GORHAM, Maine -- Needing two victories on the final day of the 2012 Little East Conference Baseball Championship to take the title, the top-seeded University of Southern Maine Huskies defeated the second-seeded Keene State College Owls 2-1 on an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning by sophomore Forrest Chadwick (Gardiner, Maine), then ended the sixth-seeded Plymouth State University Panthers improbable run in the tournament by beating the Panthers 6-1 in the championship game.
The championship is the Huskies first since 1999, and their third in the 16-year history of the tournament. The Huskies, 27-17 overall and the LEC regular season champions, won four straight elimination games after dropping their opening game of the tournament to PSU on Wednesday. The Huskies have now won 11 of their last 12 games.
Plymouth State, which had not won an LEC tournament game since 2001, advanced to the championship game for the first time. PSU had beaten USM, fourth-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University and Keene State to reach the final. The Panthers finish their season 20-22.
Keene State finished the season 31-13. The Owls will have to wait for the NCAA Division III tournament selections to be announced Monday morning to see if they will receive an at-large berth.
Southern Maine 2, Keene State 1
Chadwick's game winning hit in the ninth inning made a winner of senior right-hander Ben Ives (Portland, Maine/Deering). Ives threw a sparkling, three-hit complete game to earn his ninth win of the season against no losses. Ives walked two and struck out 10 in the game, and the lone run the Owls scored was unearned.
Junior Tucker White (Deerfield, N.H./Coe-Brown Northwood) led of the USM ninth inning by being hit by a pitch from tough-luck losing pitcher, junior Chris Crutcher (Londonderry, N.H.). Classmate Nick Grady (Whitefield, Maine/Erskine) worked a walk from junior reliever Tim Quagliaroli (Windsor Locks, Conn.) to set the stage for Chadwick. Chadwick lashed a Quagliaroli offering into right field to bring White around with the winning run.
USM gave Ives a 1-0 lead in the second when Grady singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, and took third on Chadwick's ground out to first. Sophomore John Carey (South Portland, Maine) delivered Grady with a single to left field.
Keene State plated the equalizer in the third as rookie Ian Seawards (Dover, N.H.) reached on a two-base infield throwing error. Seawards moved to third on a ground out, and scored on a two-out single through the right side of the infield by junior Greg Bates (Salem, N.H.).
After the Bates single, Ives retired10 straight KSC batters until senior Erik Bergstrom (Enfield, Conn.) led off the seventh with a double. Ives would strand two Owl base runners in the seventh, and again in the eighth, to keep the game tied at 1-1.
Crutcher matched Ives through the first eight innings allowing just seven singles and two walks while striking out three. He worked out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh getting a fly out to end the inning.
Southern Maine 6, Plymouth State 1
The Cinderella Panthers, looking to become the second straight sixth seed to win the tournament, took an early 1-0 lead when senior Luke Merrill (Pittsburg, N.H.) hit his third home run of the season off the left field foul pole.
The Huskies came right back with back-to-back three-run innings to claim a 6-1 lead. In the third, Grady tied the game with a single to drive in senior David Ricker (Winthrop, Maine) with the first run. Chadwick lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to plate rookie Jake Glauser (Goffstown, N.H.), and White scored the third run when Carey beat out a fielder's choice.
In the fourth, Glauser drove in sophomore Troy Thibodeau (Danvers, Mass.) with a two-out double down the left field line. Thibodeau had led off the inning with a double into the left-center field gap off PSU senior starter Bobby Chatfield (Sharon, Conn.), and knock Chatfield from the game. Chatfield had beaten the Huskies, 3-2, with a masterful performance in the opening game of the tournament.
White kept the inning going by reaching on a two-out infield error. Grady was intentionally passed after White stole second base, and Chadwick drove in Glauser and White with a single to left.
Senior right-hander Dustin Stanton (Cornish, Maine/Sacopee Valley), who came on in relief of sophomore starter Logan Carman (Newfields, N.H./Laurel Springs) in the third inning, threw 6.2 innings of four-hit shutout relief to earn his second win of the season. Stanton did not walk a batter and struck out four. In three appearances in the tournament, Stanton did not give up a run in 10.2 innings while giving up only four hits, one walk and fanning seven.