NORWICH, Conn. – Sophomore Robby Rinn broke a 2-2 tie in the 12th inning with a bases-clearing triple and junior Trevor Lacosse tossed 4.1 scoreless innings of relief to propel Bryant to a 6-2 victory against Sacred Heart and its second consecutive Northeast Conference Championship on Saturday at Dodd Stadium.
The Bulldogs (42-14) led 2-0 until the Pioneers (29-28) tied the game in the eighth inning. Rinn then stepped to the dish with the bases loaded in the 12th and delivered the biggest hit of his Bulldog career.
With the victory, Bryant receives the NECs automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and will find out its fate on Monday when the NCAA selection show airs at noon on ESPNU.
With the game deadlocked in the 12th, junior Jordan Mountford started the rally with a chopper through the right side. Sophomore AJ Zarozny followed with a sharply hit ground ball that was fielded by the Jesus Medina at third but his throw to second was errant, allowing Mountford to advance all the way to third. After an intentional walk and a fielder's choice left the bases loaded with one out, Rinn stepped to the dish and smacked a two-hopper inside the bag at first and into the right field corner to clear the bases and give Bryant a 5-2 lead. It was just the second triple of his career. Classmate Buck McCarthy added an insurance run with a single to left two batters later.
Lacosse, who entered with two outs in the eighth, came back out in the bottom of the 12th to close the door. A pair of one-out singles put runners on the corners but Lacosse recovered to get a pop out to second for the second out. Lacosse's classmate, Mountford, sealed the victory as he raced in from right field and dove full-out to make an outstanding grab to send the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament. Lacosse struck out four and walked two in 4.1 scoreless innings to run his record to 4-3 on the year.
Prior to the 12th, Saturday's championship rematch was a pitcher's duel. Bryant was able to strike first as Mountford, Zarozny and junior Carl Anderson started the game with three-consecutive singles to center to make it 1-0. Rinn tacked on a second run with a sac fly to center.
After that, however, SHU starter Jason Foley held the Black and Gold in check. Foley, a rookie right-hander, didn't allow another hit the rest of his outing and the Bulldogs weren't able to pick up another hit until Mountford's lead-off single in the 10th. In between, Bryant was unable to put anything together. The Bulldogs put the first two runners on in the third but a pair of fly outs and a pop out stranded both.
Foley then retired nine batters in a row, but hit a wall in the seventh as he issued back-to-back two-out walks. Ace reliever James Cooksey entered and shut the door on Bryant for the next 4.1 innings. He retired the first seven batters he faced and then stranded the potential winning run on second in the 10th. In all, he went 5.1 innings and allowed four runs (two earned) on five hits, suffering just his second loss of the season.
Staked to an early 2-0 lead, senior right-hander Vaughn Hayward turned in one of the best outings of his career against the Pioneers. He tossed 6.1 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and issuing two walks. SHU put the first two runners on in the third but Hayward induced two flyouts and a pop out to end the threat. A double play erased a lead-off single in the fourth and Hayward proceeded to allow just two runners the rest of the evening. Classmate Jonathan Cohen came on with one out in the seventh and retired the first four batters he faced before trouble struck.
Needing a rally, the Pioneers were given a runner as a two-out error extended the eighth inning. Jayson Sullivan made the mistake prove costly as he sent a 3-2 changeup over the left field fence for a game-tying two-run home run.
The two teams would then trade blows over the next four innings until Rinn was able to break the deadlock. Mountford finished 3-for-5, Zarozny scored twice and Rinn drove in a career-high four runs. Sullivan had two hits and two RBI and Ted Shaw also finished with two hits for the Pioneers.
Senior right-hander Craig Schlitter was named the Tournament MVP after tossing a three-hit shutout against Central Connecticut on Friday. Junior Kevin McAvoy , Rinn and McCarthy were named to the All-Tournament team.
Bryant's victory was also the sixth NEC title for the University this spring. The Bulldogs become the first team in NEC history to win as many as six titles in the spring season.