NORWICH - The Central Connecticut State University baseball team claimed its fifth Northeast Conference championship, earning its fifth NCAA Tournament berth in the process, with a 6-3 win over Sacred Heart on Sunday afternoon at Dodd Stadium.
The victory also marked the 500th of head coach Charlie Hickey’s career at CCSU as the Blue Devils improved to 36-20 with the win.
Freshman TT Bowens was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team with seniors Tyler Coleman and Franklin Jennings, along with sophomore pitcher and Bristol Eastern graduate Tom Curtin.
The Blue Devils will learn their destination for the NCAA Tournament when the bracket is announced at noon on Monday on ESPN2.
The Pioneers got a run in the first when they had runners on the corners and freshman Ron Grant was called for a balk to bring home a run and make it 1-0.
The Blue Devils bounced back in the bottom of the first, drawing three walks to open the inning and load the bases. Bowens singled to left field to drive in the first run and fellow freshman Buddy Dewaine followed with a fielder’s choice that scored a run to make it 2-1.
Junior Nick Garland led off the CCSU second by reaching on an error. He moved to second on a sacrifice and to third on a fielder’s choice. Coleman delivered a single up the middle to score Garland and make it 3-1.
Sacred Heart put runners on first and second with no outs in the fourth. After a popped-up bunt for the first out, Cody Doyle singled through the left side and the runner was sent around third, but Dewaine cut him down at home for the second out. Jake Friar followed with a single of his own that would bring home Anthony Capaziello from second to make it 3-2.
The Pioneers loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, prompting the Blue Devils to bring Curtin on in relief. P.J. DeFilippo grounded into a fielder’s choice, but a run came across to tie the score, 3-3, before Central could get out of the inning.
Central regained the lead with a run in the bottom of the inning. Bowens singled with one out and moved to second on a single by senior Franklin Jennings. Junior Nick Garland followed with a single to center to bring Bowens around and make it 4-3.
The Blue Devils added a run in the sixth after junior Dean Lockery led off with a single to right field and took advantage of a misplay to get to third base.
Coleman followed with his third single of the day, shooting it past a drawn in infield to right field to score Lockery and make it 5-3.
Bowens ripped a one-out double off the wall in left field in the seventh. He moved to third on a fielder’s choice and came across to score on a single by Jennings to make it 6-3 to close out the scoring.
Sophomore Jared Gallagher of Berlin came on to get the final out in the eighth, recording a strikeout. He came back out for the ninth and closed out the game with a strikeout to seal the championship.
Coleman finished the day 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored, while Bowens was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Jennings added two hits and Lockery scored twice. The Blue Devils finished with 10 hits as a team.
Curtin (3-0) earned the win, tossing 3 2/3 innings of shutout relief. He allowed just one hit, while walking one and striking out two. Gallagher got his eighth save of the year, recording two strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings.
A CCSU press release is included in this story.