Sixth-seeded Franklin Pierce wins East; scores 5-1 victory vs. Wilmington (Del.)
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A four-pitch strikeout of Mike Annone by Joe Flynn sent sixth-seeded Franklin Pierce pouring out of the dugout at Penmen Field on Sunday. The looking strikeout finished off a 5-1 victory against top-seed Wilmington (Del.) in the championship game of the NCAA East Regional, as Franklin Pierce punched its ticket to Cary, N.C., and the national finals.
Ryan Leach fired six innings of three-hit ball without allowing an earned run to make sure Franklin Pierce left Manchester with the trophy in tow.
Franklin Pierce improves to 36-17 and lays claim to the sixth NCAA regional title in program history (2010, '08, '07, '06 and '03). The Ravens will meet Atlantic Regional champion Shippensburg at 1 p.m. ET May 25 to open the national finals at USA Baseball National Training Complex.
With the loss, Wilmington concludes its season at 43-14.
Trevor Graham, Zach Mathieu and Matt O'Herron were all named to the East Regional All-Championship Team. Graham, who authored a three-hit shutout with 10 punchouts on Thursday against Wilmington and recorded the final out of Saturday night's 13-inning win over Southern New Hampshire, was named the tournament's most outstanding player.
On Sunday, however, Leach stole the show, as he worked six-plus innings just two days after throwing 3.1 innings in relief against New Haven. Leach took over to start the third and allowed only three hits before leaving after issuing a lead-off walk in the ninth, his only walk of the game. He was touched for just an unearned run in the seventh, struck out three and hit three batters while picking up the win (6-4).
Flynn came on with the runner on first after the lead-off walk in the ninth and retired all three batters he faced. After getting a flyball out to start his outing, Flynn threw a wild pitch, and then the baserunner stole third, before a lineout for the second out. This brought Annone to the plate holding the 27th and final out. Flynn got a called strike on the first pitch of the at-bat and a swing-through on the second before Annone fouled off a breaking ball to keep the game alive. Flynn's next move was to blaze a fastball down at the knees which locked up Annone. Home plate umpire and crew chief Rick Cacciatore rang up strike three and the Ravens mobbed Flynn in front of the mound.
Franklin Pierce plated its first two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning against Tim Racek, who would pitch the fourth and to one batter in the fifth while taking the loss (1-1). Racek's first two pitches were balls to Dan Kemp, who turned on the third pitch and ripped the ball into the left-field corner for a lead-off double. He moved to third when Mathieu followed and dumped a single into right-center. Nick LaCroix was next and chopped a ball up the third-base line, which Racek scrambled after but could not field cleanly, allowing LaCroix to reach on the error to load the bases. The first run of the game came courtesy of Matt Walsh, who lined a 2-2 pitch into left field to score Kemp. Marty Dunlap followed with a ground ball to shortstop that was ruled an RBI fielder's choice as the relay throw to first on the double-play attempt pulled the first baseman off the bag.
The Ravens doubled the lead to 4-0 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, John Razzino knocked a single to center and went first-to-third when O'Herron went the other way and dumped a single inside the right-field line. With runners at the corners and two outs, the Ravens had O'Herron take off for second with the pitcher still holding the ball, hoping he could get caught up in a rundown long enough for Razzino to score. However, second baseman Brendan Fallers dropped the throw his way after the pitcher stepped off the rubber, allowing O'Herron to retreat to first and Razzino to score uncontested. Justin Brock was at the plate when this happened, and he hammered the second pitch of his at-bat into the gap in left-center field for an RBI triple.
Wilmington got runners to scoring position in both the seventh and the eighth innings, as it threatened to draw closer down the stretch. But Leach, who piled up 11 ground-ball outs on the day, got groundouts to end each threat, including an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play in the eighth.
The groundout in the seventh prevented further damage after Wilmington plated an unearned run for its only score. With one out, Brandon Payne bounced a single through the left side of the infield. He moved to third when Joe Marciano hit a ground ball to first which Mathieu couldn't handle, allowing Marciano to reach at second and Payne to move to third on the error. An RBI groundout by Annone scored Payne, but then another groundout by Jordan Johnson ended the inning.
Franklin Pierce picked up one final insurance run in the eighth inning. With one out, Dunlap pulled a single through the left side and was replaced by pinch-runner Ryan Boswell. The added speed drew an errant pickoff throw, which allowed Boswell to scamper all the way around to third. He scored when he beat the throw to the plate after Razzino laid down a squeeze bunt.