CASTLETON, Vt. – Castleton captured its third straight North Atlantic Conference Championship this afternoon with a come-from-behind, 6-5 victory over the Husson Eagles at Spartan Field.
The Spartans trailed 4-1 after five innings of play, but a five-run sixth turned things around for the squad, as they became the first team in conference history to capture three consecutive titles. Castleton improves to 32-10 on the season and clinches a berth in the 2016 NCAA Division III Tournament. The pairings for the tournament will be released next Sunday evening. The Eagles, meanwhile, finish their year at 23-21 overall.
Jim Buckley led the Spartan attack, collecting two of the squad's seven hits. The junior went 2-for-4 at the plate with a home run and one RBI. Taylor Vile reached base three times and drove in one run, while Dillon Benham turned in a 1-for-3 display with one RBI and two runs scored. For Husson, Julien Boone paced the squad, notching three hits with two runs scored, while Christian Corneil went 2-for-4 with one RBI.
After struggling early on, Steven Jurkiewicz settled down to pick up his sixth win of the year. The southpaw went eight innings, allowing five runs (four earned) with four strikeouts. Michael LaBeau, who was named the NAC All-Tournament MVP, picked up his second save of the tournament after throwing a scoreless ninth. Robert Graff took the loss despite a solid outing, giving up six runs (two earned) with five strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work.
Husson got off to a quick start in the contest, scoring three runs from five hits in the top of the second to take an early lead. The Eagles began the frame with back-to-back base hits before Sam Huston's bunt moved runners into scoring position. Corneil followed with an RBI single to right, and Alex Chapman's bunt down the third-base line in the next at-bat brought home the second run of the game. Ryan Rebar topped off the scoring with a sacrifice fly to give Husson a 3-0 lead.
After the Eagles tacked on a fourth run in the top of the fourth, the Spartans had their first real scoring chance of the day in the bottom half of the frame. Dylan Watts was walked to start the inning before a pair of batters struck out. Graff then walked Vile and Dan Errico to load the bases, but Castleton couldn't take advantage, as Zach Bahan struck out looking to end the scoring threat.
The Spartans cut their deficit to three with a run in the fifth before scoring five more in the sixth to take their first lead of the game. Buckley began the rally with a solo shot to left, followed by a single from Mitchell Caron. Nick Patierne and Dylan Bailey were walked to load the bases for Benham, who slapped a run-scoring infield single. Castleton scored three more runs in the frame, capped off by a throwing error that allowed the hosts to claim a 6-4 lead.
Husson didn't give up, however, and seemed poised to tie the game after cutting the gap back to one in the eighth. A pair of defensive miscues allowed Alex Chapman to score and put runners on first and second with two outs for Dan Whitney. The senior shortstop stepped up to the plate and sent a diving ball into short left field. Errico was charging and made a fantastic sliding catch to end the inning. LaBeau came in to close and tossed a scoreless ninth, puntuacted with a game-ending strikeout to lift Castleton to its third straight title.
Mike LaBeau - Castleton - MVP
Deagan Poland - Castleton
Sam Spencer - Castleton
Dan Errico - Castleton
Sam Huston - Husson
J.T. Whitten - Husson
Dan Whitney - Husson
Domonic Esposito - Thomas
Nik Beeson - Thomas
Ben Keene - Maine Farmington
Trevor Hisler - Maine Farmington