When and Where: May 10, 2016 – Manchester, N.H. (Penmen Field)
Score: Southern New Hampshire University 8, Merrimack College 7
Records: SNHU 42-5, Merrimack 29-18
Junior Carson Helms (Farmington, Conn.) knocked in four runs and classmate Manny Cruz (Wolcott, Conn.) drove in the eventual game-winning run in the eighth inning as the eighth-ranked Southern New Hampshire University baseball team posted an 8-7 come-from-behind victory against Merrimack College in a Northeast-10 Championship first round matchup at Penmen Field on Tuesday evening.
SNHU, seeded second in the Northeast Division, advances to Championship Weekend for the second time in four years and will take on the College of Saint Rose, the fourth seed from the Southwest Division, on Thursday at noon. The Golden Knights knocked off the Southwest's top seed, Adelphi University, on Tuesday, while the Northeast's top seed, Franklin Pierce University, dispatched Assumption College and will host Championship Weekend at Pappas Field in Rindge, N.H. The Warriors, seeded third in the Northeast, see their season come to a close barring a selection to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night.
Southern New Hampshire grabbed an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a two-run double down the left field line by Helms. SNHU then doubled its lead in the third when fellow junior Derek Bauer (Millis, Mass.) stroked a two-run single to right to make it 4-0.
Senior starter Tim Viehoff (Derry, N.H.), meanwhile, cruised through the first four innings, striking out 10 Warriors before running into trouble in the fifth. Merrimack hung a six-spot as it chipped away at the deficit before a three-run double to the gap in left-center by Cam DiSarcina put the visitors up, 6-4.
The Penmen tied it up in the bottom of the frame when Helms unloaded a two-run shot that stayed just fair inside the left field foul pole.
Merrimack used a long ball of its own in the sixth when Matt Brown led off the stanza with a solo jack to left-center that put the Warriors back in front, 7-6.
Southern New Hampshire again pulled even in the bottom of the inning when junior Cam Oliveira (Tewksbury, Mass.) led off with a single through the hole at short and tied the game when he scored as Cruz reached on a two-out error by the third baseman.
The Penmen went ahead for good in the eighth as senior Lorenzo Papa (Stoneham, Mass.) led off with a pinch hit single to center and was lifted for a pinch runner in freshman John Stanton (Sandwich, Mass.). Stanton moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from sophomore Sean Webster (Boston, Mass.) and scored when Cruz drove a single through the left side to make it 8-7.
Sophomore Jake Walkinshaw (Seymour, Conn.) entered in the ninth and slammed the door to send the Penmen to Championship Weekend.
Viehoff earned a no-decision as he allowed seven runs on six hits, while striking out 12 and not walking a batter, over five-plus innings. Sophomore Ivon Clough (Dublin, N.H.) improved to 3-0 as he twirled three perfect innings and struck out a batter. Walkinshaw collected his ninth save with a hitless frame as he struck out a pair and walked one.
Bauer went 2-for-3 with a walk and pair of RBI, while Helms finished 2-for-4 with four RBI and a run scored. Graduate student Mike Mastroberti (Ramsey, N.J.) was 2-for-5 with a pair of runs, with Cruz (walk, RBI, run) and junior Zach Goldstein (Merrick, N.Y.; walk, two runs) going 1-for-4.
- The other time SNHU advanced to Championship Weekend in the past four seasons was 2014 when it captured its first Northeast-10 title.
- Southern New Hampshire, which has won 28 of its last 31 and 24 of 26, is still on pace for its best record ever at 42-5. The 2012 squad that advanced to the Division II College World Series in Cary, N.C., was 36-11 through its first 47 games.
- Bauer, who is tied for the Northeast-10 lead in RBI (58) and is third in home runs (9), has driven in at least one run in 15 straight games, totaling 31 RBI during that stretch.
- Mastroberti, who already owned the program's single-season record for triples, broke Brendan O'Brien's 2014 mark for hits in a season when he collected his 74th knock of the 2016 campaign in his second at bat.
- Mastroberti has a hit in 19 of his last 20 contests, while Goldstein has hit safely in 15 of 16.
The Penmen are back in action Thursday, May 12 (12 p.m.) when they take on Saint Rose in the Northeast-10 Championship at Franklin Pierce's Pappas Field.
For the latest on Southern New Hampshire University athletics, follow the Penmen via social media on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram. Sign up to receive text message alerts and e-mail newsletters about your favorite Penmen teams here.