Mansfield, CT --- Wheaton junior Frank Holbrook (Middletown, RI) combined on a two-hit shutout with senior Ryan Grant (Easton, MA) to earn Most Outstanding Player honors as he helped lead the top-seeded Lyons to a 2-0 victory over #5 Western New England in the Mansfield regional final of the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament hosted by Eastern Connecticut.
Wheaton (38-9) advances to its second-ever College World Series as their last appearance came in 2006. They will play Central regional champion Webster University on Friday at 11 AM in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Ironically, the Lyons played Webster in their second game of the season in Florida and earned the 1-0 win in a ninth-inning walk-off. In 2006, Wheaton went 4-1 and vied for the national crown, but lost in the finals to Marietta College in a 7-2 setback.
Western New England, who is making its seventh consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament, finishes their remarkable regional run at 38-9. After falling to the Lyons on Thursday evening, the Golden Bears won an amazing four straight games in a 48 hour period and forced the if-necessary game on Saturday.
Western New England makes its second-straight appearance in the New England Regional final after they walked away with the walnut trophy last season in Harwich, MA with a 9-0 win over Bridgewater State in the final game. The Golden Bears are now 1-4 against the Lyons this season, with the lone win coming yesterday afternoon.
The Lyons scored their two runs in the opening frame and never looked back. Senior Hal Landers (Salem, NH) and junior Eric Jensen (Gorham, NH) led off the inning with singles and moved into scoring position on a bunt.
Fourth-year Dan Haugh (Andover, MA) and freshman Apoloinar De al Cruz (Providence, RI) drove them both in on RBI safeties for the 2-0 advantage.
That was all that Holbrook (9-0) would need as he was sensational over his seven-plus innings of work. Holbrook, who set the Lyons single-campaign record for wins in today's triumph, fanned five and walked two batters.
Holbrook came out of the gate like a man on a mission with a stellar effort that included retiring 20 of his first 24. The only runner that reached past second base in his second start of the tournament was his the second walk that he issued to junior Kyle McKelvey (Schenectady, NY) in the eighth. Holbrook has only surrendered one run in his last 28 innings.
Grant would take over and he recorded the final six outs to tally his 12th stop of the year for the second-highest in a single season.
After falling behind 2-0 right off the bat, senior Mark DiTommaso (Hebron, CT) shut down the Lyons by setting down 15 of 18 from the second through the sixth inning and he stranded a pair of runners in scoring position in the third and fourth frames.
In the bottom eighth, Wheaton loaded the bases with one out on an intentional pass to Haugh, but senior Mike Lawlor (Windsor, CT) fanned his next batter and he registered a fly out to end the threat.
In the top of the ninth, the lone batter that reached was junior Tim Clark (W. Springfield, MA) on an infield miscue with two outs, but he was stranded when Grant induced a ground-out to end the contest.
Clark was 2-for-4 with the only base-knocks for his team in the regional final.
Clark, who led the tournament in hits (12) and total bases (14), tied for the lead in RBIs (6) while finishing with a solid .429 batting average (12-28) earned a spot on the New England Regional All-Tournament Team.
Landers and Jenson both rapped out two hits each and both were recognized with All-Regional accolades. The pair combined for 15 safeties, seven RBIs and 19 total bases in their five regional games. De la Cruz (.333, 6-18, 3 R, 4 RBI) and sophomore Alec Palioca (Wrentham, MA) (1-0, 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 1 K) were the other two honorees for the Lyons.
Western New England junior Brendan Nugent (Milford, CT) and classmate Matt Anthonis (Guilford, CT) both earned All-Regional laurels.
After tossing eight-innings of one-run, four hit baseball in a 7-1 opening round win over Keene State, Nugent scattered five safeties and yielded just one earned run in a complete game 2-1 triumph over Trinity to help force today's contest on just two days rest. Anthonis batted .346 (9-26) with five runs and three RBIs while Nugent rang up nine men overall.
Trinity had two representatives on the All-Regional team in the form of third-year Joe Papa (Stoneham, MA) (.412, 7-17, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 13 TB) and freshman Robert Gau (Wesport, CT) (ND, 8 IP, 2H, 1 ER, 11 K, 2 BB) while St. Joseph's sophomore Lincoln Sanborn (Standish, ME) (1-0, 9 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 10 K, 0 BB) also received a nod as the fifth pitcher for the 11th slot on the team.
For the regional, batters were held to a .238 batting average, eight pitchers went the distance in 15 total games and with 171 strikeouts in 264 total frames, those in attendance were treated to over one strikeout for every inning that was tossed.
Story by Steven M. Miller, Jr.