(Note: Friday's games have been postponed to Saturday, due to expected rain).
GORHAM, Maine – Needing to become the first team this year to defeat top-seeded host University of Southern Maine on its home field in order to stave off elimination, the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball team rode the dominant pitching of senior lefty Nick Rascati (Wallingford) and senior righty Cole Ogorzalek (Portland) to a 4-1 victory Thursday afternoon at Ed Flaherty Field.
With its first tournament win after an opening loss Wednesday, fourth-seeded Eastern (23-17) advances to play fifth-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (18-20) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in another elimination game. UMD remained alive earlier Thursday with a 12-9 win over No. 6 Castleton University.
Southern Maine (33-6) entered the game ranked No. 1 in New England and No. 2 nationally, riding a 12-game winning streak and was a perfect 14-0 record at home. Making only his second start of the year, Rascati (2-0) was brilliant, and got solid relief from Ogorzalek, who pitched the final 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
With Eastern leading 2-0, Rascati was lifted after giving up a one-out double in favor of Ogorzalek, who allowed Jack Sylvia's RBI single through the right side before striking out pinch hitter Kip Richard and escaping further damage with an infield out.
Rascati had allowed one hit with a career-high nine strikeouts in seven innings in his first start of the year April 27 against Castleton. In his 13th appearance of the year Thursday, he handcuffed the Huskies on two hits in 6 1/3 innings, walking three and fanning two and limiting them to that seventh-inning run.
Trailing by three runs, USM put its first two runners aboard in the eighth and brought the tying run to the plate, but Ogorzalek induced a double play ball started by freshman third baseman Owen Marica (Haddam) and got a comebacker to end the inning. He got two ground balls to senior shortstop Dale Keller (Oxford) sandwiched around a called strikeout in the ninth to nail down his third save.
The Warriors scored single runs in the first and third and chased loser Gage Feeney (6-2) by scoring two runs in the seventh to move out to their 4-1 lead.
Sophomore rightfielder Jack Rich (Meriden) gave Eastern a 1-0 lead with an RBI double to left-center and sophomore second baseman Luke Broadhurst's (Stafford) one-out solo home run – his fifth of the season – made it 2-0 after five innings.
After USM broke through in the top of the seventh, Eastern responded with two insurance runs in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Keller and Marica singled and moved into scoring position on the throw from the outfield. Broadhurst was intentionally walked to load the bases and two runs scored on a ground ball by Malcom and a resultant error at first base.
Southern Maine had swept Eastern by scores of 5-0 and 4-3 April 6 at Mansfield, with Feeney holding Eastern to five hits and one earned run through five innings of the second game. Rascati was touched for two hits and a run in 1/3 of an inning of relief in that game, but Ogorzalek pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings of three-hit baseball, fanning three without a walk.
Eastern improved to 14-9 all-time against Southern Maine in LEC tournament play.