HARWICH, Mass. -- Sophomore right-hander Andrew Richards (South Portland, Maine) made his first start of the season a memorable one pitching a five-hit shutout as the top-seeded University of Southern Maine defeated fourth-seeded Western New England University 7-0 in Game 13 of the 2013 NCAA Division III New England Regional Tournament being played at Whitehouse Field.
With their record-setting 40th win of the season, the Huskies advance to the championship round of the eight-team, double-elimination tournament against third-seeded Endicott College. The Huskies, 3-1 in the tournament, must beat the unbeaten Gulls later today (4:00 p.m. start time) to force Game 15 on Sunday (12:00 p.m.). Endicott, 3-0 in the tournament, advanced to the championship round with wins over Saint Joseph's College (Me.), Wheaton College and USM.
Richards, who pitched four shutout innings in relief against WNEU on Thursday, was the surprise starter for the Huskies. The 6-foot-2 righty had made 28 appearances out of the bullpen this season before making today's start. He allowed only five singles and one walk while striking out one. After giving up a leadoff single in the fifth inning, Richards set down 13 straight Golden Bear hitters. WNEU did not get a runner to third base until the ninth inning.
The Huskies staked Richards to a 5-0 lead before he even threw a pitch. The Huskies took advantage of four hits and two walks to score five times in the first inning against WNEU junior starter Brendan Nugent (Milford, Conn.). Junior Forrest Chadwick (Gardiner, Maine) ignited the inning with a two-run double down the left field line. Classmate Troy Thibodeau (Danvers, Mass./New Hampton) brought home Chadwick with a double to right-center field. Senior Anthony Pisani (Cheshire, Conn./Notre Dame) capped off the outburst with a single that scored junior Matt Verrier (Norway, Maine/Oxford Hills), who walked, and Thibodeau.
Richards surrendered a two-out single and his only walk in the bottom of the first inning before getting his lone strikeout to end the threat. The Huskies' defense turned double plays behind Richards in the second and fourth innings.
Senior reliever Jeff Richardson (Simsbury, Conn.) came on for the Golden Bears in the second inning and matched Richards zero for zero over the next four innings. The Huskies finally reached Richardson for two runs in the sixth inning as sophomore Jake Glauser (Goffstown, N.H.) walked and freshman Sam Dexter (Oakland, Maine/Messalonskee) followed by hitting a two-run homer.
Chadwick, Pisani and junior John Carey (South Portland, Maine) each had three hits to lead the Huskies' 13-hit attack. Richards, who also earned the win over WNEU on Thursday, raises his record to 8-2.
Senior Mike Rubino (Northford, Conn.) was the lone Golden Bear hitter to solve Richards getting three of his team's five hits. Nugent was tagged with the loss and finished the season 8-2.
Western New England, making its 10th appearance in the NCAA tournament, ends its season 34-13.