HARWICH, Mass. — The St. Joseph’s College baseball team has made a habit of late-game comebacks this season.
The Monks came up one run short Friday night, and now their season is over.
Down by two runs entering the final inning, St. Joseph’s loaded the bases with one out and scored on an infield hit with two outs. But they couldn’t complete the comeback, losing 4-3 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in an elimination game at the NCAA Division III New England Regional.
Sixth-seeded St. Joseph’s won two elimination games but couldn’t beat the surprise team of the tournament. MIT hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game (going 0-7) until it eliminated top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State on Thursday.
After beating No. 3 Tufts and St. Joseph’s on Friday, MIT will play No. 4 Endicott in the losers’ bracket final at noon Saturday, weather permitting.
St. Joseph’s finished 30-15 – the program’s 11th 30-win season under Will Sanborn.
“We’ve had tremendous success,’’ said Sanborn. “And I’m proud of the seniors. We came here for four straight years. The disappointing part of it is not being able to get over the hump and win this regional.’’
The Monks almost kept their season alive.
Down 4-1 after the Engineers scored three times in the top of the seventh – two on a home run by Parker Tew (“The coach called the wrong pitch,’’ said Sanborn) – the Monks got a run back in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Nic Lops.
Taylor Reuillard led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, prompting MIT Coach Andy Barlow to replace starting pitcher K.J. Parent with closer Rob Bertucci.
Alex Markakis followed with a single, then Brett Barbati – who hit a home run for the Monks’ first run – moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.
After Taylor Black walked to load the bases, Bertucci struck out Mac McCoomb. Louie Vigars then hit a grounder that appeared to be heading up the middle into center field. MIT second baseman Jon Rea dove to his right to knock the ball down, however, and threw to first from his knees to try to get Vigars.
“I thought it was up the middle,’’ said Vigars. “When I saw him knock it down, I knew I better bust my (butt).’’
Vigars dove head-first, beating the throw and allowing pinch-runner Tim Beaudette to score the tying run. Sanborn held Markakis at third, remembering a play in Friday’s first game – a 9-2 win for the Monks over Mitchell College – when he sent a runner that was thrown out at the plate. “I threw down the anchor,’’ he said.
Besides, No. 3 hitter Alex Lorenc was coming up. On a 2-1 count, he hit a line drive to right-center that kept hooking. Right fielder Hayden Cornwell, who saved a run in the second inning with a sliding catch, made another one, and the Monks’ season was over.
“We thought we could do it,’’ said Vigars. “We call it Monk magic. We always seem to stick it out to the end. We never count ourselves out of it.’’
Friday’s final game was a pitchers’ duel between juniors K.J. Parent of MIT and Alex Valenti of St. Joseph’s for six innings. They each allowed one run entering the seventh.
Then the Engineers struck for three runs and forced the Monks to attempt another comeback.
“It was great to see the guys come together at the end,’’ said Sanborn. “We played some great baseball down here. We were a break or two away from continuing to play on.’’