Mansfield, CT --- Western New England junior Tim Clark (W. Springfield, MA) came through for his team in the clutch with a walk-off two-run single to help propel the fourth-seeded Golden Bears into the championship game with a 2-1 triumph over #2 Trinity College (CT) in the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament at Eastern Connecticut.
The Golden Bears (37-12) advance to their second consecutive regional title game after they came out of the winners bracket to earn the 9-0 victory over Bridgewater State last season. They will play top-seed Wheaton for all the marbles and a berth to the NCAA Division III College World Series.
Trinity, who is making their eighth NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2011, wrap up their season at 34-10.
With the Bantams nursing the 1-0 advantage entering the bottom of the ninth, freshman Robert Gau (Westport, CT), plunked the first sophomore Jeff Schult (Wappingers Falls, NY) on the hip before he was lifted in favor of second-year Ryan Carr (Cos Cob, CT).
Western New England sophomore Steve Ambrosino (Laurel Hollow, NY) worked a 3-2 count for a walk before junior Mike Rubino (Northford, CT) reached first on a fielders choice bunt play. Instead of getting the lead-runner, Carr opted for the play at third, but Ambrosino was called safe.
That would set the stage for Clark's dramatic base-knock as he smashed the first pitch he saw into left centerfield gap to end the contest.
After failing to take advantage of runners on second and third in the top of the second inning, Trinity received a two-out double down the line in the third by junior Joe Papa (Stoneham, MA) that put the Bantams up 1-0.
But a pitching duel would ensue between a pair of underclassmen in the must-win contest against Gau and Western New England sophomore Brendan Nugent (Milford, CT).
From the fourth inning on, Nugent utilized a strong fastball and shifty change-up combination to retire 18 of his last 23 batters to give his squad a chance to come-from-behind.
Trinity's best chance came in the top of the seventh with freshman Kyle Decker (Simsbury, CT) on third and two men down in the frame. But Nugent fanned first-year Adam Moossmann (E. Northport, NY), who had been batting .308 for the tournament (4-for-13) coming into the contest, to end the frame.
Nugent (10-1) came back on three days rest after tossing eight innings in a 7-1 win over Keene State in the first game of the regional, finished allowing one earned run on six hits to go with four strikeouts and two walks. It was his second career complete game.
Gau was sensational in his sixth start of the campaign as he gave up a run, two base-knocks and a pair of walks. He fanned a season-best 11 batters in his eight-plus innings of work.
Gau had started off the contest by punching out eight of his first 11 batters and he set down 13 of 15 from the third through the eighth inning. Carr (2-2) was dealt the setback and the blown save.
He stranded Schult at third in the opening frame and junior Tom Booth (Milford, CT) in the sixth. Both were the only safeties that he yielded in the contest as they both led off their respective frames.
There were no multi-hitters for either side as Trinity finished with the 6-3 edge in hits.
With two steals this afternoon, Schult increased his school-record to 34 stolen bases with a swipe of second and a theft of third to move into scoring position in the top of the first inning.
Story by Steven M. Miller, Jr.
Video Courtesy Tristan Hobbes