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Baseball: Muchin, Kosterich Lead Team Effort in Little East-Opening Victory

Baseball: Muchin, Kosterich Lead Team Effort in Little East-Opening Victory

BOSTON – Junior righty Jordan Muchin (West Hartford) and senior righty Sam Kosterich (Stamford) combined on a six-hitter as the No. 2-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University baseball team advanced to the winners' bracket of the double-elimination 2018 Little East Conference Baseball Tournament with a 4-1 win over No. 5-seeded Plymouth State University Wednesday afternoon at Monan Park.

Thursday at 8 p.m. in a winners' bracket game, Eastern (23-14) faces No. 4 Rhode Island College (20-13), which defeated No. 3 University of Southern Maine, 7-3, Thursday morning in the completion of a game which was suspended after five innings Wednesday night due to fog. Plymouth (16-18) plays No. 6 UMass Dartmouth in a Thursday elimination game at 1 p.m. UMass Dartmouth lost its opener Wednesday to No. 1 UMass Boston, 7-3. At 4:30 Thursday, UMass Boston meets Southern Maine. The host Beacons will advance in the winners' bracket by eliminating Southern Maine, which would stay alive with the victory.

Wednesday, Muchin (5-4) allowed only five hits while fanning nine and walking three before leaving with a 3-1 lead after pitching seven innings, shutting out the Panthers over his final six innings. Kosterich closed it out for his second save of the season, allowing only one baserunner (on an infield hit) with three strikeouts over the final two innings.

In the game, Eastern pushed across a single run in four different innings, with three or more batters reaching base in succession in each of those innings.

Trailing 1-0, Eastern tied the game with a run on two hits in the third, moved ahead with another run in the fourth on four consecutive singles in the fourth, made it 3-1 with an unearned run in the sixth on two hits, a throwing error and sacrifice fly, and tacked on its final run in the seventh with three consecutive hits after there were two out.

Senior first baseman D.J. Scavone's (Auburn, MA) infield ground ball tied the game for Eastern in the third after the Warriors loaded the bases on a one-out single by junior centerfielder Alexander White (West Hartford), walk, and junior third baseman Alex Parkos' (Meriden) first-pitch single to center.

The turning point in the game came with the game tied in the top of the fourth when Plymouth loaded the bases with none out on two walks and a hit-and-run single before Muchin struck out the side on 12 pitches to leave the bags full. He threw eight straight strikes with the bases loaded to retire the first two batters and go ahead 0-2 on Cam Ruziak before retiring the junior catcher on a 2-2 swinging strikeout.

Following Muchin's Houdini act, the Warriors went ahead for good, 2-1, in the bottom of the fourth on four straight singles by freshman DH Jack Rich (Meriden), junior shortstop Dale Keller (Oxford), junior No. 9 hitter Ryan Hood (Arlington, MA) and White's run-scoring single to left.

Eastern added an insurance run in the sixth when Rich reached second on an infield single and throwing error, moved to third on Keller's single and came home on Hood's sacrifice fly to center and provided Kosterich with a three-run cushion with a final run in the seventh. With two out, Scavone, senior catcher Merlyn Herrera (La Yaquiza, DR)  and freshman rightfielder Anthony Stigler (Mansfield) all singled, with Stigler's first career tournament hit to center chasing in Scavone from second.

The only right-handed batter in the Plymouth lineup able to pull the hard offerings of either Muchin or Kosterich was DH Geoff Kayo, who was robbed of a single on a diving line drive catch to his left by Parkos to end a 1-2-3 third inning and a routine hopper to Parkos for the second out of the fifth. As further proof of Plymouth's inability to pull the ball lay in the fact that Keller did not record a single assist for the first time in 37 starts at short this year (he touched the ball off the bat for the only time with two out in the eighth on an infield ground ball but did not attempt a throw on what was ruled an infield single) and that senior second baseman Mike Funaro (Northford) equaled his season-high with seven assists – all on routine balls. Funaro was also stationed perfectly to haul in a line drive by Kayo leading off the eighth against Kosterich.

Led by Rich – who reached four times with a double, two singles and walk in his first post-season game – all nine batters reached at least once, with eight contributing at least one hit.

Muchin improved to 3-0 lifetime with a 1.27 ERA against Plymouth, with 36 strikeouts and seven walks. He tossed a seven-inning no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in Eastern's home-opening win over Plymouth in 2017. Kosterich recorded his fourth save in five appearances over two LEC tournaments at Monan Park. In 2016, he appeared in all four of Eastern's tournament games and was credited with three saves when the Warriors won their ninth LEC title.