Jun. 5—CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa. — Senior right-hander Brian Albee retired the top hitter in Division III on a ground ball for the final out as No. 1 Eastern Connecticut defeated No. 4 LaGrange 4-3 in the Division III national championship tournament in a game that ended about 3 a.m. local time Sunday morning.
Eastern (46-3) moved within one win of the best-of-three championship series. It will play the winner of today's Trinity-LaGrange elimination game at about 8:45 tonight.
Against LaGrange, Eastern improved to 4-0 in one-run games in conference and NCAA tournament play when graduate righty Tommy Benincaso, senior lefty Aidan Dunn and Albee combined to preserve the victory after the Panthers had cut a four-run deficit to one run by scoring three runs in the seventh.
Zach Donahue (South Windsor) was 2-for-5 with two RBI, Glastonbury's Ryan Bagdasarian reached three times on two hits and a walk — extending his hitting streak to 21 — and Luke Broadhurst (Stafford) reached three times on his infield single, a walk and hit-by-pitch.
Donahue, a shorstop, made the play on the ground ball for the final out. It was Albee's fifth save of the year.
In his fourth post-season start, Benincaso pitched at least six innings for the eighth time in his last nine starts, striking out a career-high nine and allowing only seven hits and one walk in 6 2/3 innings.
The Warriors scored three runs in the second and tacked on another in the seventh. Donahue drove in the first two runs of the game with a triple and scored on a sac fly by Bagdasarian.
Eastern added another run in the seventh. Bagdasarian singled with one out and moved to second on an infield single by Broadhurst. While tagging up and heading for third on a shallow fly ball to right, Bagdasrian raced home when the throw from the outfield sailed past third.
In addition to his sacrifice fly, Bagdasarian reached three times on two hits and a walk — extending his hitting streak to 21 — while Donahue had two hits and Broadhurst reached three times on his infield single, a walk and hit-by-pitch.