MANSFIELD, Conn. -- Sophomore Nick Grady (Whitefield, Maine/Erskine Academy) went 3 for 5, including his sixth home run of the season, and had three RBI to help the fifth-seeded University of Southern Maine Huskies defeat the second-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston Beacons 9-4 Wednesday in a first-round game of the 2011 Little East Conference Championship Tournament being played at the ECSU Baseball Stadium.
The win moves the Huskies into a winners' bracket game Thursday night (7:00 p.m.) against the winner of the Keene State College-University of Massachusetts Dartmouth game. The Huskies, winners of eight of their last 11 games, improved to 22-17. The Beacons, the defending LEC tournament champion, fall to 18-21 and will play top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University in an elimination game Thursday (12:00 p.m.). Sixth-seeded Rhode Island College upset ECSU, 6-4 in 12 innings, in the first game of the day.
Grady hit a solo homer to lead off the second inning, and had a two-run triple to highlight the Huskies' five-run rally in the fifth inning.
Senior Mike Eaton (Sabattus, Maine/Oak Hill) also had three hits and an RBI for the Huskies. Senior right-hander Ben Ives (Portland, Maine/Deering) picked up his second win of the season going 7 2/3 innings before junior Dustin Stanton (Cornish, Maine/Sacopee Valley) came on to get the final four outs. Ives (2-3) scattered 12 hits and one walk while fanning five.
Senior Ryan Walsh (Newton, Mass./Newton North) led the Beacons' 12-hit attack going 4 for 4. Sophomore Christos Ferreira (Norwood, Mass.) was 3 for 3 with a walk, and junior Mark McCormack (Shelton, Conn.) had a pair of hits. Junior southpaw James Dalton (Apopka, Fla.) was saddled with his fourth loss of the season against four wins.
Trailing 1-0, Grady tied the score with one swing of the bat hitting his round tripper to left. The Huskies took the lead when sophomore Tucker White (Deerfield, N.N.) scored on a double steal attempt later in the inning.
The Huskies increased their lead in the fourth when Eaton singled, moved to second on a Grady single, and scored on a single by junior David Ricker (Winthrop, Maine).
USM blew the game open with five runs in the fifth, highlighted by Grady's two-run triple. Junior Anthony Pisani (Cheshire, Conn.) brought in the first run with a sacrifice fly. Grady followed two batters later with his triple to right center. White plated Grady with a squeeze bunt, and senior Josh Mackey (Danvers, Mass.) drove home the final run with a single to left.
The Beacons scored a single run in the sixth on Ferreira's RBI single, and two more in the eighth on a two-run single by senior Dan Noonan (Westport, Mass.) to cut the deficit to four (8-4).
The Huskies picked up an insurance run in the ninth on Ricker's RBI fielder's choice.