Published May 10. 2013 4:00AM
New London — The Coast Guard Academy senior class extended its farewell tour Thursday.
For 14 players, their 3-1 win over fourth-seeded Husson University means more than just advancing to the ECAC New England Division III tournament semifinals for the second time in three years.
It's a chance for the close-knit group to spend more time together on the baseball diamond.
"To come in and have a rough freshmen year and then to put together what we have in four years with this group of guys is pretty outstanding," senior Eric Gerken said.
"We've been a close group, too. When you see us out, it's all of us together. We're on the field together, we're in the barracks together and we're hanging out together. It's going to be hard leaving these guys after four years."
Gerken did his part to keep the farewell tour alive by going 4-for-5. Three senior pitchers, including winner Derek Petty, combined to hold Husson to one run on nine hits. Seniors Mike Massaro and Nolan Gallagher each had an RBI and freshman Mark Behne drove in the other run.
It was the seniors' 70th career win, one shy of the school record set from 2000-2003.
Fifth-seeded Coast Guard (23-16) plays No. 1 Suffolk University (29-13) at noon Saturday at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.
"I've said it from the get-go, this has been a special group," coach C.C. Grant said. "I love these guys to death."
Coast Guard scored single runs in the second, third and eighth innings to build a 3-0 lead.
In the second, senior Tyler Babkiewich singled, stole second, went to third on a throwing error and scored on Massaro's groundout. Behne's groundout scored Joe Petry, who had singled and advanced to third in Gerken's single, in the third. Gerken doubled and scored on Gallagher's RBI single in the eight.
With timely hits in short supply, as has been the case most of the season, the Bears relied on strong pitching and solid defense that included senior catcher Cameron Carroll going a perfect 2-for-2 in throwing out runners attempting to steal. Husson stole 98 bases this season.
Petty, who came in with a sparkling 1.77 earned run average, has survived just fine with little run support this season. An All-New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference first team pick, he battled through seven scoreless innings before tiring.
"As he's done all year, he battled and competed," Grant said. "I don't think he had his best stuff."
Petty (6-3) worked out of jams in the fourth and fifth, stranding four runners. He didn't mind leaving the game because he had faith in his relievers.
"When coach asked me if I was tired, I told him I was exhausted," Petty said. "I knew I could say that because I've got two seniors pitchers coming in after me, Curt Barrett and Tyler Vieira, who have been lights out."
Barrett and Vieira weren't lights out but did turn down the dimmer switch.
Husson (26-18), which batted as the home team, put the first two runners on in the eighth against Barrett. Dylan Foster's sacrifice fly cut the gap to 3-1. But the dangerous Shawn Smith (team-high 46 RBI), hit into a double play.
Vieira also escaped trouble in the ninth, stranding two runners and registering a pair of strikeouts. He earned his eighth save.
Grant will turn to senior Nate Toll (4-4, 2.37) against Suffolk.
"On Saturday, we will see another No. 1 pitcher and will have to hit the ball better than we did today," Grant said. "I know (Suffolk) is good. ... I would expect to go up there and scrap and scrap and scrap to get the win."