HARWICH, Mass. -- Freshman Sam Dexter (Oakland, Maine/Messalonskee) hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to snap a 2-2 tie as the University of Southern Maine came from behind to defeat Endicott College 5-2 in Game 14 of the NCAA Division III New England Regional Tournament at Whitehouse Field. The Huskies' victory forces the "if necessary" game Sunday (12:00 p.m.) with the winner gaining a berth in the NCAA Division III National Championship next week in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Dexter's homer made a winner out of sophomore right-hander Andrew Richards (South Portland, Maine) for a second time on Saturday. Richards hurled a five-hit, 7-0 shutout against Western New England University earlier in the day to put USM into the championship round needing two wins over Endicott. Richards, who took the loss against Endicott in Game 11 on Friday, went 5.2 innings allowing one run on six hits and no walks while striking out four to improve his record to 9-2.
Dexter hit a 2-1 pitch off Endicott senior right-hander Kevin Dupras (Belchertown, Mass.) over the left-center field fence for his fourth homer of the season. Sophomore Jake Glauser (Goffstown, N.H.) had singled and stolen second before Dexter hit his home run. The Huskies would tack on an insurance run later in the inning when junior John Carey (South Portland, Maine) scored on senior Nick Grady's (Whitefield, Maine/Erskine Academy) single.
The Gulls brought the tying run to the plate in the home half of the ninth, but Richards got a key defensive play from junior outfielder Troy Thibodeau (Danvers, Mass./New Hampton). Thibodeau snagged a line drive off the bat of junior Conor Ressel (Rockport, Mass./Gloucester) and was able to double off a runner at second base for a double play. Richards then got the final out on a ground ball to second base.
Endicott grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth against USM rookie left-handed starter Tyler Leavitt (North Andover, Mass.). Graduate student Colin Sitarz (West Hartford, Conn./Hall), who led off the inning with a double, scored on junior pinch hitter EJ Martinez's (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep) foul ball sacrifice fly down the left field line off Richards.
The Gulls increased their lead to 2-0 in the sixth when freshman Matt Paolo (Middlebury, Conn./Pomperaug) doubled and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by junior Tad Gold (Martha's Vineyard, Mass.). Paolo scored when senior Eric Lemke (Southington, Conn.) lifted a sacrifice fly to center field.
USM got on the board in the seventh inning. Junior Matt Verrier (Norway, Maine/Oxford Hills) walked, moved to second on a ground out, and scored on Glauser's two-out single.
The Huskies caught a break in the eighth inning when Dexter scored the tying run on an infield throwing error.
Dexter went 3 for 5 with two RBI to pace the Huskies' 12-hit attack. Senior Tucker White (Deerfield, N.H./Coe-Brown Northwood), junior Forrest Chadwick (Gardiner, Maine), Grady and Glauser had two hits apiece.
Paola and Martinez had a double and a single for the Gulls. Dupras was tagged with his second loss of the season after allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits in 2.1 innings. Graduate student Mike Nich (Orange, Conn./Amity) started on the hill for the Gulls going 6.1 innings. Nich allowed one run on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
Southern Maine won its school record 41st game of the season, and is now 41-8. Endicott, which had its seven-game winning streak stopped, is now 35-13.