Garden City, N.Y. - NYIT baseball's first NCAA Tournament game in 36 years had no shortage of drama.
The Bears took a four-run lead to the bottom of the ninth against Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference champion Wilmington. However, a pair of errors in the frame opened the door to four unearned runs and the Wildcats forced extra innings.
John LaRocca then rescued the Bears the following half-inning, delivering a tiebreaking two-out RBI single in the 10th. And when East Coast Conference Player of the Year EJ Cumbo followed with a two-run double, fifth-seeded NYIT was on its way to salvaging an emotional 10-7 victory against fourth-seeded Wilmington in the tourney opener hosted by Adelphi.
NYIT advances in the winners' bracket to face Franklin Pierce on Friday at 9 a.m. in Garden City. The eighth-seeded Ravens defeated top-seeded Adelphi, 4-3, in the other opening game.
Ryan Mueller recorded his second collegiate save after inheriting and stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th.
"I just wanted to come in and do a job for the team," said Mueller, who coaxed a game-ending flyout to left field. "I wasn't really nervous. It's the same game we've been playing."
NYIT starter DJ Masuck earned his program-record 11th victory of the season, passing Joe Esposito (2005) and Chris Perez (2006).
The Bears earned their first NCAA Tournament victory since defeating Le Moyne in 1980 during the program's initial stint in Division II.
NYIT improved to 33-14. That's one victory from matching the program record for wins, set by the 1987 squad at 34-18-2.
Masuck, NYIT's ace, surrendered three first-inning runs, then followed with seven scoreless frames. He ultimately completed the ninth inning, stranding a pair of runners with the score tied at 7 and his pitch count having risen to 134. He was charged with seven runs (three earned) on nine hits and five walks while striking out eight in nine innings.
Cumbo and Jake Lebel had produced back-to-back homers in the third inning as NYIT had grabbed a 4-3 lead. The lead had swelled to 7-3 after Cumbo's single in the top of the ninth plated LaRocca.
Cumbo finished 4-for-6 with four RBIs.
NYIT was playing its first NCAA Tournament game since 1983.
"It's never easy," first-year coach Frank Catalanotto said. "But these guys showed what they showed all year long. They battle. When they get behind, they keep fighting. That's the character of these guys. It was nice that we had that opportunity in the 10th, because we almost wound up losing it in the ninth."
Provided by the NYIT Sports Information Department.