Diplomats dismantle Hopkins for crown

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BALTIMORE, Md. – Franklin & Marshall capped off a remarkable run through the Centennial Conference (CC) Tournament with a convincing 16-1 victory over sixth-ranked Johns Hopkins in game two of the championship round on Sunday, giving F&M its first CC title since 2006 and fourth overall.  

With the victory, the Diplomats (23-17) become the first four seed to win the CC Championship and earn the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Regionals, while the Blue Jays (36-8) must now wait until next Sunday's selection show to see if they receive an at-large berth. The regionals will take place from May 15-19 at a location to be determined.

The Diplomats dropped the first game 8-1, creating a make-or-break game seven of the CC Tournament. The decisive game marked just the second time in CC history that the tournament has stretched to a seventh game on Sunday.

With all of the momentum seemingly on Hopkins' side heading into the do-or-die game, F&M quickly put that momentum to rest with an 11-run top half of the second that broke the game wide open. The Diplomats belted four home runs in the frame – matching their entire season total – and received key hits from nearly every spot in the lineup to jump out to the virtually insurmountable advantage.

The second-inning scoring barrage started with a leadoff solo home run by Avery Attinson – the first of his two solo bombs in the frame, which were also the first two homers of his career. Pat Andrews then drew a walk, Brian Erb singled to right field, and Rob Anderson earned a one-out walk to load the bases following Joe Gallitto's sacrifice bunt that advanced Erb and Andrews to second and third, respectively. Aaron Gillette then poked an opposite-field RBI single to left that scored Andrews to make it 2-0.

From there, Alex Vescera delivered a bases-clearing three-RBI double that carried into deep left center to push F&M out to five-run edge. Matt Mezansky followed up Vescera's hit with a walk, and Kevin Shields came to the plate and blasted a three-run bomb over the hedges in left to keep things rolling for the Diplomats, pushing the lead to 8-0. Attinson's second solo homer ensued, before Gallitto delivered the knock-out punch with a two-run shot to left to finish off the wild frame for F&M.

Attinson became just the seventh player in CC Tournament history to hit two home runs in a game and the first to do so in one inning. The most recent player to hit a pair of homers in a single game was Swarthmore's Mike Waterhouse, who accomplished the feat in 2010.

The 11-0 lead could be described as insurmountable largely because of who was on the mound for the Diplomats. Pitching on just one day of rest after a complete-game, four-hit shutout in F&M's 3-0 triumph over the Blue Jays in Friday's opening round, Brendan DeMond returned to start on the rubber with an NCAA bid on the line.

Despite the lack of rest, DeMond (9-2) put together another superb outing to notch his second win of the CC Tournament, becoming the first player in CC history to record a pair of victories in the postseason tournament. The senior righthander worked through five full innings, fanning six batters and allowing just one run on six hits. His performance throughout the weekend earned him CC Tournament MVP honors.

F&M posted its third-highest run total of the year despite the absence of its No. 3 hitter, Will Benenson, who suffered an injury early in yesterday's win over Gettysburg. The 11-run second was handily the highest inning of the year for F&M, with a trio of seven-run frames throughout the season being the previous high.

The Diplomats added on two more scores in the third on RBIs hits from Mezansky and Shields to stretch the lead to 13-0, before Mezansky closed out the F&M scoring in the fifth with a three-run homer to left center to put the icing on the cake for the Diplomats.

Shields notched three hits, a home run, and four RBIs, while Mezansky also tallied four RBIs to go along with two hits, a homer, and three runs scored. Vescera recorded two hits, three RBIs and touched home three times, while Erb registered a pair of hits with two runs scored and Gallitto launched a two-run homer.

Gillette, Anderson, and Andrews also notched hits on the day, with Gillette also securing an RBI, as every starter in the F&M lineup posted at least one hit and scored at least once in the landslide victory.

Alex Guerra pitched the final four frames in relief for F&M, striking out four and allowing just three hits.

Thomas Solomon (0-1) suffered the loss on the mound for Hopkins, giving up six runs on four hits in just 1 1/3 innings of work. Solomon was one of eight pitchers deployed by the Blue Jays, as the Diplomats produced a flurry of offense on nearly every arm JHU threw at them.

The Diplomats are slated to play at York (Pa.) on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. in non-conference action, and will find out their NCAA Regional destination next Sunday. The regional tournament will take place from May 15-19. Check back to GoDiplomats.com regarding updates on F&M's postseason schedule.