NEW LONDON, Conn. – Trailing 6-2 in the ninth, Lesley University rallied to score four runs to force extra innings but saw their comeback effort fall short as Elms College freshman Zach Lawrence (Colchester, Conn.) singled home the game-winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Blazers the 7-6 victory in the New England Collegiate Conference Championship opener for both schools.
The double-elimination tournament will continue on Saturday with three scheduled games. The Lynx will battle fourth-seeded Becker College, who fell 4-0 to top-seeded Mitchell College in the first game of the day, in an elimination game at 10:00a before the Blazers and Mariners will square off for a spot in the title round at 1:00p. The winner from Saturday's first game will meet the loser from the second game at 4:00p with a championship round berth hanging in the balance.
Elms cashed in on a pair of walks to score two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Brady Forrest (Hampden, Mass.) and Tim Gelzinis (North Dighton, Mass.) each drew a free pass and moved into scoring position on a ground out. Forrest then came across with the game's first run on a ground out by Michael Bombard (Chicopee, Mass.), and Gelzinis scored on a RBI single by Stephen Harrison (Southbury, Conn.).
The Blazers extended the lead to 3-0 in the second. Ross reached on a fielder's choice, stole second base and scored on a two-out single through the left side of the infield by Forrest.
Both teams put runners on with two outs in the third, but Lesley stranded two while Elms left the bases loaded for a scoreless frame.
The Lynx got on the scoreboard thanks to a solo homer by Gustavo Polidor (Caracas, Venezuela) with two outs in the fifth. The long ball, the first of his collegiate career, cut the deficit to 3-1 before Elms picked up three runs in the home half of the frame. Nolan Medeiros (Taunton, Mass.) knocked in a run with a single and later scored on a wild pitch, and in between Ross legged out an infield single that kept the inning alive and scored another run.
Lesley got a run back in the sixth on a chopper over the pitcher's head by Kevin Hopwood (Winter Haven, Fla.) that scored Mike Slaby (Foxboro, Mass.) from third base. In the seventh, the Lynx put two runners on with no outs, but Elms starter Sean Sinnott (Granby, Conn.) escaped further damage by getting a double play and strikeout to end the threat.
Sinnott issued back-to-back walks to start the eighth inning but slipped out of trouble once again. After a ground out put runners at the corners, Sinnott got a line drive to first base for an inning-ending double play with the 6-2 lead still intact.
Lesley hit up the Elms bullpen for four runs in the ninth to extend the game. The Lynx loaded the bases with one out, and after an error allowed the first run to score, Slaby brought home another on a fielder's choice. A wild pitch then made it a 6-5 game, and Casey Blanchard (Bernardston, Mass.) completed the comeback with a RBI single up the middle to tie the game.
The Blazers put the winning run in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth, but reliever Koby Mitchell (Fall River, Mass.) got a fly ball to right to send the game into extra innings.
After neither side threatened in the 10th, Lesley put the go-ahead run on second base in the 11th. Elms turned the ball over to Tom Weldon (Springfield, Mass.) to get out of the jam, and he did just that by getting a ground ball and strikeout to keep the game tied at 6-6.
A leadoff single by Joe Muratore (Mamaroneck, N.Y.) and a sacrifice bunt gave the Lynx two cracks at driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the 12th. Weldon managed to keep the ball in the infield against the next two batters and once again slithered out of trouble.
There were two outs in the bottom of the 12th before Elms got things going with a pair of infield singles by Ross and Forrest. Lawrence then stepped up to the plate and took a 2-2 pitch down the line in left to plate the winning run.
Weldon pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless relief and picked up the win to improve to 7-2 on the season. Despite being charged with the loss, Mitchell was excellent in relief for the Lynx as he hurled a career-high 7.1 innings while scattering six hits and striking out two.