HOLYOKE, Mass. – The second-seeded Elms College baseball team slugged past visiting three-seed Becker College, 14-5, in the opening game of the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship tournament at MacKenzie Stadium Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Blazers (18-18) advance to the winner's game to face fifth-seeded Lesley University at 1:00 p.m. at Mitchell College. The Hawks (19-18) will battle top-seed Mitchell in an elimination game Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
After two scoreless frames, the Blazers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third as sophomore Alex Hoss (Stafford Springs, Conn.) knocked a leadoff single, and then scored on an RBI single from senior Stephen Harrison (Southbury, Conn.).
Elms added to their advantage with four runs in the home half of the fourth, sparked by leadoff walks by senior Tim Gelzinis (North Dighton, Mass.) and Brian Hungerford (New Preston, Conn.). With two outs and runners at first and second, the Blazers cranked out four straight RBIs singles. Hungerford touched home on an RBI single from junior Ben Ross (Thompson, Conn.), followed by RBI singles from senior Aedin Wadja (Lebanon, Conn.) and Harrison. Senior Jordan Zima (Berlin, Conn.) capped the inning with an RBI single to centerfield, extend the Blazers lead to 5-0.
The Hawks got on the board in the top of the fifth on an RBI groundout from senior Vaibhav Desai (Waltham, Mass.). Elms carried their momentum into the bottom of the frame, loading the bases with one out. Hungerford scored on a Hawks fielding error, followed by an RBI single from Harrison. Zima brought home a pair of runs on an RBI single up the middle, and then Harrison came home on another Becker error to push the Blazers ahead 10-1.
In the top of the eighth, Becker senior Niko Bedell (Manorville, N.Y.) launched a no-doubt solo home run to left field, followed by an RBI single from sophomore Daniel Diaz (Teaneck, N.J.) and senior Trevor Read (Colorado Springs, Colo.) scored on a Blazers error to trim the deficit to 10-4.
Elms tacked four runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth, featuring a two-run double from senior Kyle Platner (Northfield, Mass.), to extend their lead to 14-4. Becker senior T.J. Sempkowski (Oceanport, N.J.) smashed a solo home run in the ninth for the final run of the day as Elms captured the 14-5 victory.
Harrison and Zima drove in four runs apiece to lead the Blazers offense, Harrison went 4-for-5 and scored twice, while Wadja and senior Dan Brunetti (Enfield, Conn.) scored three times each. Platner knocked in two runs, while Hungerford, Ross, and Hoss all crossed home twice in the win. Freshman Jacob Graveline (5-3, Palmer, Mass.) claimed the win on the hill in his playoff debut, limiting the Hawks to one run on six hits with five strikeouts.
Bedell and Diaz tallied three hits and an RBI each for the Hawks. Desai and sophomore Tanyon Ventres (Holden, Mass.) added two hits in the loss. Senior starter Tyler Wagar (Uxbridge, Mass.) took a no decision, allowing five runs on seven hits with a strikeout, while junior Jorge Grullon (0-3; Worcester, Mass.) gave up three runs in relief in the loss.