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Baseball's NCAA Tournament Run Continues With Wild Win Over Salve Regina

Matt Koperniak '20
Matt Koperniak '20

Hartford, Conn. - Junior Matt Koperniak (Adams, Mass.) went 5-for-5 with two home runs, three RBIs and three runs scored to help propel the Trinity College baseball team past the Salve Regina University Seahawks, 7-2, in the NCAA Division III Regional Tournament on Saturday at Murren Family Field at DiBenedetto Stadium in Hartford. Trinity came back from down 2-0 in the elimination game after falling to Babson earlier in the day, 4-1. Salve Regina advanced after knocking Keystone out of the tournament in the day's first game, a 13-1 contest, while Babson moved to tomorrow's finals with the win over Trinity. The Beavers and Bantams will square off at 2:30 p.m. with Trinity needing to win twice to advance past this weekend. 

Down, 2-0, in the top of the sixth with Trinity playing as the away team despite hosting the weekend's tournament, Koperniak stepped up to the plate to lead off the inning and promptly sent a solo homer over the right field fence to cut Salve Regina's lead to 2-1. That preceded a five run seventh inning for Trinity which made it a 6-2 game before Koperniak came up with two outs in the ninth and crushed a no-doubter that disappeared into the night sky and landed on Broad Street.

The Seahawks scored the game's first run in the bottom of the second on a ground ball out that scored Sean O'Malley (Darien, Conn.). Salve Regina opened up a 2-0 lead in the fifth when Zack Smith (New Canaan, Conn.) doubled home Dylan Ketch (Clinton, Conn.), but Trinity saw timely hitting in the game's late innings that proved to be the difference.

Salve Regina starter Michael Mathews (West Hartford, Conn.) shoved for five scoreless innings before giving up the solo blast to Koperniak in the sixth. Mathews finished with eight strikeouts in seven innings and allowed just one earned run despite being saddled with the loss. Trinity senior tri-captain Erik Mohl (Milton, Mass.) turned in a gutsy performance out of the pen, pitching for the second time today to earn his fifth win of the year. Mohl allowed just one hit in 2.1 innings of work and kept Salve from mounting any sort of comeback.

Senior CF Geoff Stillman (Scituate, Mass.) reached base to lead off the eighth before stealing second and moving to third on a balk to put the tying run just 90 feet from home with no outs. Senior SS Ben Reinisch (Troy, N.Y.) followed with a walk to put runners at the corners before Koperniak smoke a single to left to tie the game and keep things moving. After a sacrifice bunt moved Koperniak and Reinisch up to second and third, senior tri-captain Johnny Stamatis (Ridgefield, Conn.) was intentionally walked to load the bases. With two outs, junior DH Mack Lauder (Chappaqua, N.Y.) roped a ball to left-center that fell in for a bases clearing double to give Trinity a 5-2 lead. Sophomore 2B Robbie Cronin (Wellesley Hills, Mass.) followed that with a double of his own to score Lauder and make it a 6-2 game before Koperniak iced the game with his second homer in the ninth. 

In game one against Babson, both Michael Genaro (Greenwich, Conn.) and his counterpart, Trinity first-year Cameron Crowley (Downers Grove, Ill.) turned in stellar pitching performances with Genaro emerging as the winning pitcher. Crowley threw 7.1 innings and yielded just a pair of runs on six hits. Both hurlers worked their ways out of early game jams as both teams traded zeros on the scoreboard until the Bantams scratched across a run in the home half of the fourth. 

Stamatis doubled down the right field line to lead off the fourth with a runner in scoring position. Fellow tri-captain, junior C Alex Rodriguez (South Windsor, Conn.), followed with a fly ball to right field that moved Stamatis to third with one out. Sophomore DH Vincent Capone (Ambler, Pa.) then came up and hit a fly ball to center that allowed Stamatis to tag up and score to give the regional hosts a 1-0 lead. 

The lead was short-lived though, as Babson plated a run of its own in the following frame to tie the game at 1-1. Matthew Valente (Wyckoff, N.J.) walked to lead things off before advancing to second on a single off the bat of Nicholas Browne (Mount Laurel, N.J.). Thomas Lapham (Charlestown, Mass.) then sacrificed the pair over to second and third which proved important as Brian McHale (Ramsey, N.J.) followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Valente.

Both Genaro and Crowley retired the sides in the sixth and seventh inning before the Beavers scored a run in the eighth to take a lead they would not relinquish. Babson loaded the bases for Jake Oliger (Newtown, Conn.) who came up clutch with an RBI-single to left that scored McHale to give Babson a 2-1 advantage. Trinity brought in Mohl who induced a 6-4-3 double play to limit the damage to the lone run.

Genaro retired Trinity in order in the eighth before a two-run ninth put Babson ahead, 4-1. Lapham plated Valente on a sacrifice fly before McHale followed with a single to left that brought home Browne, who previously doubled to get on. Genaro allowed a leadoff double in the ninth to Koperniak, but William Gallagher (Kingston, Mass.) came out of the bullpen for the Beavers and got three quick outs to earn the save and seal the victory.