Cole Warren’s recovery from arm problems couldn’t have happened at a better time.
The junior right-hander from Bedford threw eight-plus scoreless innings and struck out eight batters to lead the top-ranked Penmen past Adelphi 2-0 Sunday for the Northeast-10 Conference baseball championship at Southern New Hampshire University’s Penmen Field in Hooksett.
It’s the first NE-10 title in program history for the Penmen (39-12), who earned an automatic berth to the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship East Regional, which begins Thursday. The NCAA field was announced late Sunday night. The Penmen were hoping to host the regionals for the third straight season.
“It’s not for me to decide who should host it,” said sixth-year head coach Scott Loiseau. “All I know is we won our conference title and we’re going to the NCAA tournament. We’re happy about that and we’re looking forward to our first regional game on Thursday.”
Warren graduated from New Hampton Prep. He played at the University of Rhode Island in 2012 and 2013 before transferring to SNHU last summer.
Loiseau called Warren’s effort Sunday “gutsy” considering he’s been battling arm problems this spring. Sunday’s outing marked the first time since March 15 that Warren (3-3) pitched more than six innings. Warren faced 31 batters and walked four hitters Sunday.
“He told me earlier this week he was feeling fine and he really looked good today,” said Loiseau. “He mixed his pitches well and made the pitches he needed to make in big situations. This outing is good for his confidence and having him back is a very good thing for our team heading into the regionals.”
The Penmen, winners of eight straight games, broke Sunday’s scoreless tie in the home fifth.
Alejandro Diaz started the inning with a single and scored on a double to right by Tyler Fortanascio. A single by Bryan Toland pushed Fortanascio to third base. Fortanascio scored the insurance run on a sacrifice fly to left by Anthony Aceto.
Warren finally ran out of steam in the ninth inning when he walked the leadoff hitter.
Loiseau summoned closer Benjamin Criscuolo, who captured his 14th season save on Saturday in a 6-5 win against Stonehill. Criscuolo got the final seven outs in that game. On Sunday, Criscuolo managed to get a ground-out, but walked the next batter with one out.
Loiseau pulled Criscuolo and called in starter Derrick Sylvester of Franklin for his first relief appearance of the season. Sylvester, inheriting runners on first and second, made quick work of Adelphi, getting a pop-out and a swinging strikeout to nail down the championship for the Penmen.
Sylvester was named the Championship Most Valuable Player. Criscuolo and Warren were named to the All-Championship Team. Sylvester (8-2) pitched a three-hitter in a 9-1 win against Bentley last Wednesday. He walked two and struck out 15 batters.
“Last night (Saturday) I told Derrick and Ben that I didn’t want to use them, but that I might have to,” said Loiseau. “Today (Sunday) they came up to me and told me they were good to go. As it turned out, we needed them. But that’s the way all our guys have been this season. When we need someone to contribute, someone always steps up and does the job.”
Loiseau said winning the NE-10 title is a great accomplishment.
“It’s a grind and every team in our league is competitive, capable of winning on any given day,” said Loiseau. “This week our pitching, offense and defense really stood out. We won four games holding two opponents to one run and another one to no runs. We gave up seven total runs in four games. That’s outstanding.”