Maine captures America East title
Black Bears earn first NCAA tournament berth since 2006
Stony Brook, N.Y.-- Maine won its first America East Baseball Championship since 2006, winning three consecutive games to earn the league's automatic NCAA berth. The Black Bears, the No. 2 seed, defeated each of the tournament participants, including fourth-seeded Albany, 10-1, in the final on Friday at Stony Brook's Joe Nathan Field.
The NCAA Baseball Selection Show Special will air Monday, May 30 on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. and will reveal Maine's next opponent and regional.
Junior center fielder Taylor Lewis, the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, finished the championship batting .417 (5-for-12) with two RBIs, four runs, a triple and a double. Teammates Mike Fransoso (.455, 4 RBIs, HR), Alex Calbick (.300, 5 RBIs, HR) and Keith Bilodeau (9.0 inn. CG, six strikeouts) joined Lewis on the all-tournament team.
Lewis, who finished Friday's game 3-for-5 with two RBIs, singled through the right side of the field to lead off the game for the Black Bears, followed by a steal and Fransoso's bunt which advanced Lewis to third base. First-team all-conference outfielder Joey Martin hit a hard grounder to the right side which the second baseman mishandled, scoring Lewis from third. Lewis led all players during the tournament with four runs scored.
In the bottom of the second, Albany senior Ralph Rizzo, an all-tournament team selection, belted a solo home run over the left field fence to even the score at 1-1.
Another hit to leadoff an inning paid off for the Black Bears in the top of the fourth. Martin legged out an infield bunt single which landed just in between the catcher and third baseman. The senior found his way to second base on a wild pitch, and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from Tyler Patzalek. Justin Leisenheimer brought Martin home with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Albany freshman starter Matt Dybus walked the bases loaded with two outs, then walked in Maine's third run of the game. Lewis followed with his second single of the day, this one a two-run hit to right center field to give Maine the 5-1 lead. Greg Lutton relieved Dybus on the mound and induced a flyout to right field to end the four-run inning. Dybus finished with five earned runs on three hits and four walks in 3.2 innings with no strikeouts.
The Black Bears began pulling away with another four-run inning in the seventh, which included home runs by both Justin and Ian Leisenheimer. Martin once again started off the big inning with a single, then Tyler Patzalek reached on a bunt single and advanced to second on a bad throw to first base. With two on base, Justin launched a three-run homer to left field. Ian's four-bagger two batters later also landed over the left field fence, chasing Lutton from the game. Austin Chase came into the game and forced two ground outs.
Maine tacked on the final run the next inning when Fransoso tripled to deep right field and came into score on Martin's RBI single through the right side.
Black Bear pitcher Stephen Perakslis completed 7.1 innings, allowing just three hits, one earned run and one walk with eight strikeouts. Second-team reliever Shaun Coughlin completed the final 1.2 innings, retiring all five batters that he faced.
The Great Danes advanced out of the losers' bracket into the championship game by virtue of their 4-1 victory against top-seeded Stony Brook in the day's first game. Sophomore starting pitcher Kasceim Graham went the distance, pitching his first complete game of the season, and earning all-tournament team recognition. The righty scattered six hits, struck out seven Seawolves and walked two while being tagged with just one earned run.
Graham's counterpart for Stony Brook, freshman Brandon McNitt, finished with five strikeouts, five walks and four earned earns over 6.2 innings. Relievers James Campbell and Jasvir Rakkar combined to pitch the final 1.1 innings without being tagged for a run.
Stony Brook threatened in the first inning when Pat Cantwell led off with a line-drive double down the left field line. Cantwell advanced to third on Chad Marshall's force out to the first baseman. Player of the Year Willie Carmona struck out looking and Tissenbaum flied out to left field to strand Cantwell 90-feet away.
The Seawolves put men on base once again in the third but couldn't capitalize. With one out, Josh Mason walked and advanced to second base when Cantwell singled through the left side. Marshall followed up with a fielder's choice grounder hit at the second baseman, but then stole second to put men on second and third with two outs. After a lengthy at-bat, Graham struck out Carmona swinging on a fast ball to keep the game scoreless.
In the top of the fifth, designated hitter Sal Intagliata led off the inning with a double to left field. Mason grounded out at first on a routine 6-3 play to move Intagliata over to third base. Cantwell drove the run in on a deep sacrifice fly to center field for the first tally on the scoreboard. Graham got through the rest of the inning safely.
All of Albany's runs finally came in the bottom of the seventh inning when the Great Danes batted around the lineup. Mike Tirri beat out a grounder to deep second by diving through first base to lead off the home half of the frame. All-rookie Josh Nethaway put down a sacrifice bunt just in front of the catcher to advance Tirri to second, followed by a Vincent Martorelli walk to set up men on first and second with one out. Freshman DJ Hoagboon ripped a double to the left field corner, scoring both Tirri and Martorelli. McNitt next walked his fifth batter of the day, putting number eight hitter Rizzo on first base, then forced Jeff Welsh into a fly out to right field which advanced Hoagboon to third, marking the end of the day for the Rookie of the Year McNitt.
Campbell replaced McNitt on the mound and let up two straight singles to Nolan Gaige and Kyle Crean, allowing another two runs to cross the plate. Campbell hit Greg Muller to load the bases, but Tirri ended the seventh inning by grounding out to second base.