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May 17. 2014 8:17PM

College Baseball: Penmen eliminated from East Regional

Southern New Hampshire University third baseman Riley Plamer, of Goffstown, reacts as he heads into the dugout in the eighth inning vs. Wilmington University during the NCAA Div. II East Regional Tournament Saturday. SNHU won their elimination game, 4-3. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

HOOKSETT -The Southern New Hampshire baseball team’s quest to join its men’s soccer compadres and add a second national title to the North River Road trophy case came to an end Saturday night at Penmen Field, where the region’s top seed was upended by Dowling University, 4-3, at the Division II East Regional championship.

With that, the tournament, which started on Thursday with six teams, was narrowed to two — Dowling University of Long Island, NY, and St. Thomas Aquinas of Sparkill, N.Y. — and they’ll meet today to decide the champion.

Fifth-seeded Dowling is the double-elimination tournament’s only unbeaten left, meaning fourth-seeded St. Thomas must win today’s first game, starting at noon at Penmen Field, in order to force a winner-take-all final.

The regional champ will advance to the Division II College World Series, beginning May 24 in Cary, NC.

Saturday’s nightcap — which followed a 4-3 SNHU victory over Wilmington and an 8-5 St. Thomas victory over Felician — saw SNHU (41-14) go without a hit for the first three innings.

Dowling took a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the top of the second inning. Jonathan Cruz and Michael Rizzitello singled. Cruz came home on a single from Rob Veltre and Rizzitello, scored when Vinny Orlando grounded out.

The Golden Eagles took advantage of a pair of walks to add another run in the top of the fifth. Starting SNHU pitcher Mike Robert issued free passes to RJ Going and Daniel Parisi before he was replaced on the mound by Joe McCarthy.

McCarthy induced a ground ball which saw Going thrown out at home, but Cruz drove home Parisi with a ground ball fielder’s choice.

Southern New Hampshire struck back in the bottom of the fifth with two runs of its own, also sparked by a lack of control on the mound. With the bases loaded after a pair of singles and a walk, Mike Mastroberti scored when Tyler Fortanascio walked, and Alejandro Diaz then scored on a wild pitch.

More wildness gave Dowling its fourth run, that coming in the top of the sixth when JC Brandmaier was hit by a Same Fuller picth with the bases loaded for a 402 Golden Eagles advantage.

Back-to-back doubles by Palmer and Mastroberti got SNHU back within a run at 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth.

SNHU 4, Wilmington 3: If nothing else, the Penmen's 4-3 victory over Wilmington (Del.) University earlier  Saturday showed how important it is to collect hits at the right time.

Top-seeded SNHU was held to seven hits in the NCAA Division II East Regional contest, but three of them came in a four-run sixth inning that erased a 3-0 deficit.

Second baseman Mike Mastroberti produced the game's biggest hit, a three-run double that scored Manny Cruz (walk), Al Stanton (single) and Goffstown's Riley Palmer (walk) in the top of the sixth inning. Catcher Tyler Fortanascio then came up with a two-out single that scored Mastroberti with the go-ahead run.

"I was just trying to hit the ball hard," Mastroberti said. "I was sitting on a fastball and I got one. Championship teams punch back and we've been doing it all season."

If the Penmen lost, they were eliminated and St. Thomas would have to beat Dowling twice today to claim the crown.

"All year we've been coming from behind," Fortanascio said. "Most of our wins are come-from-behind wins."

Freshman Ben Criscuolo, SNHU's closer, pitched the final 4 1/3 innings to earn the win. Criscuolo didn't allow a run. He surrendered two hits and struck out two.

Criscuolo, who entered the game in relief of starter Cole Warren, retired the last eight batters he faced.

"I'm usually a one- or two-inning guy, but I've been pitching more of late in the tight games," Criscuolo said. "Timely hits was the story. It really was."

Wilmington scored its three runs in the bottom of the fifth. The Wildcats had only one hit in the inning, but Warren, who pitched for Bedford High School, issued three walks and hit a batter.

Wilmington's Frank Samluk pitched 5 1/3 innings and took the loss. Samluk, who gave up all four SNHU runs, entered the game with a 5-0 record and 1.77 ERA.

Before its four-run sixth, SNHU had scored three runs in the previous 22 innings.

"You expect to face good pitching in a tournament like this, but we don't press," Mastroberti said. "We know how good we are."

St. Thomas 8, Felician 5: St. Thomas Aquinas scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to break a 5-5 tie and pitcher C.J. Ferriggi overcame a leadoff walk to open the ninth to retire the side and send St. Thomas to today's noon game against Dowling. Felician was eliminated from the tournament with the loss.

Ferriggi helped his own cause with a one-out walk in the eighth. Nick D'Angelo and Deven Del Priore both singled to load the bases. Stephen Sunday walked to bring Ferriggi home for the 6-5 lead. Rich Baerga then singled to score two more runs for the 8-5 lead.

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