Baseball fights back, wins NEAC East

With two outs, the tying run on third and the North Eastern Athletic Conference East Division championship on the line, Castleton’s Tyler Erickson came to the set position on the mound.
With all eyes on him, Erickson delivered the pitch to the plate. The sound of a ping echoed across the field as Jake Szulak connected with the ball, sending it up the middle.
Erickson stabbed at the ball, slowing it down for his infielders who were waiting behind him and gobbled the ball up.
As Erickson ran toward first base, the ball reached the first baseman’s mitt just ahead of the runner.
Erickson raised his hands up in celebration while his teammates poured out of the dugout and mobbed him, knocking him to the ground as they celebrated a 2-1 victory over Colby-Sawyer College this past weekend.
Erickson, who won tournament MVP, was phenomenal for top-seeded Castleton, throwing two complete games during the three-day tournament.
“It’s amazing,” coach Ted Shipley said while laughing. “It’s a legendary performance to have two complete nine-inning games in a college baseball double header. It’s the stuff legends are made out of.”
Castleton had been fighting back all weekend after a loss to Colby-Sawyer in the first game of the double-elimination tournament on Friday. The Spartans went through rival Husson in the losers’ bracket game Saturday morning and then had to take out the Thomas Terriers later in the afternoon, setting up the rematch against Colby-Sawyer.
Castleton won Sunday’s first game against Colby-Sawyer 13-6, forcing the elimination game.
Erickson started the game strong pitching his first complete game the day before.
While Erickson was dealing on the mound, the Spartan offense was working to put runs on the board.
Castleton’s only two runs of the game came in the top of the third inning.
David Brandt got the offense going as he was awarded first base after being hit by a pitch. With Ryan Zielinski at the plate, Brandt showcased his speed, stealing second base. Zielinski singled to left field, but Brandt had to hold at third. He wasn’t there long, as Joe Borowski drove him in with a chopper to second base.
Pete Wagner gave Castleton what would be the winning run when he drove in Zielinski with an RBI single to right.
Erikson continued to pitch well for Castleton except for a little trouble in the sixth inning when two errors by Wagner allowed a Colby-Sawyer runner to score.
Despite having thrown nine innings the day before, Erickson wanted to finish the game, Shipley said.
“You know, every inning we talked, and he said, ‘Let me start the inning and see how I feel,'” Shipley said. “Probably from the seventh inning on he just gutted it out for us.”
After working through the seventh and eighth innings, Erickson got two quick outs in the ninth before things got tense when Andy Lapple reached on a single to left field. Lapple stole second and advanced to third as the catcher’s throw went into center field.
With all the pressure on him, Erickson dug down deep and got Szulak to ground out.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking seeing him over there at third base being the tying run, but I was pretty confident I could get a groundball out of the batter,” Erickson said. ” I got the ground ball I needed, got out of it, and this feels great.”
Shipley said he also got a little nervous with the runner on third.
“You’re always worried when guys are in scoring position because it just takes something to happen,” Shipley said. “But Tyler made pitches, and if we make plays, we’re in good shape.
Erickson said the first loss to Colby-Sawyer really brought out the best in his teammates, and he was proud of the way they responded to the situation.
“After we lost to Colby the first day, it was really just a kick in the butt,” Ericskon said. “We realized we can be beat, and that put us into another gear, and our offense came around, and we really came together and played as one, and that’s why we are here now.”
Next weekend, Castleton will take on Penn St.-Berks, the champions from the NEAC West, as the Spartans fight for the right to represent the conference in the NCAA tournament.

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