MANSFIELD Conn.-The ball off the bat of Trinity junior James Wood kept carrying and carrying before finally disappearing over the left field wall.
When it landed, Westfield State’s early lead was gone too.
Wood’s wind blown home run in the bottom of the fourth tied the game at three and Trinity, the defending Division III National Champions, never looked back, emerging with a 6-4 win over the Owls.
“I knew the wind was blowing pretty hard that way,” Wood said. “When I hit it I got it on the sweet spot and got it high enough, I thought it was going to go out. Everything was away in my at bat before so I was just thinking fastball away.”
After going 45-1 a year ago, the Bantams found themselves down 3-0 to Westfield State in the opening round of the NCAA Regional at Eastern Connecticut Baseball stadium.
“We’re down three and we found a way to tie it and pull it out at the end,” Trinity head coach Bill Decker said. “[It] doesn’t matter how you win sometimes, but you get the job done.”
Westfield State got a run in the first when freshman Matt Kelly chopped a one out dribbler to senior second baseman Ryan Piacentini, who flipped to second to get the force. But Kelly was able to beat the relay throw to first, enabling junior Ben Wagner to sneak home from third.
In the third, Kelly reached when sophomore shortstop Robert Martin airmailed his throw to first. Sophomore Pete Hogan followed with a hard shot to third base that went off freshman Alex LiDonni’s glove.
Hogan scooted to first with the infield hit and sophomore Peter Grillo cleared the bases with a booming double to the gap in right center to give Westfield State a 3-0 lead.
All of Trinity’s damage in the fourth came with two outs. Westfield State junior Jesse Vermeersch (5-2) snared a line drive back to the mound off the bat of Sean Kileen to rob the senior of a base hit that was ticketed for the center field grass.
But following a single by junior Kent Graham, Vermeersch walked Piacentini, setting the stage for Wood’s fourth home run of the year.
“[They’re] a very good team,” Westfield head coach Ray Arra said. “You can’t make mistakes and we made a mistake with a pitch and a guy got a home run and that was the difference in the ball game.”
Trinity added a run in the fifth and two runs in the sixth, highlighted by freshman Kevin Mortimer’s RBI double.
Westfield State put runners on the corners with no outs to knock Bantam James Ramsey (7-1) from the game in the seventh.The freshman turned in a solid performance for Trinity, hurling six innings while allowing two earned runs and striking out five.
Sophomore Conor O’Sullivan-Pierce got Wagner to bounce into a double play, scoring the Owls’ fourth run but eliminating the chance for a big inning. Despite loading the base with two outs and knocking O’Sullivan-Pierce from the game, Westfield State couldn’t deliver against sophomore Andrew Janiga, as Hogan chased an outside 1-2 pitch to end the threat.
“I wasn’t thinking if you think there, you just mess yourself up,” Janiga said. “You’ve got to trust your mechanics, trust what you’ve done a hundred thousand times before in practice and in the season and just realize that when it comes down to it its really not much different from anything else. You’ve just got to let it happen.”
Janiga quickly dispatched the Owls in the top of the eighth. The righthander with a deliberate delivery pitched the final two and two thirds innings, allowing one hit while striking out two to grab the save in his first relief outing of the season.
“I’ve heard people tell me [my delivery] is unique,” he said. “We’ve kind of tweaked around with it a little bit.
It’s definitely different then what it was in high school. I’ve always had a slower, kind of more thought out delivery, but it works, so don’t mess with success.”
Trinity (30-5, 13-1) will face the winner of the Southern Maine Husson matchup tomorrow at 7:45, while Westfield State (23-16, 7-7) will take on the loser at 1:15.