Baseball sweep of No. 6 SNHU propels Falcons into tie for final playoff spot

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Falcons look to win final games against bottom three teams in the divsion to make it to the playoffs

By Matt Gustus

The Bentley Falcons used four complete games from their pitching staff to win four straight divisional games last week. The Falcons now are tied for the fourth playoff spot with only nine games remaining.

A week and a half ago, the Falcons traveled to Stonehill, looking to avoid a four-game season sweep. Earlier in the season, the Falcons had lost on three occasions to the Skyhawks, by the scores of 6-2, 4-2, and 9-5.

The game started off well for the Falcons, as they got out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Sophomore shortstop Will Brennan led off with a double, and was driven home on a triple by sophomore infielder Nate Witkowski during the next at-bat. Witkowski later reached home on a sacrifice fly by freshman center fielder Mike Muir.

The Falcons added runs in the fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings for a total of twelve runs on fourteen hits. Senior catcher Kevin Korwek, second on the team in batting average (.318), had a monster game, going 4-for-5 and scoring three runs. Senior designated hitter Greg Baggett also remained hot, connecting for his fourth home run in as many games.

Starting junior pitcher JP Ashline went the distance for the Falcons, allowing four runs on seven hits while striking out six. The win improved Ashline’s record to 4-2 on the year, with his only losses coming at the hands of the Skyhawks.

Last Thursday, the Falcons hosted non-conference opponent Tufts. With the push for the playoffs the main focus for both teams, the game saw a total of twelve pitchers sharing the workload, with neither starter remaining in the game past the third inning.

The game was decided in the fifth inning, when ten straight Tufts batters reached base and scored. The ten-run fifth erased a four run lead the Falcons had built in the fourth, which included a two-run double by Brennan. Despite the early lead, the Falcons fell by the score of 15-4.

The next day, the Falcons hosted Southern New Hampshire University in a three-game series. Coming into the series, Southern New Hampshire (33-6 overall, 9-3 Northeast) was tied for the lead in the NE-10 Northeast division lead and was ranked No. 6 in all of Division II. The Falcons, however, were not intimidated by the Penmen’s success. The team started out the first game of the series well, riding the hot pitching of junior righty John Yohe.

The Falcons jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. With runners on the corners midway through the inning, Korwek hit a grounder to third. The throw home went flying past the Penmen catcher, allowing speedy sophomore left fielder Sean Keady to score the game’s first run. The second run of the inning for the Falcons came on another Penmen error, when the Penmen catcher mishandled a perfect throw home.

On the defensive side, Yohe was on cruise control through the sixth inning, having only allowed one hit. The first trouble for Yohe came in the seventh. After two Penmen runs with one out and the tying run on base, Yohe dug deep and was able to get the next SNHU batter to ground into a double play.

Three Falcon runs in the eighth stretched the lead to 6-2 and turned out to be extremely important. The Penmen would not go away, rallying to cut the lead to one in the ninth. After a sacrifice bunt moved the tying run 90 feet away, Brennan turned a hard hit ground ball into the game ending out with an extraordinary play at shortstop. The game ended with the Falcons on top 6-5.

The next day, the teams suited up for a double-header. In game one, the story was right hander Rob Finneran. After allowing one run in the first inning, FInneran was able to get 18 straight batters and 26 of his final 28 batters out. During his complete game effort, Finneran allowed only the one run on three hits and one walk, while striking out thirteen batters. He was later named the NE-10 Pitcher of the Week as well as the Division II East Region Pitcher of the Week.

The run support in the game didn’t come until the seventh and eighth innings. With two men on, graduate student Bryant Johnson lined a single to left field that was misplayed, allowing both Gillis and Baggett to score. Another insurance run came in the eighth with an RBI triple from Keady, giving Bentley the 3-1 victory.

In the third game of the series, the Falcons chances looked grim, as they were down 2-1 entering the ninth. The inning started off with a grounder to first that was misplayed, allowing Korwek to reach base. The next batter up was Baggett, who doubled to right-center, driving in the game-tying run. On the relay throw back to the infield, Baggett was able to move to third and into scoring position. After Johnson was hit by a pitch in the next at-bat, Rey smashed the game-winning single to left field, giving the Falcons a 3-2 walk-off win.

Receiving credit for the win was junior righty Jeff Croteau, who scattered two runs, five hits and five strikeouts over nine innings for his fifth win of the year.

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, the Falcons faced off against out of conference Rollins and Northeast Division opponent Merrimack. Recaps and Box Scores can be found at www.bentleyfalcons.com.

With the weekend sweep, the Falcons (7-6) are tied with UMass Lowell (7-6) for the last playoff spot in the Northeast Division. The two teams have yet to meet this season, but are scheduled to face-off in the final games of the season. Depending on how each team does in its next games, the series could decide who gets in as the final playoff team.

“The division right now is very tight and it only takes a few games to switch up the standings,” says Johnson. “If we keep hitting the way we have the past few games, playing solid defense combined with our great pitching, we will be all set.”

Before then, the Falcons have a three game series against bottom dweller St. Michael’s (2-12) and another game against Merrimack (4-8).

“All of our final games are against the bottom three teams in the division” said Brennan. “They are all must win games for us.”­

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