By Jen Toland
Everything came together at the right time for the Worcester State baseball team.
During the regular season, the Lancers had some struggles, including a five-game losing streak late last month, but Worcester State went 4-0 in the MASCAC Tournament, and Tuesday afternoon, as the No. 4 seed, captured the conference championship with a thrilling, 1-0 win over No. 6 seed Framingham State at Hagan Field in Westfield.
WSU (19-20) earned the MASCAC's automatic NCAA Division 3 Tournament bid.
"We knew we had a good team all year, and we stuck together," said senior center fielder Jake Ryan of Northbridge, who scored the winning run in the eighth. "We all had one goal — to win — so we put it all together. The (eight) seniors didn't want it to end, so we just kind of took that going forward."
Worcester State will learn its first-round NCAA opponent when the brackets are revealed Sunday.
It is Worcester State's sixth MASCAC tourney title and NCAA appearance under coach Dirk Baker. Worcester State last won the conference crown in 2014.
"It was pure joy," sophomore right-handed pitcher Kyle Sullivan of Hudson said. "Everyone piling up on the mound (to celebrate), it was incredible. Being in this position now is amazing, and hopefully we can continue our run."
Sullivan, who was named tournament MVP, went the distance, allowed seven hits and struck out four.
"Kyle was on all day," Ryan said. "We had full trust in him. As long as we got him one run, he was going to shut it down. He had every pitch working. We were very confident in him."
Ryan led off the eighth inning with a double down the left field line. The Rams intentionally walked senior Adam Barry of Auburn, and sophomore Mike Ferrara reached on an error to load the bases. Freshman Kevin Larkin's single to left-center drove in Ryan.
"The way Kyle was going we definitely thought it would hold up," Ryan said.
Framingham State's Kyle Pileski singled to open the ninth and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Freshman Kenan Kolanda of Sterling caught a popup to second, and Ryan caught a fly to center to end it.