STANDISH, ME - Second-seeded Saint Joseph's College (23-13, 11-3 GNAC) defeated #1 Suffolk University (20-13-1, 12-2 GNAC), 2-0, in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Baseball Tournament Championship at Larry Mahaney Diamond on Sunday afternoon. With the victory, Saint Joseph's claims a berth into the NCAA DIII Baseball Tournament for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
The Monks cruised to the title game victory with the help of dominant pitching from senior Joe Gruntkosky (Peabody, Mass.) and sophomore Corey McNamara (West Newbury, Mass.), a duo that combined to allow five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over nine frames. Gruntkosky improved to 3-0 on the season after yielding four hits and three free passes with seven K's in six innings while McNamara, the GNAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, picked up his second save of the tourney in as many games with three shutout innings, allowing a hit with a punch-out while closing out the contest.
Suffolk junior starter Frank Tierney (Hyde Park, Mass.) also pitched admirably but was the recipient of a hard-luck loss after giving up two runs off four hits and seven walks with three K's in seven innings. Freshman Mark Fusco (Medford, Mass.) tossed one frame of one-hit relief for the Rams.
Gruntkosky was able to finagle his way out of a jam in the top of the first, as the Rams – riding a wave of momentum after defeating #4 Johnson & Wales in 13 innings just 45 minutes prior to facing the Monks – worked three walks to load the bases with two out. The senior righthander escaped the tenuous situation unscathed by inducing a fly to left off the bat of Suffolk senior third baseman Mike Muse (Milton, Mass.).
The Monks stranded a pair of runners in both the second and third innings but broke the scoreless stalemate by scoring a run without posting a base hit in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, freshman shortstop Max McCoomb (South Berwick, Maine) walked, jumped to second on a balk, and advanced to third after Tierney issued his third-consecutive free pass. Hitting with the bases loaded, junior designated hitter Nic Lops (South Portland, Maine/Cheverus) hit a chopper to first and McCoomb scored to lift the hosts to a 1-0 edge.
With both pitchers working effectively, the game cruised along until Saint Joseph's tacked on an insurance run on two hits in the bottom of the seventh. Freshman second baseman Taylor Black (Cardiff by the Sea, Calif.) led off with a base hit to right-center, advanced to second on a McCoomb sac bunt, and effectively doubled the Monks' lead when he scored on a line-drive single off the bat of senior center fielder Louie Vigars (Stratham, N.H.).
McNamara, who entered the game in the top of the seventh, retired eight-consecutive batters to close out the championship triumph. After striking out designated hitter JC Collette (Amesbury, Mass.) and sitting second baseman Devan Jones (Roslindale, Mass.) with an infield line-out, McNamara fielded a grounder hit by Muse and flipped to freshman first baseman Brett Barbati (Melrose, Mass.) for the final out as the SJC dugout stormed the field.
Both teams fielded one repeat-hitter apiece, as Vigars was 2-4 with an RBI for the Monks and sophomore left fielder Jon Lapolla (Providence, R.I.) went 2-3 for the Rams.
The All-Tournament Team consists of Dan Gagnon (Pomfret Center, Conn.) and Bobby Ellard (Medfield, Mass.) of Lasell College, Rob West (East Windsor, Conn.) and Carlos Sanabria (Pawtucket, R.I.) of Johnson & Wales, and Jhonneris Mendez (Boston, Mass.), Matthew Brenner (Eliot, Maine) and Tim Conroy (Arlington, Mass.) of Suffolk University. For the Monks, Vigars, Gruntkosky and Alex Lorenc (Nanuet, N.Y.) joined McNamara on the All-Tournament Team.
Saint Joseph's will play a half-dozen games between now and when the NCAA Tournament begins on May 14th, starting with a single contest versus Gordon College at home on Tuesday (5:00 PM.) Suffolk has five regular-season games remaining on the docket, starting with a twinbill at Williams College on Sunday, May 4th (2:00 PM).
Corey McNamara – Saint Joseph's – Most Valuable Player
Alex Lorenc – Saint Joseph's
Louie Vigars – Saint Joseph's
Joe Gruntkosky – Saint Joseph's
Tim Conroy – Suffolk
Jhonneris Mendez – Suffolk
Matthew Brenner – Suffolk
Rob West – Johnson & Wales
Carlos Sanabria – Johnson & Wales
Bobby Ellard – Lasell
Dan Gagnon - Lasell
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Saint Joseph's College is Maine's only Catholic liberal arts college, providing a supportive, personalized and career-focused education for more than 100 years. From its 430-acre campus on the shores of Sebago Lake, the College offers more than 40 undergraduate programs to a population of approximately 1,000 students. Saint Joseph's College Online provides certificates, undergraduate and advanced degrees for working adults through an online learning program. For more, visit www.sjcme.edu.