May 30—Mitchell College spent a long day at the NCAA Division III Auburn (N.Y.) Regional on Saturday.
In the first game of the day that started at 10 a.m. the Mariners stayed alive by beating Merchant Marine Academy, 4-2, at Falcon Park.
But their season came to an end with a 3-0 loss to second-seeded SUNY Cortland in an elimination game in the nightcap.
Fourth-seeded Mitchell had a 6-2 edge in hits but couldn't capitalize on its scoring chances. The Mariners (26-9) left nine runners on base.
"The last one is always tough," coach Travis Beausoleil said. "But we were in it the whole time. Like all weekend, offensively, we were a little shy."
Cortland (29-7) scored two runs in the third without a hit, taking advantage of two walks and a balk, and one in the fourth aided by an error. Scott Roberts and Bailey Gauthier combined to pitch a shutout.
Starter Eddie Kaftan (2-2) took the loss, going three innings. Norwich Tech graduate Bryce Bedard pitched five scoreless and hitless innings in relief, striking out three, in his final appearance of his college career. He retired all 15 batters that he faced.
"He was electric," Beausoleil said of Bedard. "We got to see the All-New England pitcher that we had a couple years ago that we've been searching for. It was the best I've seen him. And we've seen him really, really good in points in his career.
"Bryce is a four-year team captain. He means more to the program than anything, maybe more than me just because of what he's given up for us and the selflessness that he shows."
New London's Lelo Martinez and Killingly's Hunter Yaworski had two hits apiece. Montville's Dougie DelaCruz and Logan Casala each added a double.
A powerful offense never really ignited during the three regional games during which the Mariners scored a total of five runs, including four in one inning. They were missing three starters, including No. 2 hitter Jakari Pellegrini who enrolled in the Connecticut Police Academy after graduation.
Beausoleil pointed to several reasons as a possible explanation for the drop-off in run production.
"Was it the lay-off? Was it just that the (pitching) arms were that good? Was it missing some starters? I don't know. We weren't that same offense that we were all season."
The Mariners got a big boost from their pitching staff.
Thanks to sophomore Cam Varney's complete game against Merchant Marine (17-4), the Mariners stuck around for another game on Saturday.
Varney (5-0) allowed just four hits and two unearned runs, returning the side in order in the ninth inning. He struck out four and walked two and threw 119 pitches, 75 for strikes.
"He was awesome," Beausoleil said. "For the most part, he commanded his fast ball and his slider was the best I've seen. And to carry us through nine to keep the bullpen all intact, it was a really, really good outing for us."
Mitchell did all its damage in the first inning, scoring four runs on five of its nine hits overall.
Robbie DelaCruz, a freshman from Montville, led off with a double and scored when Martinez singled.
Then, with two outs, the Mariners loaded the bases, as Yaworski was hit by a pitch and Anthony Laureano and Anthony Diaz both singled. John-John Jose delivered a two-run single to give his team a 3-0 lead.
Owen Robbins of East Lyme reached on an error, plating the fourth run.
"It was critical," Beausoleil said about taking an early lead. "It allowed us to relax a bit and allowed Cam to relax and then every pitch isn't life or death. It allowed the defense not to play so tight."
Varney, who came in with a team-best 2.66 earned run average, retired five of the first six batters before giving up an unearned run. He issued a one-out walk to No. 9 batter Jacob Kelly, who stole second and came around to score on a throwing error.
An error, infield single and ground-out in the seventh led to another run for Merchant Marine, which cut the gap to 4-2.
But Varney closed the door. He worked around a one-out single in the eighth and didn't allow a baserunner in the ninth.
Diaz led the Mitchell offense with three hits and Dougie DelaCruz added two.
It was Mitchell's fourth NCAA tournament win in program history in six postseason trips.
The Mariners came into the tournament with the roster missing seven players due to a variety of circumstances.
"Not only for them to scratch, claw and stay alive and to compete at this level with a bunch of starters out, but everyone on the field with the exception of Anthony Laureano, my second baseman, is coming back (next year)," Beausoleil said. "It's great for us now and shows where the program is, even being down guys the next guy is going to step up and compete but it's also great for the future for these guys to get the experience."