Salve Regina claimed the Commonwealth Coast Conference baseball title for the third time in the last four years on Saturday, with North Kingstown alum Pat Maybach picking up a key victory in the best-of-three championship series against Roger Williams.
The Hawks drew first blood in the series on Friday with a 6-4 win over Salve, forcing the Seahawks into their fifth elimination game of the tournament, having previously won four do-or-die contests after losing its tournament opener 9-1 to Nichols on May 2.
With the season on the line, Maybach was summoned for only his second start since March 30, when he struck out 11 in a seven-inning performance that led to a 10-2 decision over Wentworth.
The first four frames were scoreless as the former Skipper and his Roger Williams counterpart, Justin Garcia, were engaged in a pitcher’s duel as the latter mowed down seven Seahawks without allowing a hit before giving way to the Hawk relief corps.
Garcia’s replacement, Chris Flynn, was unable to keep the goose eggs on the scoreboard in the fifth as Salve opened the scoring courtesy of a wild pitch to open a three-run frame that gave Maybach some sorely-needed run support.
The junior southpaw was doing his part in keeping the Seahawks in the contest by picking up at least one strikeout in each inning that he worked, eventually notching nine punchouts on the day.
Maybach exited proceedings with the score at 3-1 in favor of Salve after hurling six innings of two-hit ball, surrendering his only run of the afternoon in his last frame of work.
Any doubts as to whether the Seahawks’ lead was safe enough were laid to rest in the bottom of the seventh as they batted around en route to posting a five spot to go up 8-2, before scoring six more in the next inning to seize a 14-4 victory and force game three.
In the decider, Sean O’Malley’s two-run double in the sixth inning broke a 1-1 tie and put the Salve nine ahead for good as Michael Matthews strung together a nine-strikeout effort of his own to give the Seahawks the championship with a 5-1 triumph.
Maybach and his teammates then played the waiting game, which came to an end on Monday with the release of the bracket for the NCAA Division III baseball tournament, where Salve will take on a familiar opponent in the opening round on Friday.
The Seahawks will be squaring off with regional host Trinity, who took both games of a home-and-home series during the regular season, with the Bantams winning 7-3 in Newport on March 26 before holding serve with a 9-1 victory on April 19.
Rounding out the four-team, double-elimination regional are Babson, who reached the 30-win mark for the first time in program history this spring, and Keystone, qualifying for the tournament for the 12th year in a row.
Despite missing the entire month of April, Maybach will be entering regional play as one of Salve’s strongest pitching options with a team-leading 2.09 earned run average and 63 strikeouts, good for second on the team.