GORHAM, Maine — They got the weekend started with a big upset on Friday afternoon.
The New England College baseball team ended the weekend with an even bigger one on Sunday afternoon when they knocked off No. 4 ranked and perennial power the University of Southern Maine, 7-6 in 13 innings, at Ed Flaherty Field in the final game of this NCAA Division III regional.
The Pilgrims, playing in the NCAAs for the first time in program history, advance to a Super Regional against UMass Boston. The winner of that best-of-three series next weekend will play in the Division III World Series.
Shaun Cormier, a sophomore right-hander out of Rochester and Spaulding High, nailed down the pitching win in the deciding game with 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball.
“I know he’s a good pitcher,” said first-year New England College coach Terry Doyle, the former Salem High and Boston College standout. “He kind of gets shafted because he’s a guy I save to the last minute. I don’t get to go to him when I want to because I’ve got to save him for the emergencies. Today he was the emergency guy and he gave us 7 1/3 shutout, which speaks to how hard he’s worked in his two years here and mentally being ready to go for us. He competed his butt off.”
Cormier allowed four hits, struck out four and walked two and worked out of many jams.
“It’s something I do pretty well, I guess,” Cormier said. “I come in, fill it up and I guess I was just lucky they kept hitting it right at people. I had my tail saved a few times. By Andy on the play at second and Nick Power at the wall. There were a few times I thought I wasn’t going to walk out of it, but somehow I did.”
Second baseman Anderson Jimenez made a tremendous play to preserve the tie in the top of the 11th inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, he went back for a ball over his head and made a diving catch on it.
NEC put the game away in the bottom of the 13th.
Power reached on an error and Joe Maestu got him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Jameson Carey singled to right center and Powers beat the throw to the plate for the winning run and the celebration was on.
Southern Maine beat the Pilgrims 16-4 in Sunday’s first game to force the deciding second game.
NEC knocked off USM 10-2 in their first NCAA game Friday.
In Sunday’s second game, the Pilgrims rallied for a couple of runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 6-6.
Carey singled and Christian Aybar doubled to lead things off. That brought closer Jake Dexter on for the Huskies in place of Henry Curran, who had been successful in relief of starter Dalton Rice.
Jimenez delivered a single up the middle to score Carey, and Aybar came across on Connor Morin’s fielder’s choice and it was tied again.
New England College took full advantage of a couple of early breaks to grab a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning in Game 2.
The first batter, Aybar, crushed a ball down the third baseline and Andrew Hillier went up and caught it. When Hillier came down though, he dropped the ball and Aybar was ruled safe after the umpires conferred.
After a strikeout, Connor Morin walked. On a 2-2 pitch, he offered but the umpires ruled he had held back his swing.
Aybar later scored on a bases-loaded walk, and Morin and Evan Delaney scored on a bases-loaded double from Luis Atiles. The fourth run scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Powers.
NEC starter Dylan Champagne allowed a run in the top of the second inning and then worked out of major trouble in the third and fourth.
USM loaded the bases with no outs in the third and Champagne answered with a couple of strikeouts and a fly out to right field. In the fourth, there were two outs when the Huskies loaded the bases with three straight singles. Champagne got a ground out to end the inning.
Sam Troiano got to Champagne for a home run to lead off the fifth, cutting the lead to 4-2.
The Huskies came up with four runs — helped by a couple of fielding miscues — to grab the lead and bounce Champagne in the top of the sixth.
USM scored its first run on an error and tied it on a close play at the plate.
Dylan Hapworth then blasted a two-run homer to center to finish Champagne’s day.
The Huskies jumped on NEC early in the first game.
Devon Warren ripped the second pitch of the game to center field for a triple and Andrew Hillier followed with a first-pitch single to right field and USM was on its way.
Two hits and a dropped ball at second base contributed to a two-run inning and the Huskies tacked on three runs in the second inning and four in the third.
New England College knocked USM ace righty Ben Lombard out of Friday night’s game in the third inning on its way to the upset win.
Lombard got his revenge in the first game Sunday. He pitched six scoreless innings and left with a 9-0 lead early in the seventh.
The offense backed Lombard up nicely with 20 hits for the game.