EAST PROVIDENCE, RI – Top-seeded Saint Joseph's (34-5, 14-2 GNAC) defeated #3 Anna Maria College (22-16, 11-5 GNAC), 6-3, in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament semifinal contest at Pierce Field on Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, St. Joe's advances to the GNAC Championship game, which will be played at Pierce Field on Sunday at 12:00 PM. The Monks will face #4 Suffolk University (20-21-1, 11-5 GNAC), which trampled Anna Maria by an 11-1 margin in a tourney elimination contest on Saturday afternoon.
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the fifth, freshman Joe Coyne (Duxbury, Mass.) rapped a two-run single through the left side to knot the game and the Monks secured their first lead of the afternoon when sophomore right fielder Alex Lorenc (Nanuet, N.Y.) led off the sixth with a towering solo homer to left field.
The edged did not last long however, as Anna Maria sophomore Mike Curley (Linwood, Mass.) capped a lengthy at bat with a run-scoring single with two out in the bottom of the sixth.
St. Joe's went on to clinch the semifinal win with the help of three unanswered runs and an outstanding relief performance by junior righthander Tyler Laverriere (Biddeford, Maine), who picked up his third win of the year after fanning six with one hit allowed in 3.1 innings.
Freshman catcher Nic Lops (South Portland, Maine/Cheverus) opened the top of the eighth with a sharply-hit single to right and was lifted in favor of pinch runner Nate Martin (Chebeague Island, Maine), who immediately swiped second base and moved to third on an Alex Markakis (Lynnfield, Mass.) sac bunt. Up next was third baseman Dan Brown (Portland, Maine/Deering), who would plate Martin for the go-ahead run with a beautifully-executed squeeze bunt – with two strikes – to provide his team with the lead for good, as it played out.
After a clean bottom of the eighth, in which Laverriere tossed only 11 pitches in retiring the AMCATS' side, the Monks tacked on a pair of insurance runs to account for the 6-3 final. Junior center fielder Sam Butts (Saco, Maine) led off with a walk, moved to second on a Dan Achorn (Bow, N.H.) bunt, and scored when Coyne singled to center. Pinch runner Kyle Neagle (Lisbon Falls, Maine) replaced Coyne at first and stole second before scoring on a Lorenc base hit.
Lorenc paced the SJC offense by going 4-3 with a run, a home run, and two RBI and Coyne went 2-3 with three RBI on the afternoon. Starting pitcher Joe Gruntkosky (Peabody, Mass.) worked an effective 5.2 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) off seven hits and a walk while striking out two, but did not factor into the decision.
Anna Maria starting pitcher Dean Diamantopolous (Shrewsbury, Mass.) yielded three runs off six hits and three walks with a pair of K's in six innings. Reliever Lucas Davis (Spencer, Mass.) suffered the loss after allowing one run off one hit and a hit batsman in two innings and AMCATS closer Tim Henderson (Wayland, Mass.) gave up two runs of two hits and a walk in the ninth.
Junior first baseman Padraig Gilman (Leominster, Mass.) belted a solo jack in the third inning for Anna Maria, which did not feature a repeat-hitter in the losing effort.
Saint Joseph's and Suffolk will face off in the GNAC Championship game for the fifth consecutive year on Sunday. The Monks have defeated the Rams in the title tilt in three of the last four years, including the last two, and have won six conference crowns (three as a member of the North Atlantic Conference) over the last seven seasons.
Saint Joseph's College, founded in 1912 by the Sisters of Mercy, celebrates its Centennial year in 2012 with a theme of "Realize the Promise" – honoring our commitment to educating well-rounded graduates who combine career focus with classic liberal arts studies. A Private, Catholic, primarily residential, coeducational liberal arts institution, Saint Joseph's welcomes students of all ages and all faiths. The campus, located 18 miles northwest of Portland and just two hours from Boston, encompasses 350 acres along the shore of beautiful Sebago Lake in Standish, Maine. Enrollment ranges between 1,000 and 1,100 students annually. Saint Joseph's offers challenging academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education, nursing and business fields in a value-centered environment.