The Spartans needed a pair of wins on Sunday to knock out second seed Husson and claim the North Atlantic Conference crown. Castleton took care of business, earning a pair of wins over the Eagles, 6-1 and 7-5, to earn the NAC title.
With the top of their rotation spent from previous games in the tournament, Castleton turned to a pair of freshman to guide the squad to the championship. Steven Jurkiewicz and Luke Salerno combined to throw 17.0 innings, allowing just three earned runs on the day. Jurkiewicz threw a complete-game in the first game of the day to get the Spartans to the “if necessary” game, and Salerno tossed 8.0 innings in the deciding contest to lead the Spartans to the win.
Allen White went 5-for-8 in the two games combined, ripping four doubles and a triple to drive in three RBI. Macyn Clifford also drove in three runs on the day, while Matt McNamee went 3-for-6 with a double as well.
For the Eagles, Dylan Foster finished 5-for-8 on the day while Cody McInnis went 4-for-7 from the plate on the two games combined. Ben Walls led the Husson pitching staff with 8.2 innings pitched in the two games combined. Walls allowed three earned runs on six hits in his double-outing day.
Game one was dominated by Jurkiewicz’s fantastic pitching performance. The freshman kept the Eagles guessing, mixing up his speed and location. He allowed one unearned run on four hits and struck out five Eagles for the complete-game win.
Castleton threatened in the top of the third as Allen White doubled with one out. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and Joe Borowski followed with a walk before a fly out ended the frame.
The Spartans finally broke through in the fifth. Soren Pelz-Walsh led off with a single over the head of the third baseman and Taylor Vile bunted him over to second. Tyler Lord flied out but Allen White came through with double to the right field wall, scoring Pelz-Walsh for the 1-0 advantage.
Castleton added to its lead in the sixth. Matt McNamee laced a one-out double to the outfield wall and Macyn Clifford followed with a double of his own to extend the lead to 2-0. A strikeout and fly out ended the frame.
Husson got on the board in the bottom of the sixth as Jurkiewicz allowed back-to-back one-out walks. The southpaw induced a pop-up for the second out, but the runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. Swahn tried to gun down the runner going to second but his throw went into center field, allowing the Eagles to score and cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Spartans came back in the top of the seventh. Lord drew a one-out walk and White followed with a double. Borowski then walked to load the bases. Lord was forced out at home on a fielder’s choice but McNamee drove in a run with a walk one batter later for the 3-1 lead. Clifford followed with a two-run single to center to push it to 5-1 Castleton.
Allen White extended the Spartan lead to 6-1 in the eighth with his fourth double of the game, scoring Tyler Lord from first. Jurkiewicz polished off his complete game by sending the last six batters down in order.
Castleton came out swinging in the final game as Lord led off with a double and White scored him with a triple to right field. Borowski made it 2-0 on a run-scoring double. The Spartans then loaded the bases and consecutive walks pushed the lead to 4-0 before Husson finally earned the third out.
The Eagles got a run back in the top of the third on back-to-back singles and a fielder’s choice but Castleton countered in the bottom of the frame. McNamee and Swahn both singled and came around to score to make it 6-1. Pelz-Walsh then scored on a fielder’s choice for a 7-1 advantage.
Husson added a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Jordan Carter and then loaded the bases with two outs before starter Luke Salerno induced a groundout to end the inning. The Eagles cut the deficit to 7-3 with another run in the fifth on a single up the middle by Dennis Meehan.
The Eagles continued to claw back into the game, scraping away at the Castleton lead in the eighth. Husson loaded the bases on an error and a pair of singles, allowing Brandon Gendreau to step up with no outs. The second baseman grounded out, but drove in a run to make it 7-4. The next batter, J.T. Whitten, knocked an RBI groundout as well, making it 7-5, but Salerno limited the damage by forcing Kyle Bishop to pop out to the shortstop, ending the inning.
In the ninth, T.J. Fearon came on to close out the game. The Castleton reliever forced a groundout to shortstop and struck out a batter to put Husson to the edge of their rope. With their championship hopes hanging in the balance, Jordan Carter kept the dream alive with a single up the middle. Darik Messier came to the plate for the Eagles as a pinch-hitter and nearly extended the inning, but a stellar snag and throw from Matt McNamee ended the game and gave Castleton their fourth NAC crown in seven years.
Castleton improves to 29-10 on the season with the pair of victories, and will represent the North Atlantic Conference as they advance to the NCAA Regionals. The tournament field will be released May 11.
Courtesy: Castleton Athletic Department
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