Some conferences see the same one or two teams contending for the tournament title year after year. The MASCAC isn’t one of them. In 14 years of conference tournaments, only one program has managed to repeat. That was Bridgewater, who did the deed in both 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. It’s a testament to the league’s parity that the Bears didn’t even make this year’s tournament. We also saw a three-way tie for first and a race for the final playoff spot that came down to the final weekend. Add that to the storyline of Bob Corradi’s title-winning sendoff at Mass Maritime, and you’re looking at one of the most compelling conference tournaments in New England.
Of the tournaments I’ve previewed so far, the CCC might have the most intriguing field. Two perennial conference powers at the top, a 3-4 matchup of two teams earning their highest seed in years, and two teams accustomed to competing for titles sneaking into the last two spots. Mix it all together, add plenty of on-campus games, and you’ve got an exciting weekend of college baseball to look forward to.
We always get a mixed bag of emotions in this great sport of ours, but even more than usual, this weekend saw some of the highest highs juxtaposed with the lowest lows. Tournament tickets punched, title games lost. Key series won, many more dropped. Playoff berths clinched, title bids up in smoke. Rookie coaches hitting it big, retiring veterans hitting the home stretch. Freshman leading playoff teams, and, what’s always the worst part of this best time of year, way too many careers coming to an end. Here’s a look at the action.
I visited Springfield today and caught the noon game at Western New England before heading down the road to AIC for the end of their Southwest Division contest with Adelphi. It was a beautiful day, and two one-run games made for great baseball. Here’s what I saw at Trelease Park and Bedard Field.
With our first conference tournaments underway, the weekend previews be focusing on the games that matter most to the title races and playoff chases from here on out. Since I’m doing separate previews for every conference tournament, I’ll keep that material out of the regular weekend preview post. This week, for example, you can find my look at the GNAC and NEWMAC Tournaments elsewhere.
I’ve gotta admit, it feels good not to start every piece with how bad the weather is. We’re still feeling its effects in the form of packed schedules (tripleheaders, anyone?), but the sun’s come out, and the playoff races are heating up. It’s looking like a heck of a year for New England Division I teams at the moment, with UConn and BC in the mix for at-large bids and league leaders in the NEC, MAAC, and Patriot League. In Division II, Franklin Pierce is having a historic season, and somehow I doubt they’ll be the only team making noise this May. In Division III, conference tournament season is upon us, and it looks to be even more exciting than usual, with few if any teams preparing resumes the committee can’t say no to. It’s a stressful time for the players, coaches, and fans involved, but it’s also a ton of fun. Here’s a look ahead to this weekend.
It feels like we’re always spoiled by the NEWMAC. Since 2011, only one title race has been decided by more than a game. Wheaton and Babson shared the title in 2011, and the Lyons beat out MIT by a game in the last single-standing season in 2013. The league didn’t break stride with the new divisional format in 2014, with only a game separating Wheaton over MIT in the East and Springfield over WPI in the West. In 2015, it was more of the same. MIT shared the West crown with Wheaton, and WPI finished just a game ahead of Coast Guard and Clark in the East. It’s always a competitive conference, and its tournament games rarely disappoint.
The GNAC Tournament. It’s like the Iowa Caucuses of New England college baseball. Every year, it’s our first glimpse of what the next few weeks of playoff baseball will bring. Coming off a strong 2014 that saw Saint Joseph’s win a pair of games in the NCAAs and Suffolk take the ECAC title, the conference faltered a bit early in the season, but it righted the ship, and an intriguing tournament field promises an exciting week of baseball. All the action will be within a short drive from Boston, Providence, Portland, or Manchester, and playoff college baseball brings an intensity that’s a lot of fun to watch.
It’s amazing what two weeks of nice April weather can do for conference standings. Since I wrote here last, we’ve gone from the early season to the thick of playoff races. Some schools in Division III are even opening up conference tournaments this week, and we’ll have our first NCAA Tournament ticket punched on Sunday in the GNAC. I’ll take a closer look at those tournaments and playoff races this week, but for now, here’s a look back at a great weekend of college baseball.
Boston College and Dartmouth had the biggest weeks in Division I, and some title contenders elsewhere kept on rolling. Quinnipiac, Holy Cross, and Bryant/Sacred Heart all finished the weekend atop their conference standings. In Division II, the Northeast Division’s three-headed monster of Franklin Pierce, Southern New Hampshire, and Stonehill combined to go 18-0 on the week, leaving a scramble for the fourth playoff spot in their wake. In Division III, heavy schedules stretched pitching staffs and made it difficult for teams to maintain consistency, but it was Rhode Island College’s turn in the spotlight of what’s been a wildly entertaining year in the Little East.
I’ve got a really busy stretch coming up, so I’ve gotta shut things down on here for the next week and a half. I’ll be back with a weekend roundup on Monday the 20th. Till then, I’ll keep an eye on the twitter and try to find some time for Teams of the Week this Monday. A few things in the meantime.
First off, send me whatever scores, statlines, photos, and updates you’ve got over the next couple weeks. Mention me or use the hashtag, and I’ll try to keep up on the RT’s. (This goes for any time, of course, but especially while I’ll be busy.) If you’re looking for more, D1Baseball.com, D2BaseballNews.com, and D3Baseball.com are all great for their respective divisions. The local beat writers in New England have been giving us some nice coverage this “spring” too, and there’s always the baseball-specific people to keep you informed (@NE_Baseball, @NEBaseballNews, @JoshuaKummins, etc.).
Secondly, let me know what content you’d like to see once I’m back. I’ve been doing the bare minimum of weekend previews and roundups, since I haven’t had a ton of free time, but that’ll change once I start things back up. I’ve got some ideas in mind– look-ins at the playoff races, tournament previews for the NCAA teams, some draft stuff, a look at the summer-ball rosters, pieces on some of the retiring coaches, explanatory posts for those who are new to college baseball, more game visits– but above all, I want to write what you guys want to read, so let me know what you’d like to see.
And finally, thank you all for reading these past couple months. I wasn’t sure what all the writing would be like when I started things up back in February, but it’s been a blast. The traffic’s been incredible, and overall, I’ve had a lot more fun covering things. Even in a year where the weather’s been as brutal as I can remember, you guys make it a ton of fun to cover the game. Thank you, and I’ll see you back here in two weeks.
We’ve turned the calendar to April, and it feels like the conference standings are starting to settle out. We’re a couple weekends into league play in Division I, and New England teams sit atop the standings in the MAAC, NEC, and Patriot League. In Divisions II and III, some teams have gotten some separation in the early going. Franklin Pierce’s 27-2 start has powered it to a 7-1 divisional mark, and they swept one of their direct rivals this weekend. Every one of the Division III conferences has seen a team race off to a perfect start so far. Husson in the NAC (10-0), Endicott in the CCC (8-0), Saint Joseph’s in the GNAC (6-0), Mitchell (6-0) and Becker (5-0) in the NECC, MIT in the NEWMAC (5-0), Western Connecticut in the LEC (4-0), Amherst (3-0) and Wesleyan (3-0) in the NESCAC, and Salem State in the MASCAC (2-0). It’s still early, of course, but in all three divisions, New England teams have set the bar high for the rest of the teams in their conferences.