This Weekend in Division I — March 12, 2015

Feels crazy to write this, but we’re a month into the Division I season. Time really has flown despite all the snow and cold. A lot of teams are getting their last taste of Southern sunshine in this weekend, and a couple even have conference games. Here’s a look at the midweek that was and the weekend to come.

In the Midweek

MAAC mates Quinnipiac and Fairfield both suffered sweeps at the hands of top-5 opponents. The Bobcats lost twice at #5 Vanderbilt. On Tuesday, freshman Taylor Luciani (making his first collegiate start) held the Dores scoreless through four but got tagged for three in the 5th, and Vandy went on to win 9-2. On Wednesday, the Commodores got out to a first-inning lead and didn’t look back, winning 8-0. The Stags had an even tougher assignment at #1 Florida, who was coming off a weekend sweep of Maine, but they nearly took the Gators down on Tuesday. Down 8-2 in the 8th, a two-RBI single from Jake Salpietro cut the Gators’ lead to 8-4. Later in the inning, a pinch-hit, bases-loaded triple from Troy Scocca made the game 8-7. The Stags, unfortunately, stranded Scocca on third and couldn’t get anything going in the 9th. On Wednesday, Florida completed the sweep with a much more comfortable 6-1 win. Fairfield may have come away 0-2, but they certainly showed why MAAC voters picked them a narrow second behind Canisius in the preseason. After a few seasons at the helm, Bill Currier’s got these guys playing really good baseball.

Elsewhere, Bryant picked up its first series win of the year on Monday over Towson. A seven-inning complete game from James Karinchak (3 H, 10 K) sealed a 7-0 victory in the rubber game. A little further south, Yale got a nice win against 2014 A-10 champs George Mason. Up north, Hartford and Holy Cross both notched wins over Central Connecticut, and Connecticut beat Sacred Heart 8-4 down at Stony Brook’s Joe Nathan Field.

Toughest Matchup

Fairfield takes this distinction by a mile this weekend. After the midweekers with #1 Florida, things hardly get any easier with a three-gamer at #6 Central Florida. UConn’s AAC mates have been one of the stories of college baseball this season, racking up wins over Arkansas, Maryland, Ole Miss, and Florida. They took it on the chin against Florida State this midweek, but that might leave them even more motivated heading into the weekend. If the Stags get their first win of the season here, it’ll be quite the feat.

In Conference Play

Boston College started ACC play last weekend at Florida State, and they head to another power in the stacked conference this weekend. In Louisville, they’ll see an 11-6 team that hasn’t quite lived up to the preseason billing, but still packs a punch. A rotation led by First-Team Preseason All-American (and former Chatham Angler) Kyle Funkhouser will be a tough matchup. The Eagles will need a strong weekend from John Gorman and company if they want to get off the blocks in ACC play. The whole series is slated for ESPN3.

The other team starting conference play is Hartford in the America East. Apart from a sweep last weekend at BYU, the Hawks have played good baseball. Senior shortstop Trey Stover leads the team with a .348 average (he had a two-hit game in a midweek win over CCSU), and Ryan Lukach already has 10 RBI. Stover, Lukach, and the rest of the Hawks lineup should be licking their chops for this weekend’s with UMBC, who had a 5.66 team ERA in 2014. Hartford plays Sunday and Monday in a series that’s been moved from Maryland up to their turf.

Weekend Tournaments

A pair of teams will take the field at pretty prestigious in-season tournaments this weekend. Connecticut, the best team in New England thus far, heads down to Greenville, South Carolina for the BB&T College Baseball Series. They’ll play Furman, USC Upstate, and Michigan State at Fluor Field, a Fenway Park replica that’s home to one of the Red Sox’s minor-league affiliates. A multi-win weekend would really solidify the Huskies’ non-conference resume ahead of AAC play later this month.

Meanwhile, another set of Huskies, Northeastern, heads to Philadelphia for the Big Five Baseball Bash. Because realignment and Temple’s football team both suck, Philly’s Big 5 is down a member, and the tournament has usually featured a non-Philly team anyways. On the year, Northeastern’s a respectable 6-7 after a 2-1 showing at CCSU last weekend. Junior Michael Foster has been a monster for them: in 46 at-bats, he’s hitting a cool .500 with seven extra-base hits. The Huskies’ SIDs have a nice preview for the event up on their site if you’re interested.

Just Opening Up

For a team called the Minutemen, it sure feels like Massachusetts is always the last team in Division I to start playing. With fellow late-starters NYIT set to get out on a field on Friday, it looks like that’ll be the case once again when UMass takes the field in Florida against Army on Saturday. The Minutemen didn’t have a game-scheduled until the middle of week three, and after contests against CCSU and Kentucky have been cancelled they’ll be itching to get out on a field. The good news? They’ve made it safely down to Florida, and the weather looks about as good as you’d expect.

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