By PAUL GOTHAM
GROTON, CT. — Blaine Farrell hurled a complete game, and Ellington Hopkins highlighted a late-inning comeback as the No. 20 Monroe Community College Tribunes (32-17) opened the East District Division II Championship with a 6-3 victory over No. 4 Westchester Community College Vikings (43-6). Monroe fell 11-7 to the UConn Avery Point Pointers (33-10) to close the opening round.
Farrell (6-3) allowed three runs on four hits, but the left-hander issued five walks and hit two batters.
“My pitches were good I just wasn’t spotting them up,” Farrell said. “I just kinda didn’t have the command.”
The sophomore starter, who came into the game with just eight walks and two hit batters in 49-plus innings of work, issued a pair of two-out free passes in the second.
“My fastball was running,” Farrell noted. “My curve ball was curving and my changeup was doing its job I just wasn’t putting them in spots where they could work.”
Joe Lovecchio gave Westchester its first run of the day with a single to center. A wild pitch scored another. Westchester took a 3-2 lead in the fourth when Sage Cheren got caught in a rundown off first. Austin Pollack scored on the play.
The scene was set for Monroe’s late inning dramatics.
Hopkins drove an 0-2 pitch through a drawn infield, and the Tribunes took advantage of an error to push two across the plate.
“The pitch was a slider,” Hopkins stated. “I kinda didn’t like the second pitch. I thought it was low and too far outside. I tried to not let the ump get in my head calling it a strike and putting me down 0-2. I was expecting a fastball, and he slowed it down for me. Just made it easier to drive it up the middle.”
Ryan Prevost scored the eventual game-winner, and Jimmy Latona followed with another run.
Ultimately, the inning was about the Tribunes using the bunt to expose an opponent’s weakness. Trailing 3-2, Hunter Merrill led the frame with a first pitch bunt for a single down the third base line. Prevost squared for a sacrifice, but the speedy outfielder forced the Viking to rush the play, and MCC had two aboard. Latona dropped another intended for a sacrifice, but a second error in a row brought home the tying run, and the Black and Gold had two runners on base.
“They couldn’t field the ball late in the game because they were too tight,” Farrell said. “If they can’t field it, put pressure on them. Obviously it was a weakness of theirs, and (assistant Tony) coach Fuller found it.”
Monroe grabbed an early lead. Latona reached to start the game when he was hit by pitch from WCC starter, Trey Pizzutello. Hopkins followed with a an RBI double to right center off an 0-2 pitch. David Vaccaro moved the runner with a sacrifice bunt, and Tommy LaCongo delivered with a two-out double over the third base bag for a two-run edge in the top of the first.
Avery Point sent nine to the plate in a decisive seventh inning as the Pointers moved within one win of the title.
Andrew Hinckley reached on an error to start the frame and was the first of five straight to get aboard as the Pointers scored five in the frame. Nick Landell brought home Avery Santos with the eventual game winner on an RBI sacrifice fly. Garrett DeLotto, Joel Acosta and Jordan Kowalski also collected RBI as UCAP took a 10-5 advantage into the bottom of the seventh.
Avery Point added a run in the eighth off an Acosta sacrifice fly.
Monroe brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth. Vaccaro sent a bases loaded flare to shallow right scoring Prevost. LaCongo scored another when he was hit by a pitch, but the Tribunes couldn’t scratch any closer.
The teams traded leads throughout the first five innings.
DeLotto singled home Kowalski in the top of the first for an early UCAP edge.
LaCongo doubled home Latona and Vaccaro in the bottom of the frame.
Nick Perrelli highlighted a three-run second for the Pointers with a double to left field scoring two.
Latona led the third with a double to left. Hopkins beat out a sacrifice bunt. After a stolen base put runners in scoring position, Vaccaro and Angel Diaz delivered with RBI groundouts.
Monroe took a 5-4 lead in the fifth. Latona singled, stole second and scored on a Hopkins base hit to left center.
Pete Aldrich came on in the fifth and picked up the win for Avery Point.
The same two teams meet on Sunday for the right to go to the NJCAA Division II World Series. An Avery Point victory clinches the title. Monroe must sweep two for the championship.
The first game is scheduled for an 11 a.m. start at Washington Park. Game two, if necessary, will follow shortly after the completion of the first contest.