Trumbull's Brian Hnatuk gets win in Little East final
Freshman DH Alex Parkos (Meriden) drove in seven runs with five hits and Trumbull’s Brian Hnatuk came on in relief to get the victory when the fifth-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University baseball team defeated sixth-seeded Western Connecticut State University, 13-9, in the championship game of the Little East Conference Tournament Saturday afternoon at Monan Park.
Eastern is now 9-2 in the finals and has never lost when entering the championship round undefeated.
Appearing in the championship round for the third time (the Colonials won the 2002 title and finished second in 2005), Western needed two victories over the Warriors to claim its second title, and erased an early 4-0 deficit with four of its own in the second inning.
Western broke a 5-5 tie with three runs in the fourth, before LaBranche brought in Hnatuk, the third pitcher.
Western scored its third run of the fourth inning, before Hnatuk retired Western in order for the first time in the game in the top of the fifth.
He gained his first career victory when Eastern erupted for five runs in the bottom of the inning on senior Chad Adams’ (Ware, MA) two-run single and Parkos' three-run, two-out blast to left.
The tournament title is the ninth for Eastern (23-17) — second in three years under head coach Matt LaBranche — that qualifies automatically for the NCAA Division III New England Regional Tournament, which gets underway Wednesday at the Eastern Baseball Stadium.
The Warriors' second four-run win over Western (22-20) in the tournament completes a four-game Eastern sweep which began Wednesday with a 13-6 victory over second-seeded defending champion University of Southern Maine.
The Warriors defeated third-seeded UMass Dartmouth, 9-7, Thursday, and moved into today's championship round with a 7-3 triumph over Western yesterday. The Colonials had remained alive with two elimination-game victories Friday.
Eastern had lost its final six games of the regular season before rallying in the tournament to qualify for its 34th NCAA tournament.