Yaworski helps deliver Mitchell College baseball to regional championship round
For the second straight NCAA Division III regional tournament game, Mitchell College looked in trouble, facing a late-inning deficit.
Once again, the resilient Mariners shook it off and delivered another dramatic come-from-behind victory, scoring seven runs in their final two at-bats.
Sophomore Bo Yaworski drove in the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning with his second two-out, three-run double, lifting Mitchell past eighth-ranked Wheaton College, 7-4, Sunday in the winners’ bracket.
“Our team is never out of it,” said Yaworski, who finished with four hits and six RBI. “It shows how badly we want to win. When you mix a lot of talent with the level of heart that we have, I don’t think there’s a lot of teams that want it more than us. I think that helps a lot.”
The host Mariners (33-8) advanced to the regional championship round for the first time, needing just one win to move on. They’ll face Wheaton again, which stayed alive by beating Husson 3-1 in 13 innings in the losers’ bracket. Game time is 11 a.m. on Monday at Alumni Field in New London.
In Friday’s tournament opener, Mitchell trailed Tufts 5-3 before scoring two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth for a 6-5 victory.
The Mariners overcame deficits of 2-0 and 4-3 on Sunday.
“It’s easy to be in that situation and put your head down, but it takes pride to stand up and execute and do your job and keep it going,” Mitchell coach Travis Beausoleil said. “It speaks volumes about the toughness and grit that this team has.”
The eighth-inning rally started with senior Lelo Martinez drawing a lead-off walk and advancing to second on Owen Robbins’ sacrifice bunt. Sophomore Matthew Blackwell’s RBI single tied the game at 4-4.
The Mariners were just getting started.
Freshman Thai-ler Sestokas walked and junior Angel Galindez was hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded and two outs, Yaworski drilled a three-run double to hand the Mariners a 7-4 lead.
“He’s one of the better pure hitters in New England,” Beausoleil said.
Reliever Tyler Daly (5-0) earned the win for the second straight game, allowing a run in the eighth before inducing a ground ball for the third out in the ninth with a runner on first base.
The game pitted one of top hitting teams in the country in Mitchell – sixth in the country in runs per game – against a talented pitching staff in Wheaton, which is third in earned run average.
Both starting pitchers controlled the game early on.
Wheaton starter Zach Clesas threw six shutout innings and the Lyons (38-7) scored single runs in the fifth and seventh to take a 2-0 edge.
Mitchell’s Eddie Kaftan also pitched well, allowing six hits and three runs (two earned) while walking one and striking out six in seven plus innings.
“Incredible,” Beausoleil said. “It was one of the better Division III performances that I’ve seen in my career. He really came out and showed maturity and growth. Can’t speak enough about what he did for us.”
It was a wild final few innings, as the teams traded momentum and leads.
Down 2-0, Mitchell stormed in front with three runs in the seventh.
The Mariners loaded the bases when Robbins and Sestokas singled and Robbie DelaCruz walked.
Yaworski, who came into the game second on the team in RBI with 51, stepped to the plate with two outs and ripped a bases-clearing double to left-center field to put the Mariners in front, 3-2.
“I definitely have been in a lot of those situations before,” Yaworski said. “I was ready.”
Wheaton answered with two runs in the top of the eighth on Nick Croteau’s single and Cavan Brady’s sacrifice fly to retake the lead at 4-3. But Daly, who replaced Kaftan, limited the damage, ending the inning with a strikeout and fly out.
“We put a Band-Aid on the wound,” Beausoleil said. “That allowed us to come back. It was minimizing that top of the eighth that kept us in that game to win it.”
Mitchell conjured up some more postseason magic in the eighth to earn a trip to the championship round.
The Mariners are determined to finish the job in just one game on Monday.
“We can’t come into it saying we have two games to win one game,” Yaworski said. “We have to go out in that first game and make a statement and get it done hopefully in the first game. … We have to stay on our game and stick to our approach.”
Mitchell, which has used only four pitchers in two games, will be operating with a fairly rested staff.
“We’re in a good spot,” Beausoleil said.
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