Productive offense pushes Mitchell baseball to top of NECC

New London Entering the season, Travis Beausoleil believed that his Mitchell College baseball team would be an offensive force.

When the Mariners sputtered at times in the opening weeks, Beausoleil, a second-year coach, never lost faith.

Mitchell finally had breakout performance in a three-game series against New England Collegiate Conference foe Becker College, piling up 52 hits and 46 runs in a sweep.

"It's what we expected," said Drew Doyle, an outfielder from Mystic. "It was just an outburst by us. We've been waiting for that all year and finally came out and swung and put up 46 (runs).

"We expected to do at least 10 every game with our bats."

Since arriving at Mitchell, Beausoleil filled his recruiting shopping basket with potent offensive players. But the Mariners averaged 3.4 runs in the first seven games contributing to a 2-5 start.

In the sweep of winless Becker (0-15, 0-6), Mitchell scored at least 10 runs in every game, winning 23-2 and 13-7 on Friday and 10-6 on Saturday.

"I've built the team around our offense," Beausoleil said. "And we didn't hit and didn't hit. ... We were competing. But we were waiting for that offensive explosion.

"Hopefully, as the weather warms up that might help us out and we continue this because this is where we need to be."

The Mariners rely on a balanced lineup. Doyle, a Fitch High School graduate, is having a superb sophomore season, batting a team-best .533 (24-for-45) with 13 RBI. Sophomore Rafael Garcia (.312, 12 RBI) is another sparkplug while freshman Neftali Arroyo has a team-best 15 RBI.

Depth has been tested. When starting catcher Nova Crespo of New London left Saturday's game with an arm injury, junior Kyle Edgar came in and contributed a single and two RBI. "From one to 37 on our roster, we need everyone here," Beausoleil said.

The pitching staff has been solid and benefitted from the run support and a trustworthy defense. Freshman Tyler Shamas (4-1, 1.95) has emerged as the team ace.

On Saturday, reliever Josh Zurita, a freshman from New London, played a vital role in the win.

With Mitchell clinging to a 7-6 lead with two outs in the eighth, Zurita came in and struck out Mike Smith looking. The Mariners, who were the visiting team, responded with three runs in the ninth on Edgar's RBI single and freshman Jon Padilla's two-run single.

"Our team showed a lot of heart," Garcia said. "We have a lot of fight in us, and I like that about our guys."

Zurita worked out of a bases loaded situation in the ninth to earn his third save. Starter Mike Tandy (3-2) picked up the win.

Mitchell (10-7) already has equaled last year's victory total. The Mariners also have established a foothold on top of the NECC standings with a 6-0 mark.

"We're the team to beat right now," Garcia said. "We've just got to keep playing hard."

Next weekend, they'll face perhaps their biggest roadblock to a NECC title in second place Daniel Webster.

Beausoleil is quick to remind his team that they jumped out to a 4-2 conference start last season before fading, ending up 9-9.

"We need to keep focused and keep getting better because we're not where we want to be," he said. "Winning is contagious. Hopefully, we'll keep moving forward."

g.keefe@theday.com

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