NEW BRITAIN, CONN. - Monmouth lefty Matt Coulson (Freehold, N.J./Freehold Boro) pitched 7.2 innings, allowing one run on five hits, to lead third-seeded Monmouth University to a 7-1 win over fourth-seeded Central Connecticut (26-26) and the Hawks' third Northeast Conference baseball championship on Saturday at New Britain Stadium. The Hawks (36-22-1) dropped the first game of the day to the Blue Devils, 4-2, but rebounded to claim their first conference title since 1999. With the win the Hawks earn the NEC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Hawks got on the board first on a solo home run to left center off the bat of Kyle Messineo (Cedar Grove, N.J./Cedar Grove) with one out in the inning giving the Hawks their first lead of the day, 1-0.
Monmouth upped their lead to 2-0 against Blue Devil starter John Tesseyman with a run in the second inning. With two outs in the inning Justin Braun (Stony Brook, N.Y./St. John the Baptist) singled and scored on a double down the left field line by catcher John Dennis (Union, N.J./Union) giving the Hawks the two run cushion.
Tesseyman, who pitched 4.2 innings on Friday, finished the inning and was replaced by lefty Matt Gianini in the third. He allowed two earned runs on four hits in his two innings.
Coulson retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced in the game and allowed just a single to Matt Memoli through the first four frames.
CCSU put the leadoff man on for the first time in the game in the fifth when Sean Salvatore reached on a fielding error. It was just the second baserunner of the game for the Blue Devils. With one out junior Garrett Walker doubled to right center to put runners on second and third. Coulson struck out the next two Blue Devils to end the threat and maintain the 2-0 lead.
Monmouth upped the lead to 3-0 with a run in the bottom of the inning. With a runner on first and one out Kyle Higgins (Green Brook, N.J./Watchung Hills) singled and then Messineo was hit by a pitch to load the bases. With two outs Shawn Teters (Springdale, Ark./Springdale) was hit by a pitch scoring the third run of the game for the home team.
The Hawks put the first two runners on in the sixth forcing Gianini from the game after three plus innings, two earned run, three hits, three strikeouts and he also hit two batters. Sophomore lefty Ken Kerski, who also pitched on Friday against Monmouth, came in in relief and retired the first batter he faced but a sacrifice fly by Dennis scored Mike Casale (Toms River, N.J./Toms River North) making it 4-0.
Central Connecticut got on the board with a two-out RBI single to center field by sophomore Casey Walko making it 4-1 in the top of the eighth inning.
The Hawks added three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to up their lead to 7-1 including the third RBI of the game for Dennis.
Monmouth closer Justin Esposito (Red Bank, N.J./Middletown North) entered the game in the eighth inning with one out and picked up his 10th save of the season.
Coulson was named the Tournament MVP, while Andy Meyers, Kyle Messineo and Brad Brach were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Monmouth advances to the 2007 NCAA Tournament as the NEC's automatic bid with their eighth NEC title and their first since 2002. The announcement of their opponent for the tournament will be made live on ESPN on The Road to Omaha Show on Monday, May 28th at 12:30 p.m.