Finally. The real deal. The Florida trips, South Carolina trips, New York trips, thank-God-we-found-some-turf trips, and all the other early-season tune-ups are in the rearview mirror. We’re into divisional games in the Northeast-10. The conference has acquitted itself well in the early going, and now it’s time for everyone to scrap for a conference tournament berth come May. Here’s a look back to the midweek and a preview of the first full weekend.
In the Midweek
Showdowns between Southern New Hampshire and Franklin Pierce always promise exciting, high-level baseball, and this one didn’t disappoint. On Wednesday in Rindge, the Penmen came away from an extra-inning duel with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory. The Ravens struck first and led 2-0 after three, getting to Cole Warren for the early runs. A Carson Helms solo shot off of the Ravens’ Mike Lundin halved the lead in the top of the 4th, and that’s how it stayed till the 7th, when Mike Montville singled in Helms to tie things at 2. A fresh game for the bullpens. Things went to extras that way, but not without some drama. Both halves of the 8th and 9th saw men left in scoring position. SNHU’s Ben Criscuolo and FPU’s Paul Fahey had to get some pressure-packed outs to strand them. In the 10th, the Ravens blinked first, with Penman senior Kyle McGinnity (a pinch runner from earlier in the game) tripling and scoring on the overthrow. David Gibson came on for SNHU in the bottom half, and his 1-2-3 inning saw out a big win. We do this again in Manchester two weeks from now.
Elsewhere, Post got off to a strong start in CACC play, sweeping a doubleheader (6-3 and 2-0) against USciences down in Philly. Don Walsh’s three-run shot broke a 7th-inning tie in the opener, and Mike Costello’s 12-strikeout, complete-game shutout completed the sweep.
This honor goes to Merrimack and Stonehill this week. Both teams enter the weekend safely above .500, and that’s not against pushover schedules either. The Warriors swept a doubleheader against Wilmington down in Florida, and the Skyhawks have beaten Wilmington and St. Thomas Aquinas. This weekend, they’ll face off in Haverhill, playing once on Friday night ahead of a Sunday doubleheader. The Warriors enter with a slight edge offensively, outhitting and outslugging the Skyhawks as a team; Stonehill, however, enters with a better team ERA. All told, should be an even, entertaining matchup in a series rife with playoff implications.
If you’re looking for lots of baseball to watch, it’s the place to be, as usual. There’ll big six games on Pappas Field between noontime Saturday and midnight Sunday. During the day, hosts Franklin Pierce welcome Saint Michael’s for a single game Saturday and two on Sunday. Southern New Hampshire and Saint Anselm play later on each day. On paper, you’d favor the Ravens and Penmen (the top two preseason picks) over the bottom two, but this league’s depth means you can’t assume anything. The Purple Knights used five early runs to take a game off FPU last season, and Saint A’s did the same thing to SNHU back in 2013. However it shakes out, there’ll be a lot of great D2 for you to see this weekend in the south of New Hampshire.
The matchup to watch in this division is New Haven and Adelphi, two projected playoff teams. Despite being picked to finish in the top four, however, both the Chargers and the Panthers enter this one on the back of losing streaks and sub-.500 starts. New Haven came out on top in a matchup earlier this year, with four-run 4th and 9th innings leading them to an 8-2 victory. Tom Walraven and Zach Collett both homered, and Vincent Aprea and Kellen Croce held Adelphi without an extra-base hit. With New Haven opening at home (where they went 15-7 last year), you’d have to give them the edge, but with playoff rivals poised to pick up series wins elsewhere, both teams will come in with plenty of motivation.