Mariners are off to Cape Cod

New London Travis Beausoleil stayed up well past midnight on Sunday for the announcement of the NCAA Division III baseball tournament field.

Sleep could wait.

It didn't matter that the Mariners had earned an automatic postseason bid by winning the New England Collegiate Conference championship last weekend.

"I was anxious and excited," said Beausoleil, who's in his third year as Mitchell head coach.

The news finally arrived via email shortly after 1 a.m.

The Mariners (23-12-1) received the eighth seed in the Harwich, Mass., regional. They will play top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University (32-7), the No. 1 ranked team in New England, at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Whitehouse Field.

The game will pit tradition rich Eastern against a Mitchell program making its second trip to the NCAA tournament, the first coming in 2011.

Beausoleil, who graduated from Plainfield High School and played at UConn-Avery Point, knows all about the Warriors, who earned their 33rd NCAA trip, won 12 regional titles and four national championships.

"I thought if we stayed in New England, we'd face Eastern," Beausoleil said. "I'm excited about it. I'm an eastern Connecticut guy. I grew up in Plainfield. Bring it on.

"We've got seven eastern Connecticut guys on our roster and they've got seven eastern Connecticut guys on their roster. So it will be fun hometown matchup."

Beausoleil also has ties to first-year Eastern coach Matt LaBranche.

When LaBranche coached the Western New England University program, he recruited Beausoleil who spent a red-shirt season there before leaving for Avery Point.

"He's a good coach," Beausoleil said. "He does a good job. He won with Western New England, a private school. His first year at Eastern, he continued his winning ways."

Eastern enters the eight-team, double-elimination regional riding a 10-game winning streak. The regional winner advances to the NCAA Division III World Series in Appleton, Wisc.

Mitchell took the hard route to postseason, battling back out of the NECC tournament losers' bracket and sweeping Becker College in the championship round.

Baseball teams from the NECC have struggled in NCAA tournament play during the conference's history. Daniel Webster finally broke a winless drought last year, beating MIT, 10-4, in the regional before bowing out with a 3-1 loss to Wheaton College.

While odds are against Mitchell advancing, the Mariners are confident they'll represent their school and conference well.

Beausoleil will start ace Tyler Shamus (7-3, 3.54) against Eastern.

"Win or lose, we just want to compete and show people that the NECC has good baseball teams and we can compete at the regional level and national level," Beausoleil said. "Hopefully, we put our best foot forward."

Other teams in the Harwich regional include: No. 2 Southern Maine (31-12), No. 3 Tufts (33-7), No. 4 Endicott (30-14), No. 5 MIT (24-13), No. 6 Saint Joseph's of Maine (28-13) and No. 7 Worcester State (25-15).

The Warriors went 5-0 against the regional field during the regular season, including beating Southern Maine, 6-5, Saturday to win the Little East Championship.

Senior righthander Greg Porter of Mystic is one of Eastern's top starting pitchers. He leads the team in innings pitched (64.1) and strikeouts (63), posting a 7-3 record with a 3.92 earned run average.

g.keefe@theday.com

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