WILLIMANTIC, CT – Tournament Most Valuable Player Chris Triano went 3 for 4 with four rbis and two runs as Keystone College won the 2016 NCAA New England Baseball Regional with a 7-5 victory over Tufts on Saturday at Eastern Connecticut State University.
Triano hit a solo home run in the third, an rbi single in the fourth, and a two-run single in the sixth to lead the Giants (37-9) to their second NCAA Regional title. Head coach Jamie Shevchik's team moves on to the eight-team NCAA Championship Finals in Appleton, Wisconsin next week.
Tufts (35-8), the NESCAC champions, finished with a school-record for wins. They matched the 2010 Jumbo team's performance as the best in school history at the NCAA Division III Regional by getting to the championship round.
The Jumbos entered the game against Keystone needing to defeat the Giants twice in order to take the Regional title. In an exciting back-and-forth first game of the championship round, the Giants scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to break a 4-4 tie.
In the decisive Keystone sixth, Alex Herceg led off with a hard single up the middle and Julian Lanfranco was hit by a pitch. Louis Reyes bunted and was called safe at first base on a close play to load the bases. Brandon Eady followed with a sacrifice fly and then Triano hit a two-run single past a drawn-in infield to give the Giants a 7-4 lead.
The Jumbos would put the tying run on base in both the eighth and ninth innings. Oscar Kutch singled to score Casey Santos-Ocampo pulling Tufts within 7-5 in the eighth. With the potential tying run on second base, Giants reliever JP Ramirez induced a fly ball for the final out. The Jumbos had the tying run at first when Keystone recorded the final out on a force play at second.
Keystone had opened by scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning on a long two-run double to center by Billy Nelson. Eady had hit a one-out double to right-center earlier in the inning, but was thrown out at third trying to advance on a ground ball to shortstop. Nate Ross kept the inning alive with a single and then Nelson delivered the two runs.
The Jumbos responded however, taking advantage of three walks by Keystone starter James Dunning and a base hit by Nick Falkson. Santos-Ocampo drew a bases-loaded walk for one run and Eric Schnepf came through with an rbi single to tie the game 2-2. Tom Petry tried to score on the play, but was thrown out at the plate by a perfect throw from center fielder Austin Chaszar.
Back-to-back hit by pitches produced a Jumbo run in the third. Kutch and Tommy O'Hara hit singles to get the Jumbos started. Keystone brought Danny O'Neill in for relief, but he hit the first two batters he faced scoring Kutch. With the bases still loaded and no outs, the Giants turned a 1-2-3 double play and got a fly ball out to limit the damage.
Triano led off the Keystone third with a long home run to left tying the score at 3-3. After a single by Ross, Tufts went to its bullpen and Ian Kinney retired the next three batters.
The Jumbos kept grinding and scored with two outs in the fourth. Schnepf walked with one out, took second on a failed pick-off attempt, and went to third on a fly ball to right. Kutch drove him in with a single down the first-base line for a 4-3 Tufts lead.
The back-and-forth battle continued into the Keystone fourth. Triano came up big for the Giants again with a two-out infield single scoring Lanfranco, who had doubled with one out. A Louis Reyes single had moved Lanfranco to third, helping the Giants tie the game 4-4.
O'Neill was strong in relief for the Giants, going three innings allowing one hit and one unearned run. Dan Maguire earned the win in relief, giving up three hits and a run in 2.2 innings. Yeison Andujar pitched the ninth for his 12th save. In addition to Triano's offensive heroics, Reyes and Ross both had two hits and scored a run for the Giants. Herceg finished 2 for 3 with a run and Lanfranco scored twice.
Kutch, named to the All-Tournament team along with R.J. Hall and Tim Superko, went 3 for 5 with two rbis and a run. O'Hara and Nick Falkson had two hits each for Tufts. Kinney took the loss for the Jumbos.