The Central Connecticut baseball team won an elimination game, 7-4, over 24th-ranked Cal on Saturday at the NCAA Regional in Fayetteville, AR, at Baum-Walker Stadium. The Blue Devils used a three-run homerun from junior Dave Matthews in the the fifth inning to take the lead and senior Tom Curtin turned in a solid seven innings on the mound for the victory. Matthews had three hits, including the homerun, while junior Buddy Dewaine also had a homerun for CCSU.
CCSU improves to 31-22, while Cal ends its season with a 32-20 record.
The NCAA win for the Blue Devils is the first in program-history in six NCAA Regional appearances.
The Bears opened the scoring with a leadoff homerun in the top of the second. Korey Lee took a 1-0 pitch and deposited it in the bullpen in left field to give Cal a 1-0 lead. Max Flower then drew a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice fly. He would score on a two-out single by Grant Holman to make it 2-0.
Central responded by scoring two runs and stringing together three straight hits. Junior Dave Matthews led off with a double that one-hopped to the fence in centerfield. Junior Buddy Dewaine followed with an infield single and the throw was wide at first base allowing Matthews to score and Dewaine to slide into second. Sophomore Jake Siracusa followed with the third straight basehit, sending a single to centerfield that scored Dewaine to make it 2-2.
Cal pushed across a run in the third to regain the lead. Cameron Eden led off with a single back to the mound and was able to run around to third after the throw sailed wide of first base. He would score on a groundout to second base and make it 3-2.
The Blue Devils came back to tie it again in the bottom of the inning. Junior Chandler Debrosse opened the inning with a double into the corner in right field. He was stranded until Matthews lined a two-out single into right field to drive home Debrosse and make it 3-3.
Central took the lead with a three-run fifth inning, highlighted by a Matthews homerun. Debrosse and sophomore Sam Loda hit back-to-back singles with one out. After a fielder's choice put runners on the corners with two outs, Matthews stepped in and put a 2-2 pitch into the bullpen in right with a towering homerun to make it 6-3.
The Bears would score a run on a single by Eden with two outs in the ninth, but senior Jared Gallagher got a pop up for the final out to close out the win.
Curtin, who made two starts and was named MVP at the Northeast Conference Tournament, earned the win after tossing 7.0 innings. He allowed two earned runs on just four hits, while striking out two and walking two. Gallagher got his 10th save of the season after tossing 2.0 innings. He scattered three hits and had a strikeout.
Matthews finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs. Dewaine went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs. Debrosse added two hits and two runs scored.
Central advances in the elimination bracket and will play at 3:00 p.m. against either TCU or Arkansas. The game will be carried on ESPN3.
Central Connecticut Head Coach Charlie Hickey
Opening Statement CH: "Obviously, it was a special day for our program, first NCAA win and in a very well-played, hardnosed baseball game. First time I have run across California, I have never seen them before. This tournament brings different things and different matchups together, but we got some outstanding pitching today from Tom Curtin. Dave Matthews came up huge, we got a lead and we were able to dodge enough bullets to get that last out. Again, was awfully-proud of this team yesterday and it is the same pride I have in them today."
On Tom Curtin's performance … CH: "Yeah, I mean that is what he is, we converted him into a starter this year, he hadn't started his previously three years. He's just gone out there and given us a chance to win every game. You know, last week he pitched on two days rest to win the conference championship game, that was part of the reason he didn't pitch yesterday, but I knew I was going to get a gutty effort out of him. He was going to battle for us and compete. The game went back and forth, they hit a ball that was a fraction of an inch from going out in left field then we converted on that spot. It was funny, the first few innings it was serve-and-volley back-and-forth and then we were able to make a better opportunity with that threerun homer. Then he went out and got six more tough outs I believe. I am usually a guy that lets somebody go out there and keep competing, but we had Jared Gallagher who was fresh in the bullpen we were going to go that route. Obviously, they came back and made it interesting in the ninth inning as a quality, competitive team you expect them to come back like that, but fortunately we were able to get out of there especially with somebody on deck that I did not want to go down that road."
On how big the win is… CH: "In the reality of going through this, we are going to have less bullets going up against some of these teams and you get to a day like yesterday where you are proud and happy to play in a great environment and somehow you got to rally them to come out and play again without giving the inference that we are not good enough to play here. But what happens is the reality is you start thinking if travel plans going back home and you are out there playing. We made a decision; we have another arm in Mike Appel that might have been somebody that we went to earlier in the sixth or seventh inning, but we were going to ride Tommy out and finish with Jared and hopefully be able to run Mike out there tomorrow."
CCSU outfielder Dave Matthews
On his home run… "I think that good teams pick each other up and I think that great teams find a way to get it done. I think TT [Bowens] supported us yesterday offensively when no one else was hitting. I think today we kind of just needed that kick start. I think at the end of the day it comes down to everybody picking each other up. Today, I produced offensively but I think that the pitching, our defense, it all had to come together in order for us to win against a good ball team."
On how big the win is for the program … "This is what you play for. You come out here with one goal to win the conference championship and after that we got the privilege to play here in front of the biggest crowd, in this atmosphere. It is unexplainable. It is a privilege for all of us to be out here and for the younger guys to experience this. I have never been a part of something as big as this, I have never played in front of this many people so I think to come out here and to give it all we got is all we could ask for."
CCSU pitcher Tom Curtin
On his performance today… "I mean, toward the end I definitely felt the full effect of 80 degrees, we haven't played anything that hot all year. I was just trying to throw as many strikes as I can with all my pitches and give my defense the opportunity to make me plays, as they have done all year."
On how big the win is for the program… "Arkansas is a great atmosphere. Being in a stadium and field like that, it feels exceptional. You are just looking to have fun and enjoy the opportunity that you are given right now."