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Mitchell stuns No. 1 ECSU

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published May 15. 2014 4:00AM
Photo courtesy of SportsPix
Rafael Garcia, center, is greeted after scoring the tie-breaking run in the 11th inning that helped No. 8 Mitchell College stun No. 1 Eastern Connecticut in the NCAA tournament Wednesday in Harwich, Mass.

Harwich, Mass. - Mitchell College registered a history-making victory on Wednesday that registered a 10 on the shocker scale.

A drama-filled 4-3 victory in 11 innings over top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University in the opening round of the NCAA Division III New England Regional baseball tournament even stunned the Mariners.

The white-knuckle marathon lasted three and a half hours and ended with freshman reliever Axel De Jesus (4-2) escaping a first and third jam.

"I really don't know what to say," sophomore Tyler Shamus said. "I'm speechless about it. Our whole team was surprised about it. We just came out and had a lot of fun."

How surprising was Mitchell's postseason victory?

The Mariners had never won an NCAA game in any sport in a combined three previous trips - 2014 men's basketball, 2011 baseball and 2010 women's soccer - until Wednesday.

The New England Collegiate Conference baseball representative previously won only once in the NCAA tourney.

Eastern (32-8) entered the game riding a 10-game winning streak. The Mariners scored twice off closer Andrew Merritt, who owned a 0.00 earned run average in 23.1 innings this season. Both runs were unearned.

Mitchell (24-12-1) will play fourth-seeded Endicott College (31-14) at 4:30 p.m. today in the winners' bracket.

"No one in this country thought Mitchell would beat Eastern Connecticut," Mitchell coach Travis Beausoleil said. "I told them let's be together as a team and as a family and see what happens. They competed. We have some fun-loving guys who relaxed and played well. It's easier to play when there's no pressure on you."

The Mariners clubbed 14 hits and took advantage of five errors while also playing errorless baseball. Gavin LaLima of Waterford and Ryan Goodwin led the way with three hits apiece.

"We earned our spot here," LaLima said. "We come from a small school, so we really don't get that much respect. But right now, I think we deserve it."

There were numerous heroes for the Mariners, who never trailed. Let's start with the key contributors in the game-winning rally in the top of the 11th inning.

Junior Rafael Garcia sparked the outburst with a one-out double. Goodwin hit a bouncing ball up the middle that shortstop Brendan Lynch bobbled and then knocked around, allowing Garcia to score. Goodwin was awarded an infield hit and Lynch, who was playing with an injured wrist, earned his fourth error of the game.

De Jesus, who came on in the 10th and walked in the tying run, faced trouble again in the 11th, but battled back after allowing consecutive one-out singles. He retired Adam Roderick on the fly out and got Gavin Lavallee to ground out to end the game.

Senior Ken Olszewski's infield single in the seventh and senior Marc Dorsi's two out-single in the 10th knocked in runs for Mitchell, which failed to hold 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads.

Shamus displayed the poise and confidence of an ace, going 8.2 strong innings. He relied on a deceptive cutter and an effective change-up, allowing seven hits and two runs while striking out five and walking five.

"He's been absolutely amazing for us," Beausoleil said. "It killed me to take him out of the game."

Eastern, which stranded 15 runners, had a great chance to break a 2-2 tie in the ninth, putting runners on first and second with two outs. But lefty reliever Troy Stango caught Lynch off first, setting a rundown in motion that ended with Corey Keane being tagged out near third.

"You can call it what you want, but we didn't come to play," said Eastern senior Greg Porter of Mystic. "I think we came and saw them as the eighth seed and know what conference they play in and we might have taken them a little lightly."

Porter started and went 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and two runs while striking out six and walking three.

g.keefe@theday.com

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