HENNIKER, N.H. - The Castleton baseball team pushed its winning streak to eight Wednesday afternoon, completing the season sweep of New England College with 5-2 and 5-4 victories in a North Atlantic Conference doubleheader at Laurie Cox Memorial Field.
With the wins, Castleton improved to 19-5 on the season and 10-2 in NAC play, while New England College fell to 13-17 overall and 6-10 in the conference.
Castleton 5, NEC 2
Castleton injected its damage early and rode a solid outing from starting pitcher Luke Salerno, who improved to 4-0 on the season with two earned runs over 6.1 innings pitched. Scott Michaels nailed down the final two outs to earn his sixth save of the season.
The Spartans jumped out to an early lead with two runs in each of the first two frames. Deagan Poland led the game off with one of his three hits in the contest – a single to center. Dillon Benham followed with a single through the ride side and an error in right field allowed both runners to advance into scoring position. Zach Bahan scored Poland on a fielder's choice and Jonathan Lindau lofted a sacrifice fly to center to score Benham to give the visitors a 2-0 advantage.
Two more Pilgrim miscues in the second inning allowed the Spartans double their lead. Dylan Bailey reached on an error at second base to start the inning, and he later scored after Poland reached on a fielding error by the shortstop. Poland worked his way around the bases with three stolen bases, capped off by swiping home and sliding under the tag at the plate to give the Spartans a 4-0 lead.
The Spartans continued their offensive pressure in their next at-bats, padding the lead with another run in the third. After Lindau walked to start the inning, Matt Jackson drilled a double to left field to put two in scoring position. Bailey sent a soft groundball to third, allowing Lindau to score and extend the Spartan lead to 5-0.
New England College starting pitcher Vincent Backert found a rhythm after the third, pitching three scoreless innings to finish his 6.0-inning outing with five runs (two earned) on seven hits. Selah Dalomba pitched a perfect seventh inning, before the Pilgrims cut into the Spartan lead in their final at-bats.
After Jameson Carey put the Pilgrims on the board with a bases-loaded hit-by pitch in the seventh, Michaels came out of the bullpen to close it out. He induced a flyout and a pop out in foul territory around an RBI single by Evan Delaney to close the game out, 5-2.
Castleton 5, NEC 4
Davis Mikell was the star in the nightcap, accounting for three runs at the plate and picking up his third win of the season on the mound. The freshman blasted his sixth and seventh home runs of the season and finished 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored.
New England College starting pitcher Stanley Vargas was on his best game early, striking out 10 of the first 12 batters he faced. Mikell answered the bell on the other end with four scoreless innings to start the game, and he turned a 0-0 game into a 2-0 lead with a two-run home run in the top of the fourth.
Mikell ran into trouble in the fifth, as New England College plated three runs on two hits, two walks, and an error. Aneury Lara and Carey worked walks around a single by Conor Crouse to load the bases. Luis Atiles reached on an error, before Vincent Backert singled down the left field line to give the Pilgrims their first lead of the day, 3-2.
The one-run lead only lasted two batters, however, as Mikell sparked a two-out rally in the sixth with a moon shot over the wall in center field to tie the game. Five straight batters reached base following the blast, capped off by a bases-loaded single by Bailey and a walk from Pat Mumford as the Spartans regained the lead, 5-3.
The Pilgrims added one run in the bottom of the seventh, but that was all they could muster as Castleton held on for the 5-4 victory to complete the season sweep.
Mikell improved to 3-1 on the season with three runs (no earned), while scattering two hits and striking out eight over 5.0 innings pitched. Aaron Smith tossed the sixth and seventh innings out of the bullpen, allowing one run (unearned) on four hits with a walk and a strikeout to earn his first save of the season.
Vargas took the loss on the mound for NEC, allowing five earned runs with 13 strikeouts over 6.0 innings. Joe Paliotte led the Pilgrims offensively with two hits and an RBI.
The Spartans will return home for a non-conference matchup at 4 p.m. on Thursday against Union College.