GORHAM — With a dozen freshmen on the roster and three in the starting lineup, Ed Flaherty knew it might take some time for his University of Southern Maine baseball team to pull together.

The Huskies have picked a good time to do so.

USM, ranked first in New England among NCAA Division III schools, took a big step Friday toward solidifying another NCAA tournament berth. The Huskies defeated UMass-Dartmouth 9-2 at USM’s baseball stadium to remain undefeated in the Little East Conference tournament.

Freshman left fielder Devin Warren drove in three runs and saved at least one with a diving catch, and senior reliever Andrew Richards allowed two hits and one run over the final six innings.

“This was definitely a team victory,” said Richards, who picked up his 10th win of the season. “It wasn’t just one guy doing everything.”

The victory improved USM to 30-12 – the 15th time in Flaherty’s 30 seasons that the team has won at least 30 games.

The Huskies will play for the championship – and the league’s automatic NCAA tournament berth – at noon Saturday against Eastern Connecticut, which beat UMass-Dartmouth twice later Friday. Should USM lose that game, the teams would play a second game.

“The last few days we’ve just started to play at our best level,” said Flaherty. “We’ve got a lot of young players who now have 150 at-bats and they’re just starting to play like they’re capable of.”

Warren had three hits and scored twice. His two-run single gave USM a 3-1 lead in the third. He also made a diving catch in the left-center field gap in the eighth inning that not only saved at least one run but turned into an inning-ending double play.

Brendon Joyce also drove in three runs, two on a double in a four-run fifth.

First baseman Paul McDonough made a diving stop of a sharp grounder early in the game while also contributing a couple of hits and runs. And then there was Richards.

USM led 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth when Nick George hit the leadoff batter, then gave up a double to Ervin Kantardzic. Out came Flaherty from the dugout, in came Richards.

“He can go late game, early game, he can throw and throw and throw,” said Flaherty. “He never gets sore. I’m sure he will be ready to go again tomorrow.”

Flaherty had a specific plan for Richards: strike out the Corsairs’ No. 9 batter (Josh O’Neill), intentionally walk the leadoff batter (Ryan Medeiros) to load the bases, then get an inning-ending double play from the No. 2 hitter (Nate Farias).

And that’s exactly what Richards did, though the double play was not without drama. Richards fielded Farias’ one-hopper and instead of going home, twirled and threw to shortstop Sam Dexter, covering second. The throw was low and behind Dexter, who reached and caught it, then whipped a sidearm throw to first to nip Farias.

“Sam is the best player in the nation,” said Flaherty. “Most shortstops don’t make that catch, let alone turn it.”

Richards said he was told to throw to second. “By the book you’d go home,” said Richards. “But (Flaherty) said, ‘Get the ball in Dexter’s hands.’ Nothing bad happens when the ball is in Dexter’s hands.

“I rushed (the throw) a little. I probably had a little more time. But at least I got it there. Last year I air-mailed one to center.”

That was the turning point, especially considering USM got four in the fifth. Matt Bender led off with a double and went to third on a single by Warren, who went to second on the throw. Joyce hit a grounder into right, scoring both. He later scored on a ground by Nick DiBiase. The fourth run was on a wild pitch.