CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton baseball team jumped out to an early lead and held off a late Husson rally to defeat the Eagles, 4-3, in an elimination game Sunday afternoon and advance to the North Atlantic Conference Championship.
Castleton (32-8) will play New England College in the NAC Championship round at 10 a.m. on Monday. The Pilgrims need one win to secure the title, while the Spartans will need to take two games to earn their fourth-straight championship.
The Spartans got out to an early lead with two runs in the fourth and added single insurance runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Zach Bahan gave Castleton a 1-0 lead in the fourth with his second home run in as many days, before Jonathan Lindau scored Davis Mikell on an RBI single to double the Spartan lead.
Lindau added a two-out RBI-double in the top of the sixth inning, scoring Josh Rylant, who earlier reached on a fielder's choice. The Spartans tacked on another run in the seventh after Pat Mumford led off with a single to left-center. Deagan Poland sacrificed him into scoring position with a bunt, before Dillon Benham laced an RBI single up the middle to score what proved to be a pivotal run.
Castleton starting pitcher Luke Salerno was in cruise control up until the eighth, striking out four with no walks over 7.0 scoreless innings. The Eagles staged a comeback in the eighth, however, tagging Salerno for five straight hits to open the frame. Mike Wong and Sam Huston led off with back-to-back doubles, before three straight singles from Christian Corneil, Alex Chapman, and Ryan Rebar had the Eagles in business down just 4-3.
Scott Michaels entered the game from the bullpen with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first with no outs, and he left both runners in place with a pivotal strikeout and a pair of groundouts. Mikell struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to earn his first career save and send Castleton to the NAC Championship round.
Four Spartans had multi-hit games in the contest, led by a pair of RBI-doubles from Lindau. Sam Huston and Ryan Rebar each had two hits and an RBI to lead the Eagles offensively.
Salerno moved to 7-0 in the mound, allowing three earned runs on 12 hits with four strikeouts over 7.0-plus innings. Ryan Allender (2-3) saddled the loss for the Eagles, allowing three earned runs on eight hits with three walks and a pair of strikeouts over 5.2 innings of work. Jacob Gauvin and Nick Guerrette combined to throw the final 3.1 innings of relief for Husson, allowing three hits and one earned run with three strikeouts.
Husson ends its season 22-20 overall after going 1-2 in the NAC Championship Tournament.