HARWICH, MA — JJ Branch and Tyler Hitchcock combined to allow six hits and shut down the University of Southern Maine as Endicott earned a 5-2 win in the 2013 NCAA New England Regional on Friday at Whitehouse Field.

The loss was the first of the tournament for USM, which will face the winner of Friday’s late game between Wheaton College and Western New England, in a must win game at noon toda. If USM wins, it must beat Endicott twice to advance.

“That game started differently than that,” USM head coach Ed Flaherty said. “We hit a line drive off the pitcher in the first inning and in the second we hit another line drive off the pitcher that turned into a double play. We hit the ball to the outfield well. I think if those balls drop, the complexion of the game changes. But that will happen when you have no losses and then you have one.”

The Gulls took a 1-0 lead when Carlos Sitarz homered off Erskine Academy graduate Shyler Scates in the fourth inning.

USM threatened in the bottom of the third when Troy Thibodeau lead off with a bunt single and moved to second on a walk. But Branch caught a break when Messalonskee graduate Sam Dexter lined a comebacker off Branch, which richoted to Endicott shortstop Cody Hall, who tapped second and fired to first to complete the double play. Endicott third baseman Matthew Paola then made a strong defensive play to strand Thibodeau at third.

Hall hit an RBI single in the top of the fifth to stretch Endicott’s lead to 2-0.

Scates went six innings, allowing a pair of runs before being relieved by Andrew Richards.

“Shyler’s a freshman and that’s about what we’ve gotten from him all season,” said Flaherty of his starter.

USM loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth and Branch gave way to Hitchcock, who hit Tucker White to put USM on the board. Erskine Academy graduate Nick Grady then grounded into a double play, scoring Dexter to tie the game at 2.

The Gulls quickly broke the tie, scoring twice in the seventh then adding another in the eighth.

Freshman Tyler Leavitt is slated to start for USM today.

 

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