All in all, most teams weren’t at their best in one of the last weekends before conference play. Only a handful distinguished themselves in Divisions I and II, the many of DIII’s best didn’t quite measure up in games against the nation’s elite. A wake-up call for many, but there were also plenty of teams who’ll be happy with the weeks they put together.
In Division I, the state of Connecticut fared well, with UConn, Yale, and CCSU all turning in winning weeks. In Division II, a Franklin Pierce team powered by one of the nation’s top pitching staffs continued its white-hot start. In Division III, Wesleyan picked up a top-5 win, and Becker and Maine-Farmington both grabbed conference wins as a part of perfect weeks.
Team of the Week: Connecticut just keeps on rolling. They’ve been playing well against great competition all season, and with a 4-0 week, they’ve now got a nice record to show for that. It started off on Long Island, where they collected an 8-4 win over Sacred Heart on Stony Brook’s Joe Nathan Field. The game was closed due to fans due to unsafe seating conditions (try telling that to the fans at URI who brought their lawn chairs up on top of the snow banks). On the field, catcher Max McDowell went 2-5 and drove in two. For the weekend, the Huskies flew back down south for the BB&T College Baseball Series, held at the home of one of the Red Sox’s minor league teams. (Can you tell?) The Huskies stormed through the weekend. Carson Cross struck out another 10 in a 7-3 win over USC Upstate, Vinny Siena and Bobby Melley each had three-hit games in a 12-1 blowout of Furman, and Jonny Testani broke a ninth-inning tie with a homer to beat Michigan State 3-1. Another weekend, another set of wins for the Huskies, who start AAC play at the month’s end. I’ve really gotta get out to see these guys.
Maine finished its Florida trip with a bang, going 4-1 in the final week. On Friday, they got a big 5-4 walkoff, extra-inning win over Illinois State, a 30-win team in 2014. Jake Marks gave up two in the first, but settled down to leave the game tied at 3 when he exited after five. When the Redbirds scratched a run across in the 8th, Maine needed a response and got it from Brett Chappell, whose RBI single scored pinchrunner Steven Adam. In the 10th, freshman Christian Garabedian won it with a two-out bases loaded single to center. Reliever Charlie Butler picked up his first win of the year, working 2.1 scoreless to hold things down.
After a crazy first week, Yale settled down to the tune of 3-1 this past week. On the way back from North Carolina, they got wins over George Mason and Towson, who’ve both made recent NCAA trips. On Sunday, they split a doubleheader at Rhode Island, taking the front end 6-5. The game was tied at 5 after five innings, but Richard Slenker’s RBI single in the 6th gave the Yale pitching staff all the cushion it needed. Starter Chasen Ford settled down for a clean 6th, 7th, and 8th, and Mason Kukowski threw a 1-2-3 9th for the save. (Better late than never, a link for the Yale student paper’s season preview from a couple weeks back.)
Staying in the Constitution State, Central Connecticut recovered from a pair of midweek losses to get a big three-game road sweep down at VMI. All three games were close, but the Blue Devils got the pitching and timely hitting they needed to get the job done. In Friday’s 2-1 win, an RBI groundout in the 2nd was the only blemish on Matt Blandino’s shutout. In Sunday’s front end, an 8th-inning two-run homer by JC transfer Corey Lerche reversed a one-run deficit in a 6-5 win. And in the finale, junior Cody Brown mowed down 15 Keydets in a seven-inning complete game to finish off the sweep.
Team of the Week: It’s safe to Franklin Pierce is feeling really good about themselves right now. The Ravens are off to a 13-0 start, best in program history and also a record win streak. Their pitching has been otherworldly. They’ve given up runs in only two of their eight games this month, and one of those was a 13-1 win over Queens. On the year, only two teams (Bridgeport and Assumption) have managed more than two runs off them. This weekend, they kept this up to the tune of three shutouts. The biggest came against Dowling, the region’s #2 entering the weekend. The trio of Anthony Matarazzo, Paul Fahey, and Travis Landry pitched a five-hit shutout, and Kyle Hood drove in two in a four-run 5th inning that broke the game open. Looking ahead to this week, the #6 Ravens play #3 Mount Olive twice in one of the marquee matchups of the season thus far in Division II.
FPU’s Northeast Division mates Stonehill had a solid week themselves, going 4-2-1 in Florida. Their biggest matchup came in three games with regionally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas. After dropping the first game and tying the second, the Skyhawks grabbed a 5-3 in the closing game. Armand Rugel allowed 14 baserunners, but largely kept the Spartans off the board. Leading 4-3 heading to the 9th, an RBI double by Dan Fratus gave Aubrey Solomon a two-run cushion to pick up his second save of the year.
Elsewhere, Southern Connecticut had a winning week by virtue of a 9th-inning comeback against Bridgeport on Sunday. Down to their final out and trailing by two, the Owls put up five in the ninth to win. Nick Baviello drove in the game-winning runs, and A.J. Turnier got the complete-game win. Southern New Hampshire won a snow-shortened five-inning contest against Assumption in their only game of the week. The Penmen managed only three hits, but six walks helped them to a 5-1 win. Cole Warren gave up one run on one hit and struck out ten.
Co-Team of the Week: Wesleyan got its 150th season off to a great start this weekend. After winning three straight to start the week, the Cardinals came up against a stiff test in #5 Cal Lutheran, a 12-1 team entering the week. Wesleyan was all over Kingsman starter Trey Saito and led 7-0 after three and a half. The Cardinals used two of their best pitchers, Nick Cooney and Sam Elias, to preserve the lead and come away with an 8-4 win. Cooney went six and gave up only three runs (two earned), while Elias came in to get the three-inning save. Wesleyan ended up dropping games to Bethany Lutheran and #21 Linfield before the week was out, but the win over Cal Lutheran in a 5-2 week sets them apart in a week where many of New England’s elite struggled.
Co-Team of the Week: Let’s say your biggest rivals for conference supremacy go out and grab an in-league sweep as part of a perfect week. Sound like a tough act to follow? Becker did exactly that. After Mitchell turned in a 5-0 mark and a sweep of Newbury last week, the Hawks went 6-0 and swept Daniel Webster this week. I recapped their first twin NECC wins the other day, and they proceeded to beat the Eagles 15-10 in the finale. Matt Consigli, TJ Sempkowski, and Niko Bedell each had home runs and four-hit days to lead the Hawks’ 19-hit attack. Becker closes its Florida trip with a 7-3 record to take back north.
I don’t do more than two Teams of the Week, but if I did, Maine-Farmington would be leading the discussion. The Beavers have started the year 5-0, including a sweep of a conference doubleheader over Colby-Sawyer, 12-5 and 13-2. Ben McCrossin was 6-9 on the day, and Ben Keene drove in six. The doubleheader would’ve been UMF’s home games, so they’ve still got a return trip to the Chargers, but this is a good start to conference play for a team picked to make the NAC playoffs. Trinity, who didn’t open up until Saturday, had a perfect week as well, beating Western New England and sweeping a doubleheader from Worcester State. Sean Meekins (11 Ks) and Chris Speer (4 Ks) both threw seven-inning complete games against WSU.
Regional powers Southern Maine and Wheaton both had solid (two-loss) weeks, but didn’t come through in the games they wanted most. The Lyons lost their only ranked matchup against Rhodes, and USM lost its top-25 games with Rhodes and UW-Stevens Point. They took care of business against some strong New England teams, but those losses against national powers were missed opportunities to get marquee wins that really help come selection day. The good news for the Huskies and Lyons is that their regional rivals didn’t do any better. Amherst, Eastern Connecticut, and Endicott all had winless weeks. The competition was very strong, of course, but getting quality wins under the belt in these Florida trips is key for resume-building in D3.
Several other teams had strong showings in one-loss weeks. Norwich went 5-1 in Vero Beach. Future Vermont Mountaineer Billy Whaley struck out 12 in a seven-inning shutout of Penn State-Allegheny. Elms continued the strong play of the NECC with a 4-1 finish to its Florida trip. Castleton State got an excellent 6-4 win over Tufts during a 3-1 weekend in Virginia. The Spartans’ Dan Errico came through with the game-tying RBI in the 8th and go-ahead RBI in the 10th. Little East contender UMass Dartmouth went 3-1, too. Their week ended with a dramatic walkoff win over Benedictine. A George Agostini single brought Josh O’Neill around to score the winning run in the bottom of the 9th.
A handful of Massachusetts schools took multiple losses this week, but finished strong bodies of work on their spring trips. Westfield State concluded an 8-2 Florida trip that included a win over Saint Joseph’s. Down 3-2 in the final frame, Westfield’s Danny Dimatt doubled to tie the game, and D.J. Bishop won it with a walk-off sacrifice fly. Fitchburg State, after starting its trip a pair of one-run losses to national powers, went 5-2 in its final seven games. That included a 7-0 win over Suffolk, in which the Falcons’ Ryan Magni was dominant (9 IP, 10 K, 5 H, o BB). WPI finished its trip at 7-4 and split doubleheaders with Roger Williams and Keene State. Wentworth did them one better at 7-3, earning splits with Westfield and WPI.