Izaiya Mestre, host of baseball locals advance to NCAA postseasons

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Traveling on the road to an NCAA Division II or Division III baseball championship begins today at sites from coast-to-coast, and border-to-border.

A number of Berkshire County athletes will look to take that road.

First off is former Taconic standout Izaiya Mestre, who will join his University of New Haven mates in the Division II tournament.

The Chargers, who fell twice to Merrimack on Sunday in the Northeast-10 Conference championship, still earned the top-seed in the East Regional. Play in the East Region begins Thursday at Pace University outside of New York City.

The Chargers, (37-10) who set a school record with wins, will see a familiar foe in its first game. New Haven earned a first-round bye in the seven-team field, and will play the winner of a game between Southern New Hampshire (35-15) and Franklin Pierce (32-13). Both teams are members of the Northeast-10.

Conference champion Merrimack (31-19) is in the field, and will play LeMoyne (33-15-1). Five of the seven teams in the East Regional come out of the NE-10.

Mestre pitched his team into the championship. He threw seven shutout innings in a 9-0 win over Merrimack in the winners bracket final. Mestre scattered four hits and three walks while striking out five.

The freshman right-hander, who will play for the Pittsfield Suns again this summer, also made the Northeast-10 All-Rookie Team.

Mestre appeared in 12 games and had 10 starts. He is 7-2 with a 3.00 earned-run average. In 60 innings, he has struck out 48 and walked 23.

The Division II championship will be played May 26-June 2 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.

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The top Division III team in New England is also the No. 3 team nationally in the final regular-season D3baseball.com poll. That is UMass-Boston.

Pittsfield's Alex Carusotto, a senior reliever from Taconic, threw the final inning in Sunday's 13-0 win over Eastern Connecticut that clinched another Little East title for the Beacons.

"When our staff is pitching the way it's been, I don't think anybody can beat us," Carusotto said in a video on the UMass-Boston website.

The Beacons also have Carusotto's Taconic teammate Steve Witkowski and Pittsfield High School's Ryan Grande on the roster.

The Beacons (34-8) are the No. 1 seed in the regional, which will be played at Whitehouse Field in Harwich. UMass-Boston will take on eighth-seeded Penn State-Berks (25-10) in the opening game of the double-elimination tournament.

Western New England is also in the eight-team Harwich Regional.

Carusotto, who went with the Beacons to last year's Division III championships, had words of advice for the younger Beacon players.

"I would say just have fun with it," he said, "and know you're here for a reason."

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In the Division III tournament, perhaps no team has as many Berkshire County players in key roles as Castleton University does.

The North Atlantic Conference champions are 30-10, and swept three games in the NAC Tournament last weekend, and did so fairly easily.

The Spartans beat Maine Farmington 9-2, defeated Lyndon State 11-5 and routed New England College 22-5 in the championship game.

Former Pittsfield High School pitcher Joe Gratton got the Spartans off to a good start with his complete-game, six-hit win over Maine Farmington. The right-hander walked only one and struck out eight.

For the season, he has appeared in 12 games, started eight, and has an 8-2 record with three complete games. Gratton has a 2.63 earned-run average over 51 1/3 innings, striking out 47, walking 17, and has an 8.24 strikeout per nine inning mark.

Two of Castleton's biggest bats in the NAC Tournament belonged to Berkshire County's Dillon Benham and Matt Braman.

Benham, a junior from Lenox, was 5 for 11 with four runs scored and a pair of doubles in the NAC Tournament. On the season, he is second on the team with a .341 batting average. He has two home runs, 31 runs batted in and owns a .949 OPS.

Braman, who hit .229 with 17 RBI during the season, was 4 for 10 in the tournament with six runs scored, four RBI, a double and two stolen bases. He played at Hoosac Valley

Ryan Wadsworth, a former Mount Greylock player, is a reserve infielder for the Spartans.

Castleton was assigned to the York (Pa.) Regional, where the eighth-seeded Spartans will play at Peoples Bank Park, the home of the Atlantic League's York Revolution. The Spartans will play Thursday at 1:15 p.m., against top-seeded Rowan (33-9). Rowan is also the No. 2 team in the final regular-season D3baseball.com national Top 25. Castleton has been to the last five D-III tournaments, but is 1-10.

Also in York is Union College. The Dutchmen (30-11) won the Liberty League title, needing a fourth game to eliminate Rochester. Union is the sixth-seed in the field and will play No. 3 Arcadia (30-14).

Pittsfield's Jack Scarafoni, who played at Berkshire School, is a freshman reserve outfielder at Union. He played in three games for the Dutchmen.

All of the Division II and III regionals are double-elimination, meaning a team has to lose twice to be eliminated.

The winners from the regionals advance to the Division III Championship, May 25-29, in Appleton, Wisc.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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