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Little East Conference Tournament Notebook: Warriors Tackle RIC in Opener

Eastern infielders (from left) Owen Marica, Dale Keller, Alex Parkos and William Coleman await one of the four pitching changes that Rhode Island College forced  when the Anchormen inflicted a 10-0 loss March 26 at the Eastern Baseball Stadium on the way to a sweep of the regular-season series.  Eastern looks to continue its mastery of RIC in the LEC Tournament Wednesday when the teams meet in the first round at 7 p.m. (Photo by Erin Winsor)
Eastern infielders (from left) Owen Marica, Dale Keller, Alex Parkos and William Coleman await one of the four pitching changes that Rhode Island College forced when the Anchormen inflicted a 10-0 loss March 26 at the Eastern Baseball Stadium on the way to a sweep of the regular-season series. Eastern looks to continue its mastery of RIC in the LEC Tournament Wednesday when the teams meet in the first round at 7 p.m. (Photo by Erin Winsor)

TOURNAMENT NOTEBOOK

Eastern enters the 2019 Little East Conference tournament having won nine titles in the 22-year history of the tournament– nearly twice as many as its nearest competitor. Eastern also has the highest LEC regular-season, tournament and overall winning percentage in LEC history.

The Warriors have won four of their titles on the road, once at UMass Boston (their most recent title in 2016) and three times at the University of Southern Maine (2001, 2006 and 2009).

Eastern finished with a .500 LEC regular-season winning percentage for the third time in four years this season.

Eastern was swept in the regular-season pair by first-round opponent Rhode Island College for the second time in four years this season. The teams played single games rather than a doubleheader for the first time. The Anchormen mercied the Warrior, 10-0, March 26 at the Eastern Baseball Stadium and scored all of its runs in the sixth inning of a 4-3 victory at Pontarelli Field April 30. Eastern won its last three regular-season games following that loss. Mike Webb, the losing pitcher in relief against Eastern in last year’s LEC tournament, pitched six shutout innings in RIC’s first win and Nate Vigeant was 4-for-4 (all singles) and scored four times. Eastern’s Zach Player pitched five shutout innings and took a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning of the second game. 

RIC’s pitchers had a 1.69 ERA against Eastern this year while eight Eastern pitchers combined on a 7.80 ERA. All but two of the 34 hits in the two-game set were singles, with each team managing one double. For Eastern, John Mesagno was 4-for-5 in the two losses. Neither Jordan Muchin or John Parker – who have gone 1-2 in LEC doubleheaders most of this year – saw action this year against RIC.

At left: John Mesagno dropped anchor on RIC in this year's two-game regular-season series, collecting four hits -- including a double -- in five at-bats and scoring a run to lead the Warriors offensively. (Photo by Erin Winsor)

Eastern sent RIC to the losers’ bracket of the 2018 LEC tournament at UMass Boston with a 10-5 win and advanced to the championship round for the 12th time. Both teams had won their tournament openers last year, but RIC had to return in the morning to complete its 7-3 first-round win over Southern Maine before facing the Warriors in the final game of the day.

In last year’s LEC tournament meeting, Eastern scored all of its runs in its final four at-bats to erase a 3-0 deficit after five innings. The Warriors scored four in the seventh  to go up 5-3 and four more in the eighth to break the game open. Alex Parkos, the 2016 LEC tournament MVP as a freshman, reached four times with three hits and a walk, drove in two runs and scored two in the game. As the No. 9 hitter, Ryan Hood reached three times with two walks and a double and scored twice, and Alexander White, batting leadoff, reached four times with two triples and two walks, scored twice and drove in a run.  Eastern scored its four seventh-inning runs with the help of three walks, a wild pitch and passed ball.

Since RIC defeated Eastern twice in the 2011 LEC tournament at the Eastern Baseball Stadium en route to its second and most recent LEC title, the Warriors are 3-0 in LEC tournament play against RIC. The Warriors won 6-3 in 2012 after being swept by RIC in the regular season, 9-5 in 2014 after the teams had split, and last year after the clubs had split their regular-season doubleheader.

In the LEC regular season this year, Muchin and Parker have combined to start 11 of the 16 games and have a combined 5-6 record in 62 1/3 innings. Muchin is 3-3 with a 4.36 ERA, Parker 2-3 with a 9.00 ERA. Eastern’s most effective pitchers in LEC play have been Cole Ogorzalek (0-0-1, 1.20 in seven relief appearances over 15.0 innings), and Nick Rascati (1-0-0, 2.76 ERA in six appearances (one start) over 16 1/3 innings.

In the LEC this year, seven Eastern hitters were at .300 or better, led by Luke Broadhurst (.410), Mesagno (.385), Hood (.361) and William Coleman (.345). Broadhurst and Mesagno each had five doubles and three home runs, Broadhurst also tripling three times and Mesagno once. Despite an 8-8 record, Eastern outscored its LEC opponents 119-86 and had a +77 advantage in total basis and five fewer errors.