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Martinez, Driscoll playing vital roles for Mitchell baseball team

New London — Junior Lelo Martinez has experienced the joy of winning a conference championship and the thrill of playing in the NCAA Division III baseball tournament.

Freshman Daniel Driscoll is new to the whole May Madness scene, although he was in the stands last year watching Mitchell College capture the New England Collegiate Conference tournament title.

"As soon as I saw that, I was like, I want to do that with them, " Driscoll said.

Both former Eastern Connecticut Conference players — Martinez from New London and Driscoll from Waterford — played vital roles in the Mariners' seventh bid to the NCAA tourney.

In the NECC tournament, Mitchell battled back from the losers' bracket, beating host New England College twice in the championship round on May 8 in Henniker, N.H.

"It was a really, really good feeling," Martinez said. "We were going in 1-4 against them (this season), so we went the hard route and we took two."

The Mariners (30-11) will learn their postseason opponent and destination on Monday.

Driscoll, a left-handed pitcher, and Martinez, a third baseman, rose to the occasion on a pressure-packed stage in the conference tourney.

Facing elimination in the first game of the championship round, Driscoll turned in an impressive performance, allowing nine hits and three runs in 8.1 innings while walking one and striking out eight. He earned the win to improve to 6-0.

Driscoll learned to be cool and composed during big games from his Waterford High School days. He played on the 2019 Class L state championship team and pitched in a 2021 Class M semifinal loss to East Catholic.

"I feel like I'm in the same program (here) sometimes," Driscoll said. "The mentality is the same. We know the tradition here is winning from coach (Travis Beausoleil). That really hasn't changed since high school. That's really helped."

Martinez helped make Driscoll feel comfortable by belting a three-run home run in the first inning to give the Mariners a 3-0 lead in a game that they'd win 5-3 to remain alive.

His blast gave his team a much-needed jolt.

"If Lelo doesn't hit that three-run home run, I don't know where that game goes," Beausoleil said. "That allowed everyone to relax a little bit."

In the deciding game that followed, Martinez went 4-for-5 with two RBI and three runs scored in a title-clinching 10-3 victory.

"I love being in the spotlight," said Martinez, an All-NECC selection. "I've been there a lot, so I'm used to it. It doesn't really faze me."

Driscoll was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament. It just as easily could have been Martinez, who had eight hits and five RBI during the five tournament games.

"I was kind of shocked," Driscoll said about winning the award. "Lelo, or any of the guys on this team, could have gotten it. It really was a team effort."

Driscoll is enjoying a terrific first season. He leads the team in wins and strikeouts (50). His earned run average of 1.21 is the fifth best in the nation. He's allowed just 28 hits in 44.2 innings.

He's benefited from the presence of pitching coach Shawn Gilblair, a former All-American at Eastern Connecticut State University.

"He's learned from coach Gilblair," Beausoleil said. "He's a smart kid. And coach Gilblair's competitiveness really helped push him over the edge. He's made some mistakes but he's gotten away with them. He's given us consistent efforts every time he's gone out."

It's been a career year for Martinez, who attended UConn Avery Point before coming to Mitchell. He's second on the team in batting at .379 and first in hits with 53. He has two home runs and 34 RBI and a team-high tying 11 stolen bases.

Martinez's well-respected and well-liked by his teammates and classmates.

"He's a sweetheart," Beausoleil said. "He's just such a sincere kid. The guys love him, the campus loves him. He's a practice player on the women's basketball team and they all love him.

"And he's such a genuine kid. That's what he's given us, day in and day out. He does his work and does what he's supposed to do."

The ECC is well-represented on this Mitchell baseball team.

Martinez and Driscoll are joined by Bo and Hunter Yaworski (Killingly), Owen Robbins (East Lyme), Dougie and Robbie DelaCruz (Montville), Kenny Heon (Montville), Elijah Morton (New London), Trey Brennan (Waterford) and Anthony Franco (Fitch).

"I didn't really know them in high school because I was from New London and they were from other towns," Martinez said. "They're my brothers now. Definitely a blessing playing with people locally and being so good."

g.keefe@theday.com

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