Mansfield, CT --- Senior Edward Donovan (Fairfield, Conn.) fired a four-hit shutout to help lead No. 3-seed Trinity blank No. 2-seed St. Joesph's (Maine), 4-0, in the winners bracket of the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament hosted by Eastern Connecticut.
The Bantams (34-9), ranked No. 24 in the country, advance to tomorrow's 4:30 p.m. contest against top-seeded Wheaton, ranked No. 9 in the nation. The game will pit the best two pitching staffs in New England against each other, as the Lyons have the top ranked earned run average (2.60) regionally while Trinity isn't far behind in second (2.66). The Monks (38-6) will play in tomorrow's elimination game at 1:15 PM against fourth-seeded Keene State. Tonight's shutout by Trinity marked the first time in 62 games that St. Joseph's had been held scoreless as they were last blanked on April 16, 2011 in a 4-0 setback in the opening game of a regular-season double-header against Suffolk.
[Watch a post-game interview with Head Coach Bill Decker]
Donovan (6-2) and the Trinity gloves had a big night, as the senior went the distance for the first time this season on 99 pitches, and helped the Bantams notch their seventh team shutout this season, good for second all-time in program history. He fanned three, walked none, and hit one batter in the game, running a three ball count just once all evening - on the lead-off man of the game. Donovan was quick to credit his teammates, specifically acknowledging the fine defensive play tonight.
"The defense came up with big plays all night," he said after the game. "Yesterday we showed we can do it with the bats, and tonight we showed we can do it with defense and pitching."
Trinity grabbed an early 2-0 advantage in the opening frame on RBI singles by junior Michael Rueger (Teaneck, N.J.) and freshman Adam Moossmann (E. Northport, N.Y.). The Bantams plated a third run in the top of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by third-year Alex Almeida (Bridgeport, Conn.) who drove in freshman Bryan Wolfe (La Habra Heights, Calif.). Wolfe singled, reached second on wild throw by the catcher on a bunt, and moved to third on a sacrifice.
St. Joseph's sophomore starter Joe Gruntkowsky (Peabody, Mass.) was lifted for freshman Alex Valenti (Lawrence, Mass.) with one out in the sixth. The first-year hurler helped keep his team in the game, stranding six on base, including four who were left in scoring position over his next two 2/3 innings of work.
Trinity broke through in the eighth, plating an unearned insurance run off Valenti on an RBI single by freshman Kyle Decker (Simsbury, Conn). Valenti yielded just three hits to go with a pair of walks and a trio of punch outs.
Gruntkowski (3-2), who was charged with the setback for the Monks went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits, as he struck out five and issued three free passes.
In the later frames, St. Joseph's had their chances to strike against Donovan. Freshman Nic Lops (S. Portland, Maine) had a double in an attempt to start a rally in the top of the fifth, but he was called out for missing first on the appeal. Sophomore Alex Lorenc (Nanuet, N.Y.) and Lops were also stranded in scoring position in the seventh with one out, the inning ending on a bang-bang play at first after Moossmann made a clutch field and throw from third base for the Bantams.
In the bottom of the ninth, St. Joseph's freshman Joe Coyne (Duxbury, MA) was left on second with no outs as Donovan induced a fly out and fanned his final two batters to end the contest.
Bantam junior Joe Papa (Stoneham, Mass.) had another big night, going 4-for-5 with an RBI while Rueger and senior David Casanova (Bristol, Conn.) both chipped in with a pair of base-knocks. Overall, Trinity had an 11-4 advantage in the hitting department, but the Bantams stranded 15 runners in the game.