It marked the end of a rally, the end of a comeback, the end of home careers, and possibly the end of an NCAA dream.
As Shane O’Leary’s line shot to center field settled in the glove of MIT’s Creed Mangrum, it marked the end of Springfield College baseball’s comeback attempt against the Engineers, as they were defeated 6-3. The Pride fell in the NEWMAC Semifinals for the second time in three years, both coming on the friendly confines of Berry-Allen Field.
Matt Butrym took the loss for Springfield, tossing 1.2 innings in relief, relinquishing three runs on four hits.
O’Leary, Jared Hopkins and Frank Calabrese all collected a pair of hits, while O’Leary scored a pair of runs.
“We came out extremely flat in game two [on Sunday],” said Steve Starr, who reached base four times during the series. “Their pitchers had the upper hand for most of the day. We lost our plan of attack at the plate numerous times, and it cost us the series.”
The loss eliminates the Pride from the NEWMAC Tournament and the possibility of the automatic bid for the conference champion. The Pride defeated Keene State on Tuesday, 4-3, and they are set to travel to Williams College on Saturday for a doubleheader.
On Saturday, Springfield downed the Engineers 3-1 behind solid pitching from Travis Lane. Lane went 7.2, giving up a solo shot to KJ Parent while scattering five hits.
Starr led the Pride with a pair of hits, while senior Sean Smith tallied a pair of his own.
In the seventh inning, Springfield took advantage of a pair of errors from the Engineers to manufacture three runs. Cory Wilcox reached on an error at first before Hopkins reached base when MIT’s Phil Reiser failed to catch the throw to first on a bunt.
Starr followed by bunting up the first baseline. Reiser’s throw couldn’t be picked by Jon Rea, loading the bases with nobody out. O’Leary grounded out to third, plating the tying run.
A walk loaded the bases for Smith, who laced a single to right field. CJ Monroe racked a line shot right at the pitcher, Nicholas Locascio, planting him in his right arm. As Locascio bellowed on the mound, Starr scored from third.
Springfield left seven men on base in the second game, falling 3-2. Oliver Collette took the loss, going seven strong and giving up just one earned run.
Max Ockner shut down the Springfield bats, tossing a complete game and giving up one earned run on four hits.
MIT took the 1-0 lead in the top half of the first as Parker Tew reached on an error before coming around to score on a balk.
The Pride knotted the score at one when Billy Peterson kicked off the fourth with a single before scoring on a Dan Bergami single. The Pride had the bases loaded with just one out before Ockner struck out O’Leary, then induced a ground out, ending the threat.
MIT answered in the fifth by scoring a run on a Tew double. A run in the sixth gave MIT a two-run lead as Springfield managed just one base runner from the seventh inning on.
In the rubber game of the series, MIT used a pair of Springfield wild pitches to score two runs in the third. In the fourth, Calabrese doubled home O’Leary to cut the lead to one, but he was stranded on second, one of eight runners left on by Springfield.
After Springfield tied the game in the sixth, MIT plated three runs in the seventh to pull away. Patrick Dayton started things for MIT with a one out single before stealing second base. Smith’s throw down to second beat Dayton, but the ball couldn’t be handled on the bag, allowing Dayton to slide in safely. Reiser laced a double to right-center before John Drago belted a two-run home run to left field.
In the bottom of the ninth, trailing by three, Wilcox worked a one-out walk. Hopkins blooped a single to right field. After a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, O’Leary’s liner to center was corralled, advancing the Engineers to a NEWMAC Championship Game bout with Wheaton.
“It’s not a good feeling at all,” noted Starr. “You work all season to get to where we got, and then it all gets taken away from you in two days. We wanted to come out and jump on them early so we could take control of the game, but they scored first in all three and that played a key role in the lack of energy and focus we had at times.”
The Pride still have an outside shot at an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. If the Pride win a pair of road games at Williams over the weekend, they could be selected to play in a tournament from May 5-7. If Springfield is able to win the remainder of their games, they hold an outside chance of getting an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.