Niagara rallies to score seven runs in eighth to earn first-ever MAAC title, NCAA tournament berth

May 25—Trailing 6-3 in the top of the eighth inning, Niagara produced seven runs to secure its first NCAA tournament berth in program history.

Top-seeded Fairfield scored five runs in the seventh inning of the MAAC championship game, but after an RBI double by freshman Rees Kozar, No. 2 Purple Eagles caught a break when Desjardins delivered a two-out RBI single and they scored another run on a throwing error to tie the game.

That brought MAAC Player of the Year Eric Rataczak to the plate, and he not only tied the Niagara single-season record for home runs, but his two-run blast accounted for the game-winning runs. Matt Ward added a two-run homer two batters later as Niagara beat Fairfield 10-6 Saturday.

Fairfield scored first on a ground out by Dean Ferrara in the third, but Kozar tied the game with a two-out RBI single in the fourth. Niagara took its first lead in the fifth when Gavin Schrader belted a two-run homer, as the Purple Eagles scored nine of their 10 runs with two outs.

The Stags jumped back in front when JP Kuczik launched a grand slam, followed by Ferrara scoring on a wild pitch.

MAAC Reliever of the Year Zach Cameron entered the game in the eighth and retired all six batters faced for his conference-best 12th save of the season. Rataczak and Schrader had three hits and two RBIs apiece, while Blake MacMillan got the start and went 4 1/3 innings, giving up one earned run on three hits and struck out four.

Fairfield, which beat Niagara 2-1 in a three-game series two weeks earlier by scoring 25 total runs on 29 hits, was limited to six hits by the Purple Eagles in the MAAC final.

The NCAA baseball tournament selection show will be held at noon Monday on ESPN2. The tournament begins Friday.