Ravens rally to win conference title

GREG WALL

Franklin Pierce players celebrate their come-from-behind conference championship Saturday in Syracuse, N.Y. The team’s climb out of the losers’ bracket culminated with a title-clinching, 3-0 win over Merrimack. The Ravens now head to the

NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in program history.

Graduate student right-hander Ryan Covelle, graduate student right-hander Anthony Matarazzo, senior left-hander Evan Glew and senior right-hander Zach Hart combined to author a nine-hit shutout Saturday afternoon, as the Franklin Pierce University baseball team claimed its league record sixth Northeast-10 Conference title, at Syracuse, N.Y.

Two runs in the first were all the Ravens needed on their way to a 3-0 win over Merrimack to finish off a climb out of the losers’ bracket to the NE10 crown. Hart picked up his second save of the day to nail down the final game of the Northeast-10 Championship, hosted by Le Moyne at Onondaga Baseball Complex.

With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 28-22 and extends its season, while Merrimack falls to 28-20. It is the sixth NE10 title for Franklin Pierce, which also took home the hardware in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2015. The Ravens become the first NE10 baseball team to claim six league titles. Hart was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player at the conclusion of play.

Franklin Pierce earns the NE10’s automatic berth into the NCAA Championship, which begins Thursday with regional play. The NCAA Tournament appearance will be the second straight and 15th overall in program history for the Ravens.

The tournament selections were announced Sunday evening. The Ravens were selected as the No. 8 seed in the East Regional, and will open play at a four-team, double-elimination sub-regional Thursday, against No. 1 seed and host Adelphi.

New in 2019, the NCAA has revamped the format of the Division II Baseball Championship. Each region is now split into a pair of sub-regionals, with each site conducting either a three- or four-team double-elimination tournament this week, Thursday through Saturday. The following week, the advancing teams from each sub-regional within a region will meet, at the higher seed, for a best-of-three Super Regional, May 24-25. Super Regional winners claim the regional trophies and advance to the NCAA Championship National Finals, which are June 1-8 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.

In the East Region, the top two seeds will assume hosting duties in the coming week, as No. 1 seed Adelphi (34-7-1) and No. 2 seed Southern New Hampshire (36-12) will each welcome three other institutions. The Panthers and Penmen earned at-large seeds out of the Northeast-10 Conference.

At Adelphi, the No. 1 Panthers will be joined by No. 4 seed Wilmington (Del.) (38-16) and No. 5 seed NYIT (32-14), as well as Franklin Pierce (28-22). Wilmington is the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference champion, while NYIT earned an at-large bid out of the East Coast Conference. Wilmington against NYIT is the other Thursday matchup in that sub-regional.

At SNHU, the No. 2 Penmen will play host to No. 3 seed LIU Post (36-14), No. 6 seed Felician (30-21) and No. 7 seed Assumption (26-18). LIU Post is the ECC champion, while Felician and Assumption secured the final two at-large bids, out of the CACC and the NE10, respectively. Thursday’s matchups at Penmen Field will feature SNHU against Assumption and LIU Post against Felician.

Details on game times and ticket information for Franklin Pierce’s trip to the Adelphi sub-regional will be provided as they become available.

This past Saturday, Franklin Pierce opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the first inning, and it would be all the Ravens needed in the winner-take-all title game. Freshman center fielder Joel Lara opened the game with a double down the left-field line, before a single by junior catcher Dylan Jones and a sacrifice bunt put the runners at second and third with one away. Junior right fielder John Mead — who had five hits between the day’s two games — provided the opening salvo, with an RBI single to center field to score Lara. Senior designated hitter Ural Forbes followed with a sacrifice fly to center field to double the lead to 2-0.

The score remained stuck at 2-0 until the top of the seventh inning, when the Ravens tacked on an insurance run. Freshman third baseman Jethro Hurt led with a single to center, moved to second on a single by junior first baseman Jonel Ozuna and went to third on a double-play ball. Freshman shortstop Zach Landry then cashed in the run with a two-out single to right field to create what would stand as the 3-0 final.