By Matt Williams
---- — North Shore rivals Endicott and Salem State both played close games to open the NCAA Division 3 New England Regional in Harwich yesterday, with very different results.
Endicott walked off with a win over St. Joseph’s of Maine to advance in the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament, while Salem State had the tying run at the plate but couldn’t come back, losing to Wheaton, 5-3, to drop into the loser’s bracket.
The Gulls (33-12) will play Wheaton (31-10) tonight at 8 p.m. with the winner moving on to the winner’s bracket final. Salem State (25-14) will play to keep its season alive against St. Joe’s at 1 p.m.
Harry Oringer’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth delivered Endicott just the second NCAA tournament win in program history (the other coming back in 2004). Endicott’s big last inning averted disaster, as the Gulls had led 3-1 before a rain delay in the top of the ninth. St. Joe’s rallied to tie the game, but the Gulls persevered.
E.J. Martinez doubled to start the rally and St. Joe’s elected to issue two intentional walks (after a passed ball advanced Martinez) to load the bases for Oringer.
Conor Ressel singled and scored to put Endicott ahead 1-0 in the first inning. Martinez and Eric Lemke each had two hits for Endicott, Oringer had two RBI and Lemke had one. Tyler Hitchcock allowed a single earned run in 51/3 innings of work.
Ex-St. John’s Prep standout Alex Markakis had one of St. Joe’s 12 hits.
Salem State led the nightcap against Wheaton 1-0 on Kyle McElroy’s early solo homer, but Wheaton clawed its way back into the game by scoring three runs in the second.
McElroy led the Vikings with three hits while Steve Buitkus and Bill Cataldo each had a pair. Beverly native Ethan Trowt had an RBI for Salem State and starter Cato Lacroix struck out five and was charged with four runs over five innings.
Wheaton, the national runners-up a year ago, led 4-3 in the eighth and added a crucial insurance run to make it 5-3 before SSU’s last at-bat.