HARWICH, Mass. – Graduate student Colin Sitarz (West Hartford, Conn.) singled up the middle in the bottom of the tenth inning and delivered a 3-2 victory for Endicott College over Wheaton College in a winner's bracket game on the second day of the Division III NCAA New England Regional baseball tournament at Whitehouse Field.
This is the third win in NCAA history for the Gulls and the first time that they have advanced to play on the fourth day of the regional. It is the second consecutive walk-off win, after they advanced over St. Joe's of Maine with a sacrifice fly in the ninth in their opening game on Wednesday.
Third-seeded Endicott (34-12) will move on to tomorrow's winner's bracket championship at 4:30 pm against top seed University of Southern Maine. The winner of that game will move directly into Saturday's championship game. The Lyons (31-11) will face Daniel Webster College at 1:00 pm in an elimination game.
Sitarz, who was 2-for-4 for the Gulls in a game in which each team had eight hits, drove home sophomore second baseman Harry Oringer (Dartmouth, Mass.), who reached on an infield single with one out in the tenth.
Junior right handed starter Alec Palioca (Wrentham, Mass.) was sharp for the Lyons, setting a new career high for strikeouts with 11 in seven and two-thirds innings of work. Palioca allowed six hits and just one earned run, though he did issue five walks, and did not figure into the decision.
Endicott senior Brendan Pittsley (Plympton, Mass.) was equally effective, and helped the Gulls match zeroes with the Lyons for six straight innings. Pittsley tossed four and two-thirds innings of relief, allowing just one hit and striking out a batter, though, like Palioca, he also handed out five free passes.
Freshman Mike Walkowicz (Amherst, Mass.) earned the win, improving to 2-1 on the season after pitching the final inning and two-thirds and allowing just one walk and one hit. The loss fell to Wheaton freshman reliever Eric Dumas (Brookline, Mass.), who fell to 2-1 himself after pitching the tenth and giving up the two hits and one run.
Graduate student Mike Nich (Orange, Conn.) worked the first three innings for Endicott, giving up six hits and two earned runs. Nich did not walk a batter nor did he collect a strikeout.
The only other scoring for each team came in the third inning, when the Lyons took a 2-0 lead, only to have the Gulls match their score in the bottom of the frame.
Endicott's two runs came after the Gulls took advantage of a Wheaton error in the bottom of the third. Eric Lemke (Southington, Conn.) and EJ Martinez (Brooklyn, N.Y.) reached with a walk and a single and Lemke scored on a throwing error at the back end of a would-be double play. Senior Brett Holmgren (Middleboro, Mass.) delivered an RBI single to left field to score leadoff man Conor Ressel (Rockport, Mass.), who also stole a base in the inning, as the Gulls knotted the game at twos.
Wheaton had gotten their noses in front when senior Eric Jensen (Gorham, N.H.) singled through the right side to score Justin Connor (Arlington, Mass.), who had led off the top of the inning with a double down the right field line. Jensen would steal second and eventually come across to score on a sacrifice fly by Apolinar De la Cruz (Providence, RI) that could have been extra bases if not for a diving catch in left field by Sitarz.
Once the game was tied, Pittsley and Palioca shut down the opposing lineups, and each team was forced to strand runners when they did get men on base.
Wheaton had their most threatenening chance in the top of the ninth inning with two runners on and one out thanks to a walk and a hit batsmen, but Walkowicz got De la Cruz to line a ball to shortstop that freshman shortstop Cody Hall (Rutland, Mass.) stabbed out of the air and flipped to Oringer to turn into a double play.
The Lyons finished the game leaving 14 runners on base, while Endicott stranded 7 base runners.
Hall, Tad Gold (Martha's Vineyard, Mass.) and Matthew Paola (Middlebury, Conn.) had the other hits for Endicott, while Connor's double for Wheaton was the only extra base hit for either team.