CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton baseball team defeated New England College twice to earn its fourth straight North Atlantic Conference Championship title on Monday at Spartan Field. The Spartans took the opening game 9-3, before holding on for a 7-6 victory in game two.
After dropping its first game of the tournament, Castleton (34-8) rattled off four straight wins to tie the program's all-time wins record and secure its fourth conference title in as many years. The Spartans earn the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Regionals, where they will find out their destination on Sunday, May 14.
Game Two: Castleton 7, New England College 6
For the second straight year, Castleton turned to pitchers Steven Jurkiewicz and Michael LaBeau to deliver in the conference championship title game.
Castleton got off to a hot start, backing Jurkiewicz with six runs over the first three innings. Davis Mikell turned to his bat to open the scoring, blasting a solo home run in the bottom of the second.
New England College quickly responded to tie the game with a run in the top of the third. Aneury Lara singled to left field and came all the way around to score on a double to right-center by Jameson Carey.
The level game was brief, however, as Castleton sent 10 batters to the plate en route to a five-run bottom of the third. Pat Mumford led off with a bunt single, advanced to second on a throwing error by the pitcher, and scored on an RBI single by Zach Bahan. Dillon Benham and Mikell each worked walks to load the bases, before Josh Rylant delivered an RBI single to right field. Jonathan Lindau was hit by a pitch to score another run, before Dylan Bailey laced a two-RBI single to right field to give the Spartans a 6-1 lead.
New England College was not done, battling back to score four unanswered runs. After Jeam Castillo lifted a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth, Andrew Castano parked a three-run home run to left field to make it a 6-5 game in the top of the sixth.
The Spartans responded with a pivotal run in the home half of the sixth, as Bailey lined a double to right-center and scored on an RBI single by Deagan Poland to extend the Spartan lead to 7-5. The Pilgrims got one back in the seventh, but that was all they could muster as LaBeau slammed the door with three strikeouts over the final two hitless innings to secure his first save of the season and second save in as many years in the conference championship game.
Bailey led the Spartan offense with three hits, two RBI, and a run scored. Mikell finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored an RBI. Jurkiewicz earned his sixth win of the season on the mound, striking out three while allowing five runs (four earned) over 6.0 innings.
Game One: Castleton 9, New England College 3
Castleton induced pressure early in the opening game, scoring two runs in each of the first two innings to open up a 4-0 lead. The Spartans worked four walks in the top of the first, with Matt Jackson's base on balls scoring the game's first run. One batter later, Benham raced home on a wild pitch to extend the Spartan lead to 2-0.
Castleton took advantage of a defensive miscue in the top of the second, as Poland walked and scored all the way from first after a fielding error allowed Benham to reach base. Bahan followed with an RBI double to right center to extend the Spartan lead to 4-0.
New England College nabbed a run back in the home half of the second, as Evan Delaney reached base via hit-by-pitch, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then scored from there on an RBI single up the middle by Garret Waldron.
Each team plated two runs in the fourth inning, with Castleton's pair coming on the strength of one hit and a defensive error. Mumford led the frame off with a deep triple to center field and Poland worked a walk to put runners on the corners. Mumford then tagged up on a sacrifice fly to left field by Benham, where the throw home was off-target allowing Poland to advance to third. Poland scored one batter later on a wild pitch as the Spartans extended their lead to 6-1.
The Pilgrims answered with a pair of runs in the home half, taking advantage of two Spartan errors. Evan Delaney led off with a walk and advanced to second after Jeam Castillo reached on a fielding error at third base. Waldron worked a walk to load the bases, before Manuel Alejandro reached on a fielding error at second base to bring in Delaney. Aneury Lara followed with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Castillo to make it a 6-3 game.
After a scoreless fifth inning, Lindau provided the final runs of the game with one swing, as he lined a two-out three-run home run over the wall in left center to extend the Spartan lead to 9-3. Neither team was able to plate another run from there, as Castleton secured the opening game victory.
Mikell started on the mound for Castleton, improving to 6-1 on the season with three runs (one earned) on four hits and 10 strikeouts over 7.0 innins pitched. Aaron Smith threw the final two scoreless innings in relief, allowing one hit with a strikeout.
Lindau led the offense for Castleton, going 2-for-3 with two walks, while recording three RBI and a run scored. Poland reached base four times in the game, scoring four runs on a hit and three walks.
NAC Tournament All-Tournament Team
Castleton – Jonathan Lindau – MVP
Castleton – Devin Hayes
Castleton – Davis Mikell
Castleton – Zach Bahan
NEC – Jameson Carey
NEC – Stanley Vargas
NEC – Evan Delaney
Husson – Ben Walls
Husson – Conor Maguire
Lyndon – Ryan Cordeiro
Lyndon – Andre Eason Jr.