NORWICH, Conn. – Junior Kevin McAvoy (Syracuse, N.Y.) turned in one of the grittiest outings of his career as he tossed a complete game to lead the top-seeded Bryant University baseball team to a 5-2 victory over fourth-seeded Wagner on day one of the Northeast Conference baseball championships at Dodd Stadium.
The victory pushes the Bulldogs (40-14) into the winner's bracket final on Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. against Central Connecticut or Sacred Heart. Bryant also becomes the first team in NEC history to record back-to-back 40-win seasons. The Seahawks (19-34) will play an elimination game on Friday at noon.
A week after tossing 7.1 shutout innings against Wagner, McAvoy needed to dig even deeper to hold off the Seahawks on Thursday. It wasn't pretty as he allowed 10 hits and tied a season-high with four walks, but the veteran right-hander made big pitch after big pitch, finishing his day with a season-high 125. McAvoy also struck out seven to run his record to 9-1 on the season.
It was an inauspicious start for McAvoy and one that set the tone for the rest of the game. A walk and a throwing error put the first two Seahawks on base before a one-out infield single loaded the bases. McAvoy, however, induced a ground ball that classmate John Mullen (Walpole, Mass.) fielded to begin an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. A hit batter and another error put two more runners on in the third but once again McAvoy escape as he induced a pop up to short to strand runners on second and third.
Bryant was finally able to push across a pair of runs in the third thanks to some misplays from the Wagner defense. Senior Tom Gavitt (North Stonington, Conn.) walked to start the inning and freshman Cole Fabio (Mahwah, N.J.) followed with a single up the middle to put runners on the corners. The Seahawks then attempted to throw behind Fabio at first but the throw got away, allowing Gavitt to scamper home from third with the first run. Fabio would eventually steal second and take third on a fly out before scoring on an infield error to make it 2-0.
McAvoy used a 6-4-3 double play in the fourth and stranded two more runners in the fifth but the Seahawks finally got to him in the sixth. Tommy Mazurkiewicz and Jason Gordon opened the inning with singles and Zack Yesko plated the first run with a sharp one-out single to center. Trey Nicosia followed with a sac fly to center but McAvoy avoided further trouble with a fly ball to right.
The Bulldogs were finally able to break the tie with three runs in the seventh. Sophomore Robby Rinn (Warwick, R.I.) singled and Gavitt worked a 2-0 count against Wagner starter Matt Morris before the Seahawks elected to bring on Mike Adams. Gavitt eventually worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Fabio then beat out an infield single to short bring home Rinn with the tie-breaking run. Sophomore Dan Cellucci (Sudbury, Mass.) followed with a single through the left side to score a run and junior Jordan Mountford (Guelph, Ont.) capped the scoring with a sac fly to left.
McAvoy then went to work on closing it out. He retired the first two batters of the eighth before two singles and a walk loaded the bases for the Seahawks. McAvoy, however, regrouped to get Nick Dini to pop out to short to end the threat. He then trotted out for the ninth inning and proceeded to strike out the first two batters before a fly ball to center ended the game.
In the first postseason game of his career, Fabio went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored for the Black and Gold. Gavitt reached base twice with a pair of walks and also scored two runs. Morris (3-7) allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits over 6.1 innings. Adams allowed one run on two hits over 1.2 innings of relief. Nick Mascelli, Mazurkiewicz and Gordon all finished with two hits for the Seahawks.
The Bulldogs will now await the winner of Thursday's second game between Central Connecticut and Sacred Heart. First pitch is tentatively scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Friday.