Mitchell clinches Division III berth
Mitchell College took an unconventional route to winning the New England Collegiate Conference baseball championship on Sunday.
Operating with a depleted pitching staff after reaching the championship round through the losers' bracket, top-seeded Mitchell unleashed an offensive explosion rarely seen in a title game.
A relentless Mariner attack banged out 25 hits on the way to a 27-11 rout of second-seeded Becker College at Alumni Field in New London. They earned the program's second NCAA Division III tournament berth.
"What a game…," coach Travis Beausoleil said. "Our guys just hit. Our guys just kept coming at them and coming at them and coming at them. It was a good day."
It was also a crazy day for the Mariners (23-12-1), who needed to beat Becker in the morning on Sunday just to get a shot at the championship. They posted a 13-3 victory to force a deciding game in the double-elimination tournament.
In two games, they piled up 44 hits and 40 runs.
"Game one really set the stage for game two," Beausoleil said.
The Mariners were determined not to fall short like they did last year when they lost two games in the championship round. They blew a 6-1 lead and lost 9-7 in the deciding game to Daniel Webster College.
Mitchell never trailed and never let up in Sunday's tournament finale. Senior Will Charkowsky had four hits, including a home run, and four RBI while junior Evan Peck had four hits and two RBI and senior Kenneth Olszewski had three hits, including a two-run home run, and three RBI.
Junior Gavin LaLima of Waterford was named the tournament's most valuable player after batting a team-best .579 in five tournament games. A lead-off batter, he went 5-for-8 with seven runs scored and two RBI on Sunday.
The Mariners will find out their postseason destination and opponent on May 12 when the NCAA field is announced.
"It's special," Beausoleil said of earning an NCAA bid. "I can't be happier for the guys. Especially for the guys who were part of the team that worked their butts off last year and came so close to clinching. The rug got swept out from underneath them.
"They not only finished the job, but they put an exclamation point on it."
Beausoleil was forced to dip deep into his pitching roster on Sunday. Senior Mike Tandy (5-2) saved the Mariners by going the distance in the 13-3 win, allowing just one earned run. Senior Marc Dorsi sparked the offense with four hits and five RBI.
Then pitchers Troy Stango, Devin Robbins (1-0) and Johnny Cabrera combined to help the Mariners get through the deciding game. It was the first varsity appearance for Robbins, a freshman out of Norwich Free Academy.
Of course, it helped that the Mariners scored nine runs in the fourth and eight in the fifth to take the pressure off and increase the lead to 27-4.
From there, Beausoleil's biggest challenge was keeping his players from celebrating too early.
"Everyone recognized that we had a long way to go," Beausoleil said. "I reminded them what happened last year and that we needed every pitch and every hit. The guys did a good job locking in."
Mitchell captured its third NECC Championship overall, and first NCAA tournament bid since 2011. Freshman pitcher Axel De Jesus, who tossed a shutout against Elms College in Friday's opening win, and LaLima made the 10-player all-tournament team.
"We've done something special but I also don't think we're done," Beausoleil said.
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