Mansfield, CT --- Wheaton sophomore Alec Palioca (Wrentham, MA) tossed seven strong innings and junior Sean Ryan (Norton, MA) was 3-for-5 with a trio of steals and a trifecta of runs scored as they helped lead the top-seeded Lyons to a 10-3 triumph over fifth-seeded Western New England University in the winners bracket game of the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament hosted by Eastern Connecticut.
Wheaton moves to 36-8 and the winner's bracket game on Friday at 4:30. They will take on the victor of tonight's 8:30 PM contest against St. Joseph's (Maine) and Trinity College (CT). This afternoon's game marks the first time since 2008 that the Lyons defeated their first two opponents in a regional.
Western New England falls to 34-12 overall and will play Bowdoin in tomorrow's losers bracket elimination game at 10 AM. Should they win tomorrows match-up, they will have to earn the victory twice to stay alive in the tournament.
Wheaton opened the contest with the quick 3-0 advantage on a sacrifice fly by senior Dan Haugh (Andover, MA) and a two-run double by junior Dan Gusovsky (Andover, MA).
The Lyons extended their lead to 5-0 on a pair of plated runs by Apolinar De la Cruz (Providence, RI) as he tacked on a run producing ground out in the third and he drove in Ryan on a base-knock to centerfield.
The Golden Bears got on the board in the bottom of the fifth when they loaded the bases and scored on a RBI single to left by junior Mike Rubino (Northford, CT) with one man down.
Western New England, however, would miss out on a golden opportunity to get within striking distance as they would strand the bases loaded against sophomore Alec Palioca (Wrentham, MA), who got the final two outs of the frame on a pop-up and an outfield fly.
After yielding a run in the fifth, second-year Mike Lospinuso (West Islip, NY) would retire six consecutive batters through the seventh inning until he ran into trouble in the eighth. Wheaton would score twice in the inning and extend their margin to 7-1 when Haugh scampered home on a muffed bunt and a sacrifice fly by senior Dan Demeo (Glastonbury, CT).
The runs would prove to be important as the Golden Bears rallied for a pair in the bottom of the stanza on a plated triple by junior Tim Clark (W. Springfield, MA) and an RBI ground-out by junior Taylor Perun (Plainville, CT) to make the score 8-3.
But the Lyons put the game away with three runs in the top of the ninth as they were highlighted by a two-run single by Haugh and a run driven in by Guskovsky.
Freshman Ben Johnson (Cambridge, MA) hurled a perfect ninth to help Wheaton walk away with the 10-3 victory.
Palioca (8-0) was sensational as he shut down a Western New England offense that had been batting .338 coming into the contest. The first-team All-New England (NEIBA) selection went seven-plus innings allowing just two earned runs to go with six hits as he fanned one and walked four.
Freshman Trevor Brenton (Enfield, CT) shouldered the setback for the Golden Bears as he only went the first three innings allowing four earned runs on three base-knocks while he finished with one walk and a strikeout.
The Lyons were also led by Haugh and Gusovsky and junior Eric Jensen (Gorham, NH) who each tallied two base-knocks apiece and Gusovsky and Haugh combined for six of the games 10 RBIs. Haugh and Jenson both had two runs scored.
Palioca tied a season wins mark of eight which is held by 10 other student-athletes. Haugh also set the program mark for the most sacrifice flies in a single campaign (7) while he equaled the career-mark in the same category (17) with Sean Munley (2008-11).
Schult was the lone multi-hitter for the Golden Bears with a 2-for-5 performance at the plate and with a swipe tonight he increased his team lead to 30 steals in 31 attempts.