Cougars Upended By WPI, 11-4

Worcester, Mass. - WPI right fielder Mitch McClune had a career day, going 3-for-4 with a home run and five RBI to lead third-seeded WPI to an 11-4 victory over fourth seed Clark in the opening round of the NEWMAC Baseball Championship on Wednesday afternoon.

McClune reached base four times and added a run and stolen base to his breakout afternoon. With the win, WPI (20-8) advances to day two of the double elimination tournament and will face second-seeded Babson (20-11) at Babson on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

Clark (14-14) will play an elimination game on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at top seed Wheaton. The Lyons (23-7), who are currently ranked 24th nationally in the latest D3baseball.com/NCBWA poll, defeated MIT 5-2 in Norton.

WPI got off to a great start in the tournament, scoring twice in the first inning to take the early lead. Bryan Watkins led off the inning with a base hit and Mike Swanton was hit by a pitch to spark the rally. Watkins and Swanton pulled off a double steal to get into scoring position and set up an RBI situation for McClune, whose single to right sent both runners home with the first two WPI runs of the afternoon.

The Crimson and Gray added a pair in the third to gain some breathing room. Once again Watkins and Swanton reached, and once again McClune delivered with an RBI single to right that scored Watkins and sent Swanton to third. Continuing to be aggressive on the basepaths, McClune and Swanton engineered another double steal, allowing Swanton to steal home and a 4-0 WPI lead.

The Cougars did not go away however, getting the two runs back in the fourth to cut the deficit to two. Stephen DeMartino (East Haven, Conn.) led off the frame with a solo home run, then left fielder Scott Hollingsworth (Tilton, N.H.) blasted another solo shot two batters later, pulling Clark to within 4-2. The home runs were DeMartino's team-leading fifth of the season and Hollingsworth's first of the year.

The visitors would not get any closer though, as WPI extended its lead in the fifth. Jameson Kokolis smacked a one-out single up the middle to set up McClune, who launched a two-run shot to right, his second of the year, as the hosts jumped ahead 6-2. With the bases cleared, Nick Bean, Mark Dignum and Cody McGregor followed with three straight singles to load the bases and keep the threat alive.

Engineers catcher Joe Walsh delivered Bean from third with a sac fly to left, pushing WPI ahead 7-2.

Clark would also load the bases in its next at-bat, as the first three batters of the sixth inning reached base. Hollingsworth led off with a single before Mitchell DeLorenzo (Berlin, Conn.) followed with a double into the gap. Philip DiMarco (Bellingham, Mass.) was hit by a pitch, giving Clark bases loaded with nobody out.

WPI reliever Shane Sampson came on to limit the damage, allowing just one inherited runner to score before ending the threat.

The Engineers got the run right back in its half of the sixth, regaining a five-run edge at 8-3. The Crimson and Gray added two more in the seventh on Paul Galligan and Kokolis run-producing hits. Clark scored its fourth run on DiMarco's eighth inning home run, the Cougars' third of the afternoon, before WPI's 11th run crossed the plate in the eighth on Galligan's bases-loaded walk.

WPI starter Sean Minor earned the win with five innings of solid work. Minor (2-1) allowed three runs on six hits with two strikeouts and two walks to pick up the victory. Sampson provided a key three innings of relief for WPI, allowing just a run on three hits over that span. Dignum had a 3-for-3 day with an RBI, while Watkins, McGregor and Kokolis each contributed two hits. Swanton scored three runs and Galligan drove in two for the Engineers.

Brendan Solecki (Portsmouth, R.I.) was saddled with the loss for Clark. Solecki (4-4) went the first 4.1 innings for the Cougars.

DeMartino and Hollingsworth each went 3-for-4 to lead the Clark offense.

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