Connecticut and Massachusetts both started the Eastern Region Invitational with two wins, and their match-up under the lights was the headline game of day four.
It didn't disappoint.
In a back-and-forth game, Connecticut rallied from a one-run deficit in its last at-bat and then held off a furious charge by Massachusetts to finish off a dramatic, rain-soaked 7-6 victory.
“Hard work and determination,” said Connecticut manager Frank Wainwright. “They're a good team. We just kept battling.”
Connecticut was coming off a victory over New Hampshire that also featured a sixth-inning rally.
This game had even more twists and turns.
Connecticut took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first before Massachusetts came back with one in the bottom of the first and two in the second. Massachusetts held that lead until the fifth, when Connecticut got a double from Adam Stone and an RBI single by T.J. Wainwright to tie the game.
And that was just the beginning of the craziness.
After the tying run came home, Massachusetts pitcher Colin Fahey got his team out of a bases-loaded jam when he dove to his right to snag a ground ball and fired to first from his knees for the third out.
Massachusetts then went to work with the bats. After Connecticut turned a double play, Jackson Murray drew a two-out walk, scampered to third on a pair of wild pitches and raced home on a base hit by Ben Arter.
Massachusetts again led by a run.
But Connecticut still had a chance – and the North Stamford stars seized it.
George Psichopaidas led off the sixth with a walk. After Fahey got the first out on another nice play from the mound, Matt Hallinan and Stone also walked, loading the bases for No. 2 hitter Christian Frattaroli. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, the ball got away, and Psichopaidas raced home with the tying run. Frattaroli then lined a single into left to score the go-ahead run.
Wainwright followed with a bunt and Massachusetts tried for an out at home. Stone slid in safely, though, making it 6-4. Frattaroli then beat a throw home on a ground ball by Montana Semmel.
Just like that, Connecticut led 7-4, but there was still a half inning to go. And Massachusetts quickly started to make the most of it against reliever Connor Rondano. Kyle Heath led off with an infield hit. He was forced out at second on a fielder's choice by Dominic Froio but Massachusetts kept the line moving on a Colin Ahearn single. An error on a ground ball by Matthew Flynn brought a run home before Colin Fahey roped a single up the middle to score another, making it a 7-6 game.
With runners on first and second, Hayden Lens jumped on the first pitch he saw and smashed a line drive to the right side. But Connecticut second baseman D.J. Hall caught the ball and then rifled a throw to first to complete a game-ending double play.
“That was big,” Frank Wainwright said. “Double play to end it. They had the bats set up. We needed that, and we came through.”
The game ender was part of a great defensive performance for Connecticut, which turned a double play in each of the last three innings. Semmel delivered a 6-3 double play to get his team out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth. Hall and Semmel combined on a 4-6-3 twin killing in the fifth, before Hall took care of it himself in the sixth.
“The kids came up with some huge plays,” Wainwright said.
Massachusetts came up big several times, as well, but fell a little short when all was said and done. Still, there was no reason to complain and plenty of reasons to think positive about the rest of the tournament.
“We knew going in they were one of the better teams,” said Massachusetts manager Mike Heath. “We battled them until the end. That's all you can ask for. Hopefully, we'll win tomorrow and maybe we'll see them again.”
Massachusetts will play Vermont at 5 p.m. Connecticut has Wednesday off and will close out pool play on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., against Rhode Island.