Nashua – Sophomore Korey LeLievre (Hudson, N.H.) pitched a complete game victory and junior Josh Chasse (Haverhill, Mass.) belted a three-run home run as top-seeded Daniel Webster won the New England Collegiate Conference baseball championship for the second time in three seasons with a 6-2 victory over third-seeded Newbury before more than 250 sun-splashed fans at Harvey Woods Field on Sunday.
The victory ushers the Eagles into the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. DWC shared the title with Mitchell in a rain-shortened tourney in 2010.
The program also becomes only the fourth athletics squad in the College's history to reach an NCAA regional, joining men's cross country (2008), men's soccer (2009), and women's basketball (2011).
"It's a terrific feeling," said a beaming fifth-year Eagles Head Coach J.P Pyne, moments after being doused with a ceremonial bucket of water near the pitcher's mound. "We're just so proud of the guys, the way they competed this weekend. It's always special to bring home a championship, but with it being the first for a NCAA tournament berth, it's really extra special."
DWC will learn its schedule next week when the tournament field is announced. The New England regional is likely to be played at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic.
"It means a lot to get to the next stage," added Pyne, whose Eagles continued to build upon a program record for victories in a season, improving to 23-17 overall. "First we're excited to be able to extend the career of our four seniors (Kenny Martin, Syed Ali, Nate Marshall and Kory Kiro). But it's equally exciting to be able to experience something that no one who has ever played here has experienced."
Tournament Most Valuable Player and freshman right fielder Erick Bordeau (Merrimack, N.H.) went 2 for 3, scoring a run to cap a remarkable four-game tournament in which he led the entire tournament field hitting .583 (7-12) with five RBI, a stolen base and three runs scored.
"He [Bordeau] came up with clutch hit after clutch hit," said Pyne about one of the Eagles prized newcomers who was also 3 for 4 with four RBI in Saturday's 16-2 win over the Nighthawks and 2 for 4 in the tourney opener against Elms. "He's a very good hitter. He battled through some inconsistency midseason but he's worked very hard. He came up in critical situations when we needed it. That's what a MVP does."
LeLievre (5-3) was steady and effective throughout despite allowing 10 Nighthawks hits as he allowed just one earned run, striking out four and walking two, and was touched for only one extra base hit.
DWC made good use of its seven total hits, used heads up play on the base paths, and added superb infield defense in the final to earn the victory, including turning two double plays to help stem Newbury threats in the first and sixth.
LeLievre allowed the first two Nighthawks to reach on singles in the bottom of the first (Newbury served as home team) before snagging a Patrick Curry (Hampstead, Mass.) infielder grounder to start a 1-5-3 double play to quell the threat.
DWC grabbed the lead in the top of the third as Chasse led off with a single, moved to second on a passed ball, went to third on an Elliot Kilgore (Milford, N.H.) single, and came home on Kyle Brigham's (Merrimack, N.H.) one-out grounder to second.
Ryan Dupont (Merrimack, N.H.) earned a one-out walk in the fourth and Bourdeau followed with a single, setting up Chasse. The center fielder turned on a 3-1 fastball that carried 10 feet past the left field fence for his first of the season and a sudden, 4-0 Eagle lead.
LeLievre settled in over the second through fifth, allowing just two walks and a single but faced trouble in the sixth. Curry was knicked, Alex Chetelat (Farmington, Conn.) singled, and Michael Dean (Wethersfield, Conn.) poked a short single into shallow right, loading the bases with no one out.
Again, the infield defense came to the rescue as Steven Broy's grounder was knocked down by Kilgore, who started a 4-6-3 double play sending Curry home for a 4-1 game and LeLievre got Cameron D'Agostino to fly to center ending Newbury's best threat of the day.
DWC got its insurance in the eighth. Darrik Marstaller (Spofford, N.H.) belted a fastball to deep right that just stayed in the park for a standup triple to lead off, and LeLievre was intentionally walked with one out to try to set up the double play.
But a passed ball sent Marstaller home and LeLievre to second and Tyler Bonin made the mistake stand up singling to left plating LeLievre for the sixth run.
Chetelat notched a one out double in the eighth and later scored on a passed ball and Newbury put two on with two out but LeLievre induced a foul out to first ending the final Newbury threat.
Kilgore would later grab the final out in the ninth, a pop up to second, setting off a wild celebration at midfield as the Eagles clinched their title.
Pitching, along with defense was equally important to the Eagle's title run. Remarkably, the staff saw two complete game playoff victories as sophomore Aaron Agrelo went the distance in Saturday's win over Newbury. Moreover, combined with senior Kory Kiro, the Eagles' top three combined for 13 complete games thus far and all three owns ERA's below 2.67. Eagle pitching finished with a combined 2.00 ERA over the weekend's three victories.
"Our starting pitching made us different from a lot of the other teams this season," Pyne said. "We had three quality number ones coming into the weekend that were steady and consistent. They're not blow-you-away guys, they just work quickly and work to get a lot of contact – the kind they want, not the kind the hitter wants. We give them a lot of credit."
Chetelat finished going 3 for 4 for the Nighthawks, who finished with a program-record 23 wins (23-21), while Dwyer, Clawson, and Dean had two hits. Travis Wade (Portland, Maine) was credited with the loss (2-4).
Pyne had nothing but praise for the Nighthawks, who have slowly and steadily built themselves into a championship contender over the past few seasons. "They are a great team," Pyne said. "We have nothing but respect for the job Kraig [Kupiec] and his staff have done the past couple of years. They're a worthy opponent. We got the better of them this time around, but they have a terrific foundation that will keep them as a force to be reckoned with in the NECC for a long time."
Along with Bordeau, LeLievre and sophomore pitcher Aaron Agrelo (New Bedford, Mass.) earned all-tournament honors, while Newbury's Clawson, Dwyer and Jorje Pimentel were also honored. The team also included Becker's Joseph Carey and Todd Tompkins, along with Steve Fisher and Anthony Pagano of Elms.
Looking back at the journey to this point, Pyne was quick to reflect the same feelings he expressed to start the season. "We didn't get off to the start we wanted (including a tough stretch in Florida), but we knew that with the talent and leadership we have, it was just a matter of getting things together and playing our kind of game. For the last six weeks we've been much better across the board and we peaked at the right time."
"The first time you go to a NCAA tourney, it's a learning experience and we're going to compete with everything we've got," Pyne concluded. "Our guys laid it on the line all season and we're excited to see what happens next."
2012 NECC Championship Tournament
Friday, May 4
Game 1: at (1) Daniel Webster 8, (4) Elms 7
Game 2: (3) Newbury 8, (2) Becker 6
Saturday, May 5
Game 3: Becker 10, Elms 5 (Becker eliminated)
Game 4: Daniel Webster 16, Newbury 2
Game 5: Newbury 4, Elms 1 (Elms Eliminated)
Sunday, May 6
Game 6: Daniel Webster 6, Newbury 2 (Newbury eliminated)
Most Valuable Player: Erick Bordeau, Daniel Webster
Aaron Agrelo, Daniel Webster
Joseph Carey, Becker
Matt Clawson, Newbury
Michael Dwyer, Newbury
Steve Fisher, Elms
Korey LeLievre, Daniel Webster
Jorge Pimentel, Newbury
Anthony Pagano, Elms
Todd Tompkins, Becker