CCRI's Gleason comes home and pushes Pointers to the limit

Groton - Conor Gleason badly wanted to finish what he started Saturday.

One out away from a complete game and tying the NJCAA Division II New England Tournament series at one-game apiece, Gleason faced a bases-loaded situation against UConn-Avery Point.

A reliever was ready to come in.

Gleason, a Wheeler High School graduate, convinced his Community College of Rhode Island coach to remain in the game. That was bad news for the Pointers.

Gleason struck out Tyler Olt to finish off a 4-0 shutout and force a deciding game today at 1 p.m. at Washington Park.

"You don't want to leave the game with anyone on," Gleason said. "So it was great for me to finish the game and just a big lift for the team and gives us confidence going into tomorrow."

Gleason, a sophomore right-hander, leaned on his postseason experience. He threw a complete game against the Pointers in last year's New England tournament, helping CCRI advance and eventually move on to the nationals where he also pitched well.

Avery Point went down quietly against Gleason, who threw a four-hitter, striking out 10 and walking six. For the second straight game, the Pointers (34-8) failed to deliver in the clutch. They also made two costly errors that led to two unearned runs.

But it really didn't matter with the way Gleason pitched. CCRI had lost the previous five meetings this season, including 4-3 in Friday's tournament opener.

"We had to play a perfect game," Avery Point coach Roger Bidwell said. "And, you know what? We still wouldn't have won it because we never scored. Gleason did a great job.

"It was probably the best pitching performance against us all year. Congratulations to him."

Gleason had his own personal fan club watching, with family, friends and former coaches in attendance. He enjoyed returning to a field that he played on during his high school and Eastern Connecticut Major League days.

"This is like home to me," Gleason said. "I have a lot of comfort on the mound. I've got the hometown fans coming out to support me, which is great. That raises your level of play that much more. You want to do well for them and make them proud."

Mission accomplished.

Gleason didn't give up his first hit - Kevin Hall's scratch single - until the fifth inning, putting runners on first and second base with nobody out. He roared back to strike out the next two batters and get a pop-up for the final out.

He remained poised under pressure, working out of jams in the eighth and ninth innings while stranding five runners.

"I have confidence in myself," Gleason said. "I think I can beat anyone."

Avery Point self-destructed at times. CCRI (26-12) used two walks and a throwing error to take a 1-0 lead in the third. Another throwing error produced another unearned run in the fifth.

Two singles, a hit-batsman, a bases-loaded walk and passed ball generated two more runs in the eighth.

Shawn Nadeau of Groton pitched well in defeat, scattering seven hits and allowing four runs - two earned - in seven plus innings.

"I've been happy with him all year," Bidwell said. "I think he's had one bad outing. He's gone far and beyond what I expected this year. He's really performed great."

Bidwell will turn to freshman righthander Zach Albin (7-1, 2.17), the team's ace, in today's deciding game.

It won't matter how well Albin performs if the Pointers are unable to generate some offense.

"Their pitching is good, that's why we haven't scored a lot of runs," Bidwell said. "We've had some opportunities, but we haven't had anybody step up and get that big hit. We're going to need that tomorrow."

g.keefe@theday.com

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