Southern Maine Clinches Little East Conference Regular Season Title
USM-UMass Dartmouth Split Doubleheader
GORHAM, Maine -- Sophomore right-hander Dalton Rice (Waterford, Maine) struck out 11 and sophomore Zach Quintal (Eliot, Maine/Marshwood) drove in three runs with a double and a home run to lead the University of Southern Maine Huskies to a 9-1 victory over the visiting University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Corsairs in the first game of the teams Little East Conference doubleheader Thursday afternoon at Ed Flaherty Field.
The victory clinched the LEC regular-season title for the Huskies, and they will host the 2017 championship tournament that starts next Wednesday (May 10). USM has won or shared the LEC regular-season title 12 times in the 21 seasons of LEC baseball. Seedings and the tournament schedule will be announced later tonight after all games have been completed.
In the nightcap, the Corsairs scored a run in the eighth inning on rookie Mike Knell's (Dennis, Mass./Dennis Yarmouth) double that snapped a 3-3 tie and held on for a 4-3 victory.
The split left the Huskies with a final regular-season record of 28-9 overall and 12-2 in LEC play. The Corsairs completed the season 22-18 and 9-5 in conference play. UMD will be the third seed in the upcoming tournament.
USM took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a sacrifice fly from junior Sam Stauble (Harrison, Maine/Bridgton Academy) to drive in rookie Andrew Olszak (Danvers, Mass.) who led off the inning with a single.
The Corsairs answered right back in the fourth with three consecutive two-out singles from senior Ezequiel Sanchez (Mantia, Puerto Rico), junior Kenny Michael (Norwood, Mass.) and junior Mac Curran (Lakeville, Mass.) to produce what would be their lone run in the game.
Southern Maine took the lead for good in the home half of the fourth scoring three times. The first run came home on a sacrifice squeeze bunt by sophomore Andrew Hillier (Bangor, Maine) followed by back-to-back RBI doubles from Olszak and Quintal.
Quintal hit his third homer run of the season, a two-run shot, in the sixth to make it 6-1. The Huskies tacked on three more insurance runs in the seventh as Hillier had an RBI double and Olszak had an RBI single. The other run scored with the benefit of an outfield error.
Rice had one of his best outings of the season going 6 2/3 innings allowing the one run on eight hits and two walks to run his record to 6-1. The 11 strikeouts were one shy of his career high set earlier this season.
Olszak and sophomore Jake Dexter (Oakland, Maine/Messalonskee) each had three hits to pace the Huskies 11-hit attack. Olszak also scored three runs and had two RBI.
Sanchez, Michael and junior Josh O'Neil (Halifax, Mass./Silver Lake Regional) had two hits apiece for the Corsairs. Junior starting pitcher Benjamin Lodge (Blackstone, Mass./Blackstone-Millville) was charged with his second loss of the season against six wins.
The Corsairs grabbed a 3-0 lead in the third inning before the Huskies posted single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to create a 3-3 tie.
In the eighth, UMD sophomore Erick Ramirez (Boston, Mass./Cambridge Rindge & Latin) singled with one out, and came all the way around to score when Knell greeted Dexter, who relieved sophomore Matt Correale (Peabody, Mass.), for double down the left-field line.
USM put two runners on with one out in the eighth against rookie hurler Robbie Carrillo (Melrose, Mass./Bishop Fenwick), but were unable to get the tying run home.
In the ninth, USM senior Matt Bender (Walpole, Mass.), in a pinch hitting role, was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and later stole second with two outs. UMD freshman reliever Nate Tellier (Attleboro, Mass.), who came on to start the ninth, got the final out on a fly ball to the outfield.
Earlier in the game, the Corsairs struck for three in the third on a two-run single by Ramirez and a sacrifice fly from Knell.
USM got on the board in the fifth on Olszak's fielder's choice ground out. Senior Paul McDonough (Wells, Maine) drove in a run in the sixth with a double. The Huskies tied the game in the seventh when Olszak's single was misplayed in the outfield for an error allowing Hillier to score.
Ramirez and rookie Mitch Baker (Braintree, Mass.) had two hits apiece for the Corsairs in the nightcap. Carrillo picked up his second win of the season with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Tellier, who has not allowed a hit this season in six relief appearances (6 1/3 innings), earned his first save.
McDonough was the Huskies lone repeat hitter with a double and a single. Correale was the tough-luck loser after pitching 4 1/3 innings in relief. The southpaw was charged with the one run allowing four hits and he did not walk a batter. Correale struck out four.
The Little East Conference Championship Tournament is a six-team, double-elimination event that gets underway next Wednesday at Ed Flaherty Field.