HENNIKER, N.H. – The Castleton baseball team opened its North Atlantic Conference slate with a doubleheader split at New England College on Tuesday afternoon. In a rematch of last year's NAC championship, the Spartans dropped the opening contest, 21-5, before bouncing back with a 6-0 shutout victory in the night cap.
With the split, Castleton moved to 7-8 overall and 1-1 in NAC action. New England College, which had its 13-game winning streak snapped, moved to 14-4 on the season and 3-1 in conference play.
New England College 21, Castleton 5
Castleton's pitching staff struggled with its command in the opener, as NEC needed just 10 hits to come away with 21 runs. The Spartans allowed 13 walks and five hit by pitches over six innings on the mound.
The setback was the largest margin of a loss against a NAC foe on record. Prior to game one, the Spartans had lost six NAC contests over the past two years by a combined total of 10 runs.
Castleton took an early 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Jonathan Lindau in the top of the first, but the lead did not last. NEC came up with big hits in key situations and scored in each of the final five innings to pull away.
With NEC holding a 2-1 lead, the Pilgrims sent 14 batters to the plate in an 11-run third inning, all scoring with two outs. Four walks and a hit by pitch continued to put runners on base in the frame, and three-run home runs by Xavier Nunez and Manuel Alejandro put the home team up, 13-1.
Lindau gave Castleton a spark with a three-run home run of his own in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to 14-5. NEC, however, responded with a single run in the fifth and six more runs in the sixth to win by a final score of 21-5.
Castleton was held to five hits in the game. Lindau drove in four of Castleton's five runs and finished 2-for-3 to lead the Spartans offensively. Deagan Poland went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored out of the leadoff spot.
Charles Stapleford suffered his first loss of the season, allowing 13 runs (10 earned) on six hits with seven walks and three strikeouts over 2.2 innings.
Christian Aybar led NEC offensively with two hits and five RBI. Nick Powers went five innings and allowed five runs (three earned) with two strikeouts to earn the win.
Castleton 6, New England College 0
Garrett Moran turned the tides in game two, tossing a complete-game shutout in his first career start to lead the Spartans to the doubleheader split. Castleton finished with just three hits in the contest, but Moran scattered eight hits with two walks and seven strikeouts over seven scoreless innings to earn his first career win.
After a scoreless opening three innings, Castleton got on the board in the fourth. Dillon Benham and Lindau led off the inning with a walk and hit by pitch before both runners advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. Mitchell Caron lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Benham and Matt Braman reached on a defensive miscue as Lindau scored to open a 2-0 lead.
Moran worked his way out of trouble in the fifth and sixth innings before Castleton tacked on four insurance runs in the top of the seventh. With the bases loaded, Benham reached on a fielding error at first base as two runners crossed the plate. Davis Mikell capped the scoring with a two-RBI single through the right side to extend the Spartans' lead to 6-0.
NEC threatened with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh, but Moran notched back-to-back strikeouts to seal the shutout.
Castleton continues a busy spring break on Wednesday with a non-conference matchup at Union scheduled for 5 p.m. at Shuttleworth Park.