By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM — Salem State University isn’t nationally ranked in Division 3 baseball.
Perhaps the powers that be should take a closer look at the Vikings.
After yesterday’s wild 12-11 win over Endicott, Salem State has now won 10 straight games with victories over the Gulls, Wheaton and Southern Maine — all squads ranked in the top 30.
Yesterday, just like they have all season, the Vikings’ offense led the way. Even after Salem State squandered what had been a seven-run lead, allowing Endicott to tie the game in the top of the ninth, Brett Cahill came through with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and smashed a walk-off line drive single to the outfield, scoring Beverly native Alex Toomey with the winning run.
“All year our offense has been consistent. We’re hitting close to .330 as a team,” said Salem State (17-10) head coach Mike Ward. “We’ve experienced good at-bats in the middle of our lineup and gotten solid contributors everywhere. Offense has been our strength. We’ve never been down to where we can’t fight our way back.”
Cahill is one of the top hitters in the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference; Ward believes he’s one of the top Division 3 hitters in all of New England.
“He’s a winner,” Ward said of Cahill. “He’s delivered in the clutch time and time again for us. In a big spot, there’s nobody I’d rather have.”
First baseman Matt Burgess had the biggest day at the dish, finishing 3-for-5 with four RBI. His best highlight came in the bottom of the fourth when he put one over the fence in center field for a two-run round-tripper as part of a five-run fourth, giving the hosts a 7-0 lead.
However, SSU freshman starter Tim Woods had thrown a lot of pitches by the time the fifth inning rolled around and even though he’d allowed just one earned run on two hits, Ward gave him the hook.
“He was up over 100 pitches. He’s only thrown seven innings this year and hasn’t started a game since (SSU’s trip to) Florida,” explained Ward. “He did a great job, pounded the strike zone and mixed in his offspeed stuff. But it was time for him to go ... and we trust our bullpen.”
Salem State used five more pitchers before the end of the game and Endicott scored at least one run each inning thereafter. After all, the Gulls are ranked for a reason and guys like EJ Martinez (3-for-3, 5 RBI) and Harry Oringer (2-for-4, 2 runs, RBI) showed why.
Martinez showed some power in the eighth when he smashed a two-run homer deep over the right field fence and then with two outs in the ninth, he pulled a RBI single to right field to tie the game. Oringer, who had walked to start the four-run rally in the ninth, spoke about how the Gulls were able to battle back after such a lackluster start.
“We tried to focus on having good at bats and then we were able to string a few together,” said Oringer. “We never let up. We were down 7-0 and were able to come back ... and that shows we’re able to come back from adversity.”
Pete Gonski got the win for the Vikings after getting the final out in the top of the ninth. Eric Nagle started for the Gulls, pitching three innings before being relieved. Both bullpens struggled as a total of 15 pitchers were used between both teams.
Salem State had six more total hits and made two fewer errors in the field. Catcher Mike Lamothe of Beverly caught an excellent game, threw out a guy stealing second and was able to keep a very speedy Gulls team from chewing up the basepath. For good measure, he added a pair of RBI offensively.
The one error made by Salem State was from Richard Fecteau, but considering how red-hot he is at the plate it’s something the Vikings are more than willing to overlook. He was 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, three runs scored and is now hitting .400 with 15 total doubles.
“Richie Fecteau is a special hitter. He has power to all fields and he loves to hit,” said Ward. “He can’t get enough batting practice.”
Beverly natives Toomey, Lamothe and Ethan Trowt combined for six hits, three runs and two RBI.