This weekend, we saw a team pull off a four-game sweep without allowing an earned run, an 11-inning start where that pitcher’s team actually lost, a pitcher win both ends of a doubleheader with 9.1 one-hit innings, and 27 walks in a nine-inning game. Just another weekend in the best sport in the world.
Remember how I couldn’t find a sweep to mention last weekend? That wasn’t be a problem this week. Lots of teams put out serious statements of intent as we turned the calendar from March to April. Boston College headlined some stellar play in Division I. Stonehill and Post both got off to great conference starts in Division II. And in Division III, Western Connecticut pulled off a huge upset sweep of Southern Maine, and Endicott and Husson had stellar weeks as well.
Team of the Week: No shortage of deserving teams this week, but Boston College separated itself from the rest. The Eagles went 5-0 this week, taking a pair of midweek games from Northeastern and Holy Cross, then sweeping Duke in Delaware this past weekend. These aren’t your father’s Blue Devils, or your grandfather’s, for that matter (despite Steve Traylor‘s best efforts in the 90s, Duke hasn’t been to the tournament since 1961). They came into this series at 19-6, winners of 5 of their last 6 and hovering in the tournament-worthy 30s in the RPI. Last week, they had Kendall Rogers wondering if this is the year Duke finally breaks through and plays in June. BC, on the other hand, had lost 8 of 9 before those midweek wins, and Rogers, with some justification, thought this was a “winnable series” for Duke. But this is college baseball, and most weekends, none of that matters.
It all started with a 6-1 win on Friday afternoon. A five-run fifth was plenty when starter Jeff Burke and relief ace Justin Dunn combined to hold Duke to the lone run. The Eagles’ series win hinged on Saturday. Don’t let the 6-3 scoreline fool you, this was a nailbiter. Mitch Bigras and Stephen Sauter collected early RBI before the teams traded 8th-inning runs to leave BC leading 3-1 heading to the 9th. Duke got a pair of clutch RBI singles to knot the game at 3 and deal BC’s morale a blow, but the Eagles’ star hitter Chris Shaw didn’t really care. Facing ACC saves leader Kenny Koplove, Shaw hit a walkoff, three-run homer over the fence in right. Cue the celebration. On Sunday, the Eagles won 5-4 to complete the sweep.
It was a week of strong pitching for the Eagles, who allowed 1, 2, 1, 3, and 4 runs in their five games. Mike King’s one run over 6.2 on Saturday headlined the starters, but the bullpen was the real story. The Eagles’ cadre of relievers had a miniscule 1.33 ERA on the week. Dunn set the tone, going the last four in Friday’s win, then coming back Sunday to close out the one-run game. It was also a week of Chris Shaw, who hit .450, drove in 11, and collected three extra-base hits. There’s a reason he’s one of the top college bats in this year’s draft.
Besides sending the Eagles in the right direction in ACC play, the series was pretty historic. BC hadn’t notched a sweep away from Shea Field since April 2010, when they took three from NC State in Mik Aoki’s final season in Chestnut Hill. Since then, they’ve been on the losing end of 23 sweeps in conference play, including one of the hands of these same Blue Devils in 2013. But now, at 11-13 overall, #53 in the RPI, and only two games out of third in the Atlantic Division, things might be starting to look up for the Eagles.
Any other week, Holy Cross would’ve been a shoo-in for Team of the Week, as they swept their opening Patriot League series down at Lafayette. Their midweek loss against BC served as a pretty clear tiebreaker, however. Still, though, you can’t underestimate how much the Crusaders’ weekend down in Pennsylvania will mean to their season. It took Cross all of last season to collect four wins in the league, but in 2015, they’ve gotten there in the opening weekend (on the road, no less). As P.M. Bonfiglio of @NEBaseballNews tweeted out, they did so without allowing an earned run. On Saturday, that took the form of two 1-0 nailbiters. In the opener, Evan Ocello’s clutch, bases-loaded single broke a scoreless deadlock in extras, making Donny Murray’s 6.2 scoreless and Sean Gustin’s strong relief count. In the back end, it was cleanup hitter Jack St. Clair’s RBI single that gave Ben White all the run support he needed. In a complete-game shutout, the sophomore struck out 11 and allowed just three hits. On Sunday, the offense took over to back up strong seven-inning starts from Justin Finan and Brendan King. Between the 7-1 and 9-0 wins, Anthony Critelli went 5-9 and drove in six. The sweep leaves the Crusaders tied atop the PL standings with Navy, who swept preseason favorites Bucknell. Holy Cross hosts the Midshipmen at Fitton Field next weekend in what promises to be quite the early-season showdown.
In the midst of all this, Connecticut kept on rolling. After the offense exploded for 35 runs in the midweek, the Huskies took a key AAC series down at Tulane. Carson Cross was his usual dominant self in Friday’s 6-0 win before the Green Wave’s Emerson Gibbs returned the favor in a 5-1 Saturday loss. The Huskies needed the game Sunday to take the series, and they trailed 3-2 heading to the 9th. (Some stellar relief from Patrick Ruotolo had helped keep it close to that point.) JC transfer Joe DeRoche-Duffin helped ease the pressure, leading off with a solo shot that tied the game. After that, Tulane went to pieces, and three walks, an error, and a sac fly later, the Huskies led 5-3. Ruotolo finished 3.1 innings of no-hit relief in the bottom of the 9th to close out the win. Since being swept at now-ranked Florida Atlantic on opening weekend, the Huskies have won six-straight series, all of them away from home. They’re also sitting at a cool #27 in the RPI, which is NCAA Tournament shoo-in territory. With AAC series with ranked Central Florida and Houston still to come, that number won’t be taking a Northern nosedive anytime soon. I’ve been banging the drum for the Huskies’ at-large case since about week three, and with more weekends like this, I’m hoping the national media will start to take notice.
Elsewhere, plenty of teams were righting ships after tough going in the early season. Northeastern recovered from a seven-game losing streak to sweep a CAA series from Delaware. Maxwell Burt’s 13th-inning walkoff single in the opener set the tone for the weekend. Bryant, coming off a 2-11 start, put up a 3-0 week. In a Sunday sweep of Hartford, the Bulldogs’ Kyle Wilcox allowed only four baserunners in eight shutout innings to earn the win. Dartmouth, having limped to a 1-14 start, recovered to the tune of a 3-2 week. On Monday, they finished a California trip with a 7-1 win over 2014 regional hosts Cal Poly, then took home a 2-2 split from a tough road weekend of Ivy League play at Columbia and Penn.
A pair of others notched key conference wins. Fairfield came back from a walk-off loss to split a doubleheader with MAAC favorites Canisius, setting up a rubber match on Monday. Down south, UMass may have lost their series at VCU, but grabbing a Saturday win against one of the A-10’s top teams keeps them in third place in the conference ahead of second-place George Washington’s visit to Earl Lorden Field next weekend.
Co-Team of the Week: I highlighted Stonehill‘s series with Merrimack as the marquee series in Division II, and the Skyhawks came out of Haverhill with a huge three-game sweep, winning 4-2 on Friday before sweeping a Sunday doubleheader 6-2 and 4-3 (12). In the opener, the Skyhawk offense amassed a 4-0 lead after five, and starter Armand Rugel didn’t blink until Merrimack’s two-run 7th. When Pat Boen went to the bullpen, the game became the Aubrey Solomon Show. 2.2 thirds of perfect relief: no hits, no walks, five strikeouts. His fourth save, and Rugel’s fourth win. Sunday’s opener saw a first-inning warrior run hold until the 8th, when Stonehill’s offense exploded for six runs. Everyone in the lineup ended up with a hit.
The final game was the cherry on top of a great series. Stonehill led 3-0 after five and a half, but key hits from Merrimack’s Frank Crinella and Matt Brown tied things at 3 in the bottom of the 6th. The rest of the game saw one of the year’s great pitcher’s duels. Stonehill’s Patrick Nicholson came on to start the 7th, and he would work six scoreless to end up with the win. On this day, though, no one matched the Warriors’ Perry Kulaga. They guy went eleven (that’s not a typo), striking out 12. He gave up only three runs (one earned), all before the 7th, and six hits, also all before the 7th. When he turned things over to the bullpen for the 12th, however, Stonehill’s Brian Hocking doubled in the go-ahead run, and Nicholson retired Merrimack in order in the bottom of the 12th. What a game, and what a series. College baseball at its best.
Co-Team of the Week: Not an easy week to match from the Skyhawks, but Post posted (heh) a stellar 4-0 start to CACC play, sweeping road doubleheaders against USciences and Philadelphia. I recapped the first doubleheader last week, but the second was even better. Philadelphia entered the series at just 6-6, but five of those losses were to Millersville, Le Moyne, or Wilmington. On top of that, they beat Villanova. (Yes, that Villanova. Of piccolo-playing fame. But the 3-2 loss to a D2 team was just because of the wind, of course.) The Eagles benefited from some strong pitching in sweeping the Rams on Saturday. Zach Batchelor’s four-hit, nine-inning shutout sealed the opener, and Troy Terzi’s 4.1 scoreless relief innings got him a well-deserved win in the second. The Eagles sometimes get lost in the shuffle of a Northeast-10 dominated region, but they’ve had a great year. Played close games against stiff competition (Lynn, Felician, Stonehill) in Florida, and now they’ve started off conference play with a bang. Two more road doubleheaders await next weekend before they return home for a big day against Wilmington on April 7.
Elsewhere, New Haven collected a nice doubleheader sweep against Adelphi in the Southwest Division series I highlighted last week. In the opener, the Chargers won a 12-inning, 25-hit, five-error, six-walk extravaganza that somehow finished 3-2. Jack Zagaja’s walkoff single in the 12th won it. They completed the sweep in tamer fashion in a 5-2 win. Vincent Aprea’s six strong made an early 4-0 lead stand up to Adelphi’s rallies. Connor Moriarty, Will Aldam, and TJ Margiotta combined for three scoreless relief innings to ice it. Down in New York, Bridgeport won two of the first three of its ECC set with Queens. Dave Egeland homered in the second win. And up in Rindge, Franklin Pierce rebounded from its midweek loss to sweep Saint Michael’s, with a 23-4 box-score popper in game one, and a 4-1 win behind Miles Sheehan in game two.
Co-Team of the Week: Western Connecticut played only two games this week, but they were two unforgettable wins over #9 Southern Maine. USM’s coming off two straight College World Series, in their 20th and 21st trips to the NCAA Tournament, no less. WCSU got picked last in the eight-team Little East. Absolutely none of that mattered when the two teams stepped on the field for a doubleheader this past Saturday. The Colonials got the bats out in a 14-8 win in the opener. It was the third time in four games they’d put up double digits, and EJ Lavoie’s four-RBI day helped to lead the Colonials. The two teams combined for the 22 runs on just 17 hits. How, you ask? (Pitching coaches will want to look away.) The Huskies and Colonials combined for an astounding twenty-seven walks. 14 issued by USM, 13 by Western. (I hope that’s the nine-inning record.) Naturally, game two was a 2-1 pitcher’s duel. Western’s Todd Lyons went 9, striking out 13 and allowing just a third-inning run. The Colonials tied things at 1 in the 6th, so on came USM’s Andrew Richards, who was excellent in relief. He pitched into the 11th, striking out nine and surrendering just three hits. It looked like the game would cruise into the 12th when he got two quick outs in the 11th, but a Lavoie single to left-center kept the inning alive, and up came center fielder Chris Callahan. With two outs, he beat Richards, driving a double to center that brought Lavoie all the way around from first to score the winning run and complete the massive upset.
Co-Team of the Week: Endicott played perhaps the toughest slate in New England this past week, and they came away at 5-1 with a perfect start to conference play. None of their six games saw a team score more than 4 runs, but some stellar pitching carried the Gulls. In the midweek, they hosted Worcester State and Southern Maine, two fellow tournament teams a year ago. In a 3-1 win over WSU, eight strong from JJ Branch proved enough for a win when Michael DeDonato’s triple broke an eighth-inning tie. The following day, Endicott got a first-inning lead and didn’t trail until the 9th, when Nick Bowie’s homer broke open the deadlock. In the weekend, they started their CCC title defense with a bang, sweeping doubleheaders against Eastern Nazarene and Salve Regina. Against ENC, Endicott’s Nick Quattro had a day for the ages. In the first of two scheduled 7’s, he came on for 2.2 of one-hit relief to earn the win. A couple hours later, he was back out there in the Gulls’ 11-inning 1-0 win. He went the final 6.2, striking out nine. The really crazy thing? He didn’t walk anyone, and he didn’t give up a hit. On the day, that’s 9.1 innings, 12 strikeouts, no walks, and one hit. Unreal. Makes the two seven-inning complete games in Sunday’s sweep of Salve seem run-of-the-mill.
It wasn’t easy to keep Husson out of Team of the Week honors, but Endicott’s SOS gave them the edge. Still, the Eagles didn’t put a foot wrong in winning six conference games in three days. In their first action since returning from Florida, Husson hosted Maine-Farmington on Friday and Colby-Sawyer on Saturday and Sunday. In three doubleheader sweeps, they gave up only five runs. The weekend opener was their closest test, as they held off a late UMF rally to win 3-2. For the rest of the weekend, a balanced offense and stellar pitching saw out CSC with a four-game sweep. Brandon Gendreau, Kyle Bishop, and Christian Corneil all homered for the Eagles. The wins give Husson a great start in conference before rival Castleton kicks off its NAC schedule Monday.
Several other teams distinguished themselves in a relatively light slate of conference play. Williams swept a hitting-heavy three-game set from Middlebury out in Arizona. The opener was as back-and-forth-slugfest as they come. 7-2 Ephs after three, 9-7 Panthers after six, and 12-11 Panthers heading into the 9th. With Williams up in the bottom half, Middlebury’s Jake Stalcup looked to have things wrapped up with an early double play. The Ephs, however, rallied with the bases empty. Adam Regensburg walked, Jack Roberts singled, and Phil McGovern was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Senior Luke Pierce came through in the clutch, singling in two to turn the one-run deficit into a one-run victory. The Ephs carried the momentum through the rest of the weekend, winning 6-3 and 12-6 in the next two games. Back east, Wheaton swept a doubleheader from WPI on Sunday. At 2-0 through eight, game one looked like a pitcher’s duel, but Wheaton’s 10-run 9th changed that in a hurry. The Lyons sent 14 men to the plate, with Justin Peluso’s go-ahead single proving the key. Wheaton completed the sweep with a 6-5 win in game two; senior Mike Bisceglia notched his fifth save. In the NECC, Lesley and Newbury both got multiple wins, with the Lynx sweeping a doubleheader from Daniel Webster and the Nighthawks taking a series from Southern Vermont.
Some other short but perfect weeks. Brandeis swept three from NYU, with Sam Miller throwing a seven-inning complete game in the opener and Tom McCarthy and Greg Heineman homering in the middle game. Castleton State swept a doubleheader from Colby. Their 15-4 game two win saw three-RBI days from each of their 5 through 8 hitters: Dan Errico, Tyler Hoare, Jimmy Buckley, and Nate Swahn. Coast Guard grabbed a nice NEWMAC win over Babson on Tuesday and another midweeker over Albertus Magnus the day after. Against the Beavers, CGA made a seven-run first hold up in an 11-10 win, all without the benefit of an extra-base hit. And finally, Nichols got a nice 4-2 win over the NESCAC’s Bates in its season opener. Freshman Nick Roy drove in two in his first collegiate game.