GORHAM, Maine – Senior righty Matt Cronin pitched 6 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth scored the final five runs of the game to eliminate Eastern Connecticut State University from the 2019 Little East Conference Tournament by a 5-2 score Saturday afternoon at Ed Flaherty Field on the USM campus.
Fifth-seeded UMass Dartmouth (19-20) advances to Sunday's final day at 11 a.m., needing two wins for the title. Fourth-seeded Eastern (23-18) had stayed alive Thursday after an opening loss with a 4-1 win over No. 1 University of Southern Maine. The Huskies advanced to play unbeaten two-time defending champion and No. 2 seed Massachusetts Boston Saturday night after eliminating No. 3 Rhode Island College earlier Saturday, 3-1.
Cronin (4-3), the LEC Pitcher-of-the-Year as a junior, avenged a regular-season loss when the Warriors swept UMD March 24 at Mansfield. In this tournament, Cronin had pitched the first seven innings in his team's opening-game 11-inning loss to UMass Boston, but was able to return Saturday to make his third relief appearance of the year when Friday's games were postponed due to rain.
Eastern scored twice against freshman righty starter Chase Stafford in the second on senior centerfielder Alexander White's (West Hartford) one-out, two-run double that plated sophomore rightfielder Jack Rich (Meriden), who had singled to open the inning, and senior first baseman Alex Parkos (Meriden), who was hit by a pitch. An inning-ending double play prevented further damage.
Cronin and junior righty Nate Tellier shut the Warriors out the rest of the way. Cronin took over to start the third and allowed only four hits and two walks while Tellier replaced Cronin with one out and the bases loaded in the ninth and got a called strikeout and outfield fly ball to record his eighth save – second-most in the conference.
Eastern sophomore righty Zach Player (East Hampton) pitched four scoreless innings before Jack Harrington belted a solo home run in the fifth to cut Eastern's lead to 2-1. Player gave up only four hits without a walk and departed with two out in the inning.
The Warriors took that 2-1 lead into the seventh, when UMD went ahead for good, 3-2, on Tellier's RBI single and a run-scoring double by Pat Vartanian. The Corsairs extended the lead to 5-2 with two more in the eighth on two hits and an infield error.