MANSFIELD, Conn. — Maybe the baseball gods were smiling on University of Southern Maine right fielder Jake Glauser.
After possibly saving the game with a diving catch in the bottom of the eighth inning Friday, Glauser delivered the tiebreaking single in the top of the ninth as the Huskies (31-11) rallied for a 3-2 victory over UMass-Dartmouth (21-22) to advance to the finals of the Little East Conference tournament.
Matt Verrier started the winning rally with a single and Troy Thibodeau walked to set the stage for Glauser’s winner off Corsairs starter George Bent.
Second-seeded Southern Maine, which beat Rhode Island College 10-0 earlier Friday, will play top-seeded Eastern Connecticut for the title on Saturday at Eastern Baseball Stadium.
Eastern Connecticut (31-7) swept the Huskies in a doubleheader last week to earn the right to host the tournament.
The Huskies need to beat the Warriors twice to win their third consecutive LEC championship. The first game begins at 11 a.m.
“We’re a fighting team,” said Glauser, whose single went off the glove of third baseman George Agostini, scoring Verrier. “Whenever we lose one, it seems like throughout the year we always come back and win a couple after that.”
Forrest Chadwick hit two solo home runs – his second two-homer game of the tournament – to erase a 2-0 deficit, and Andrew Richards earned the win by tossing 62/3 scoreless innings in relief of freshman starter Zack Bean.
“It’s a big-game factor, I guess,” said Chadwick, who had only one home run during the regular season. “You get more amped up when your season is on the line.”
Southern Maine Coach Ed Flaherty tipped his hat to his counterpart, Bob Prince, a former Huskies standout.
“That was a playoff game,” Flaherty said. “You have to give credit to Dartmouth. My old player has done a heck of a job. Dartmouth is a very dangerous team. Early on, I thought, ‘What are we going to do stay in this game?’”
Richards (4-1) threw 96 pitches, allowing five hits with three walks and six strikeouts after tossing three frames on Thursday. Richards has experience working a lot of innings – he threw 12 in a 13-inning game against Ithaca last year in the Division III tournament.
“I just want to win, whatever it takes, 12 innings, 20 innings, two innings, one out,” he said.
Chadwick homered in the fourth and again in the sixth.
“We wouldn’t have been in the game if it wasn’t for Chadwick,” Flaherty said. “He’s kind of like ‘The Natural,’ the Roy Hobbs of our team. He makes the game easy.”
UMass-Dartmouth’s Alex Newtown led off the bottom of the eighth with a drive that Glauser chased down in the gap, likely preventing a triple.
“If that ball gets by, we probably lose that game,” Glauser said, “but (Flaherty) put me in the right position.”
Southern Maine rode home runs by Verrier, Thibodeau and Sam Dexter to a rout of No. 6 Rhode Island in the earlier game, which was called after eight innings on the mercy rule.
Shyler Scates pitched a complete game and Chadwick was 3 for 3 with two triples.