. Later in the inning, Sean Kelly (Shrewsbury, MA) singled to left, scoring Venditti to cut the Engineers' deficit to seven.

In the next frame, WPI cut its deficit to four, when Venditti blasted a three-run home run, scoring D'Ambrosio and Sean Greene (Hingham, MA). 

Springfield got one back in the bottom of the sixth, when Bergami singled to left, scoring Monroe and Starr to help regain its six-run lead, before WPI erupted for seven runs over the next two innings to complete the comeback. 

In the top of the seventh, DJ Ouellette (Watertown, CT) doubled to right, sending home D'Ambrosio, before Zach Blanchard (Warwick, RI) scored on a wild pitch to bring the Engineers back to within four. In the next frame, D'Ambrosio collected his 100th career hit before Ouellette drove in a pair more with a single, before John Caliri (Hanson, MA) singled to left, scoring two more to even the score at 11 apiece. With two outs, Nick Comei (Haverhill, MA) reached on an error, allowing Kelly to cross the plate, proving as the eventual game-winning run.  

Relief pitching was key for WPI, with freshman Drew Gelinas (Saco, ME) throwing three shutout innings at the end to earn his first collegiate victory.  For the third straight Saturday, closer Dan Bettigole (South Windsor, CT) was called upon early and versus the Pride worked 5 1/3 innings of relief of starter Mike Vaitkunas (Auburn, MA).  

Tyler Kelly (Abescon, NJ) took the rubber for the start in the second game for Springfield, going 5.0 innings, giving up five hits, five runs and also striking out a pair. Jack Weinberger (Sunapee, NH) came on in relief and pitched 1.1 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, while Mitchell Goldman (Uxbridge, Mass.) and Wilcox finished off the day for Springfield on the mound. 

The comeback marked the third rally from a significant deficit for WPI in the last eight days.  Last Saturday the Crimson and Gray rallied from 5-0 down against Coast Guard to topple the Bears 7-5 and from a 7-1 hole versus Becker before coming back to claim a 8-7 triumph. 

Game one was a pitcher's duel Springfield's Oliver Collette (Spencer, MA) and WPI's Steven D'Agostino (Shrewsbury, MA).  The Pride dented the scoring column in the bottom of the fourth with O'Leary leading off by doubling down the left field line, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a Bergami RBI ground out.  The guests evened the game in the top of the seventh when Kelly also led off with a double down the left field line.  After a Matt Cote (Burrillville, RI) sacrifice bunt, Kelly came home on Ouellette run-scoring double to right center. 

Springfield plated what proved to be the winning run in the bottom of the eighth following a leadoff single by Joao, a sacrifice bunt by Wilcox and a run-producing single off the bat of O'Leary.  SC closer Matt Butrym (Schenectady, NY) was summoned for the top of the ninth and worked out of a two on, one out jam by inducing a pair of fly outs to center to earn his second save. 

Collette picked up his first win of the season (1-5) striking out five while yielding six hits and one run while walking none.  D'Agostino (1-4) was the tough-luck loser, scattering seven hits, fanning four and allowing just one earned run in the complete game effort. 

Venditti, Ouellette and O'Leary joined Springfield's Anthony Faggiana (Woodbridge, CT) with two hits in the opener. 

Both teams have non-conference games early next week. Springfield hosts Rhode Island College on Monday at 3:30pm while WPI ventures to Nichols for a 3:30pm tilt on Tuesday. 

Portions of Release Courtesy Springfield Sports Information