NORWICH - The Central Connecticut baseball team had plenty to celebrate Sunday afternoon. After all, the Blue Devils are heading back to the NCAA Tournament and with a trophy in hand.
Led by the arms of Bristol Eastern’s Tom Curtin and Berlin’s Jared Gallagher, CCSU won its second Northeast Conference Championship in three seasons after beating Bryant 3-2 at Dodd Stadium in Norwich. The Blue Devils forced a decisive game seven with the Bulldogs after a win on Saturday.
CCSU earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament with the victory and will play at the Regionals on May 31-June 3. The Blue Devils (30-21) will learn their tournament opponents on Monday when the bracket is announced at noon on ESPNU.
Curtin threw 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs, while striking out five. He was named the NEC Tournament MVP after allowing just two runs over 14.2 innings of work on the weekend. The runs he allowed in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game - the first on a single by Bryant’s Sam Owens and the second on a double by Gaby Cruz - were the first he allowed in NEC Tournament play in 18.1 innings, dating back to the 2017 championship across three appearances.
Curtin, along with Gallagher, Buddy Dewaine and T.T. Bowens, was also named to the All-Tournament Team.
Gallagher, meanwhile, earned the win after two hitless innings in relief of Curtin and reliever Brandon Fox, including the final out in the ninth on a double-play groundball up the middle.
CCSU trailed by a run heading into the final three frames after Bryant scored twice in the sixth. The Blue Devils tied the game in the bottom of the seventh after junior Dave Matthews led off with a home run to left field to tie the game at 2-2.
An inning later, Chris Kanios then led off the eighth with a double down the third base line and later came home after Matt Bertochi pulled back on a fake punt and hit a single through the middle. Kanios drove in CCSU’s first run of the afternoon in the fourth on an infield single.
As a team, the Blue Devils managed just five hits off the Bulldogs pitching staff, including just one off Bryant starter Steve Theetge, who finished allowed one run through 4 2/3 innings. But CCSU came up with the hits when they mattered most.