HARWICH, Mass. – The St. Joseph’s College baseball team struggled to hit Western New England right-hander Zach Cloft in the hanging fog Thursday night at Whitehouse Field.

The result: a 4-1 loss in the Monks’ second game in the NCAA Division III New England regional.

Cloft held St. Joseph’s top three batters hitless, struck out nine and gave up just six hits, sending the sixth-seeded Monks into an elimination game at 1 p.m. today against No. 1 seed Tufts University.

“He was just absolutely pounding the strike zone,” said Monks Coach Will Sanborn of Cloft. “He never got behind in the count and just pitched a great game.

“At some point you’re going to have to play with your backs against the wall if you’re going to win this thing. And these guys want to keep playing.”

Cloft used a fastball, change-up and slider as the game wore on that kept the Monks’ best batters behind in counts and guessing.

“He had three really strong pitches and great command,” said Monks leadoff batter Chris Campbell. “It was tough to adjust while you’re looking for your pitch, so we were fouling off a lot and getting behind in counts.”

Mike Pratt hit a drive over the left-field wall in the fourth to give St. Joseph’s a 1-0 lead.

He was the only Monks batter to get two extra-base hits on the night — he also hit a double in the second inning.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to the kid,” said Pratt. “He pitched one heck of a game. He got a lot of kids thinking and when a pitcher gets in your head, it’s tough.”

The Golden Bears put together a two-run fifth on three singles off starter Sam Murray, then picked up another run in the sixth to take a 3-1 lead into the seventh.

Monks reliever Mason Roberge got into a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, then got out of it with a strikeout and double-play grounder that ended the inning with minimal damage.

The Monks got a leadoff single by Ian Lee in the seventh but followed with strikeouts by Dan Achorn and pinch-hitter Dan Brown, and a grounder by Nate Martin to end the rally.

Sidearm specialist Andrew Devereaux came in to pitch the eighth for the Monks.

Western New England scored another run with two singles and a hit batsman to take a 4-1 lead.

Cloft, who improved to 8-2, pitched eight complete innings and threw 104 pitches.

“That was probably the outing of his career,” said Coach Matt LaBranche. “He’s grown into one of our most stable starters.

“I think the kids get into this tournament and go on adrenaline.”

Mike Lawlor closed the game for his 10th save.

The Monks are no strangers to having to climb from the losers’ bracket. Last year they did just that to be one of the last three teams playing.

“Basically we’ve got to play our best ball of the year now,” said Pratt.

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

jmenendez@pressherald.com

Twitter: JennMenendez