This Weekend in Division III — March 26, 2015

Apologies for the delay, I wanted to wait for as many cancellations as possible to roll in before I put anything down on paper. The weekend schedule definitely took a hit, but it’s not as bad as it could’ve been. The way a lot of teams are scheduling, it looks like we’ll be in the clear by next weekend. Then I can stop leading every blog post with the weather, and we can focus exclusively on the baseball. Imagine that. Here’s a look ahead to this weekend.

In the Midweek

On Monday, Wentworth showed their 7-3 Florida trip was no fluke when they swept a CCC doubleheader from Roger Williams. The Wildcats won two different types of games, turning a three-run deficit into a 7-5 win in the opener, then winning a 1-0 pitcher’s duel in the back end. Cleanup man Jordan Burst broke a 5-5 tie with a two-RBI single in game one, and a Jimmy Temte homer was all Robby Sheldon needed to pick up his third win in the nightcap.

After a sub-.500 southern trip, Salem State got back on track with Tuesday and Wednesday wins over Bates and Suffolk. SSU got five early runs against the Bobcats and coasted to a 6-1 victory, with Mike Richardson throwing four strong innings of relief to pick up his second win. The Vikings looked even more comfortable the following day, when a 17-hit attack helped them beat Suffolk 11-1. Andrew Deloury went 3-4 with a home run in that one.

On Wednesday, Southern Maine downed Endicott 4-2 in a rematch of the last two New England regional championships. In Northborough, it was 2-1 Endicott after just an inning, but the pitching staffs settled down to keep it that way until the 7th, when the Huskies tied things up. In the 9th, USM’s freshman center fielder Sam Bowie came up in a big spot, and he delivered, parking his first collegiate home run to left field to put the Huskies up for good.

The Rundown

The Little East has started off the year well, with only two teams below .500. (And one of those, Eastern Connecticut, certainly won’t be staying there for long.) A few series got pushed back to Monday this weekend, but regional #1 Southern Maine will play three conference games before then. They start off with a doubleheader at Western Connecticut, who’s won four straight, then head to UMass Dartmouth for one on Sunday. That single game will be an early indicator of how many horses we’ll see in the LEC race this year. Coaches were high on the Corsairs in the preseason, giving them as many first-place votes as favorites Eastern Connecticut (and one more than USM). They had a solid Florida trip, beating Worcester State and Ramapo and losing only to Wheaton, Endicott, and Division I Bradley, but those games don’t compare to the pressure of a big conference tilt. After the Huskies ended their season with a ninth-inning run in last year’s LEC Tournament, though, you can be sure they won’t be lacking motivation. The game will be played at Plymouth North Sunday afternoon, and if you’re anywhere near there, this isn’t one to miss.

Two of the CCC’s top teams will face off up on the North Shore this weekend, when preseason favorites Endicott host Salve Regina. Both teams are hovering around .500, but tough scheduling accounts for a lot of that. Four of Endicott’s losses have come against top-10 teams, and one of Salve’s losses was to Marietta. At home on turf where they’ve been playing regularly for the past week, you’d have to give the Gulls the edge, but don’t sleep on the Seahawks, who enter this one hitting .313 as a club. Last year, the teams battled to a hard-fought regular-season split, but Endicott got the last laugh when they knocked Salve out of the CCC Tournament in May.

Coming off a banner three-bid year, the NESCAC kicks off conference play this weekend. Williams and Middlebury will circumvent the weather problems plaguing their conference mates by playing three in Arizona this weekend. The Ephs have gone a respectable 3-3 so far, including a sweep of Lewis & Clark that saw Jack Roberts go 4-8 with three runs and four RBI. The Panthers, on the other hand, have limped to an 0-6 start, giving up double-digit runs in five of those games. The offense, it should be said, has nearly kept pace in the last two (14-13 and 9-8 losses). In a NESCAC West that’s recently been dominated by national powers in Middletown and Amherst, a sweep here is key for both teams’ playoff hopes.

5-3 Norwich, the only team in the GNAC sitting above .500 right now, has even more travel than usual ahead of them this weekend. They head to Purchase, New York on Saturday for a doubleheader with Albertus Magnus, then turn back around to head to Boston to play Suffolk. Figure 12 or 13 hours on the bus before they get back to Northfield late Sunday night. It’ll be their first action since they wrapped up their Florida trip with a sweep of Penn State-Fayette two weeks ago. Brandon Place threw two seven-inning complete games that trip, and the Cadets hit .323 as a team.

In a NEWMAC that’s made its fair share of noise over the years, WPI‘s off to quite a loud start. After a 7-4 Florida trip, they’ve kept up the pace, winning three of four back north. Stiff cross-division tests await this weekend, with Babson on Friday and two with Wheaton on Sunday. A surprise sweep of Wheaton last year highlighted their 2014, and they’ll look to replicate that Sunday. Juniors Sean Greene and Alex Venditti both enter the weekend near or above .400 averages.

In the NAC, first-place Husson hosts last-place Colby-Sawyer for a four-game set. For the Eagles, it’s a chance to pad their lead in the conference before playoff rivals Castleton and Thomas play early next week. Schedule congestion could be a problem, as Sunday’s series finale will be their sixth NAC game in three days, but they’re also expected to be one of the conference’s top teams, and should bring relative pitching depth to the table. For the 0-10 Chargers, it’s a chance to get off the schneid in a big way. This year’s Florida trip was a tough one for CSC, but they got better as it went on, playing teams within two runs in three of their last four games down there.

You’ve got a special hatred for the weather if you’re an NECC follower this weekend, as the series between league-leaders Becker and Mitchell got pushed back. The two have both run out to perfect starts in league play and looked strong outside the conference too. Some good action to tide you over, though, as Newbury hosts Southern Vermont in Watertown. Both teams have played well of late, with the Nighthawks winning five of seven, and the Mountaineers three of five. A sweep for either team would stake a claim to a spot in the title race with the Hawks and Mariners.

In the MASCAC, it’s looking like Salem State and MCLA will play the only conference games of the weekend. The host Vikings have momentum after two convincing midweek wins, but the Trailblazers (6-4 in Florida) have started the year strong too. If early-season trends hold, look for offense here. Both teams are hitting well over .300 and between them they’ve got four guys with multiple home runs and seven hitting .400 or better.

Finally Getting Started

Nichols elected not to schedule a spring trip this season, and to make matters worse, they had to cancel a few games earlier this week. On Sunday, they’re slated to finally get out on a field, as they face Bates in Haverhill. The Bison featured in one of the best games I took in last year, when they nearly overturned a 12-3 8th-inning deficit against Fitchburg on a freezing night in Rindge. They’ll need a strong effort against the Bobcats, who enter this one at 5-3 with a win over MIT on their resume. First pitch is Sunday at 7:00 PM at Trinity Stadium.

National Honors for UMD

UMass Dartmouth had a pair of players crack D3Baseball’s Team of the Week last week. Veteran Ryan Medeiros hit .500 for the week, and freshman reliever Matt Cronin threw some big innings out of the pen to earn the recognition.

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