Weekend Roundup — April 20, 2015

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.

Division I

Co-Team of the Week: With the inspirational Pete Frates in town for the ALS Awareness Game, it was going to be a great week for Boston College no matter what happened on the field. But the Eagles went ahead and had a storming 5-0 week that’s got them back in the playoff picture in the ACC. Apart from a 13-10 shootout with Harvard on Wednesday, some stellar performances on the mound keyed the Eagles, who gave up just three runs in their other four games. Eric Stone went six strong to beat Rhode Island on Tuesday, and Johnny Adams drove in four in the offense’s big day against Harvard. The Eagles then welcomed Georgia Tech to Shea Field for the weekend. BC’s offense had to do without all-world slugger Chris Shaw, who’s out 4-6 weeks with a broken wristbone, and Georgia Tech’s freshman phenom Kel Johnson was hurt at the start of the series too. The Jackets got Johnson back to DH on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough against a BC pitching staff that led them to the sweep. Mike King’s complete-game one-hitter on Friday keyed a lights-out starting trio. King, John Gorman, and Jesse Adams combined to strike out 23 in 23 innings, giving up just one run in the process.

And don’t forget, BC put together this big week despite losing three key contributors (Shaw, Jeff Burke, and Bobby Skogsbergh) to injury the week before. The Eagles will look to keep rolling when they head to Fenway this Wednesday for the Beanpot Championship against UMass. If you’re anywhere in the Boston area, this’ll be a great day of baseball. Harvard and Northeastern play the consolation game at 3:00 before the title game in the evening. You can get in the park for just $10, and the proceeds go to the Pete Frates #3 Fund. The Eagles are in search of their 11th Beanpot and first since 2011, the Minutemen for their 6th and first since 2012.

Co-Team of the Week: A tough early schedule left Dartmouth sitting at 2-14 once they came back north in late March. Their staff ERA was north of six, and in a 1-8 week in California, they’d topped the three-run mark only twice. Since that low point, they’ve won 14 of 19 and are riding a 10-game win streak. This week, they clinched their 8th straight Rolfe Division title with a sweep of Brown. After a 3-0 win behind Mike Concato in the opener, the Big Green won three one-run games to finish the series. That included a pair of walkoffs on Sunday, when senior backstop Matt MacDowell won the opener with a sac fly and scored the winning run in the back end.

Dartmouth will face either Penn or Columbia in the Ivy League title series in two weeks’ time. Those teams, both sitting at 14-2 in conference, face off next weekend to decide who’ll get to face the Big Green for a best-of-three shot at the NCAA Tournament. Dartmouth has an outside chance of hosting, but they’d need a sweep of Harvard, a series split between the Quakers and Lions, and a tiebreaker win, so they’ll likely play on the road. Regardless, the Big Green are two wins away from their third NCAA trip under Bob Whalen’s, and their first since 2010.

In the MAAC, Quinnipiac kept rolling with a 4-1 week that saw them take a series from in-New England rivals Fairfield. The Bobcats are 10-3 in April, haven’t lost a MAAC series all year, and have sole possession of first place.  Not bad for first-year head coach John Delaney.  Against the Stags, Quinnipiac sandwiched a game two loss with a pair of one-run wins.  A 10th-inning error allowed them to edge Fairfield 4-3 in the opener, and Ben Gibson’s 8th-inning sac fly gave them a 2-1 win in the rubber game.  The close wins continued a trend for QU– 11 of their 17 have come by less than three runs. If they keep that up in home series with middle-of-the-pack Marist and Niagara in the next two weeks, they’ll have a legitimate shot at their first regular-season hardware since they shared the NEC crown with Mount St. Mary’s in 2007.

Speaking of the NEC, the BryantSacred Heart series in two weeks is looking bigger and bigger. The Bulldogs and Pioneers both won series this weekend to finish tied atop the standings. Bryant, hosting Mount St. Mary’s in its conference home opener, banged out 47 hits in a four-game sweep.  C/DH Buck McCarthy got on base 11 times, homered, and drove in five on the weekend. Senior John Mullen drove in a run in each game, including a walk-off double in 10-9 Saturday win that was the only close game of the weekend. Sacred Heart, meanwhile, recovered from a Friday afternoon loss to take three of four down at Long Island. Jayson Sullivan went 4-5 with a double and three RBI in Sunday’s clincher. The Pioneers welcome Bryant to the Ballpark at Harbor Yard from May 1-3. That series will go a long way towards deciding whether the Bulldogs’ make it four titles on the trot or Nick Giaquinto breaks through for his first regular-season crown.

Elsewhere, Holy Cross recovered from a series loss to Lehigh to take three of four down at West Point. With one weekend to go, the Crusaders sit atop the Patriot League and could clinch home field throughout the playoffs with a home series win over cellar-dwellers Bucknell next weekend. Rhode Island inched to within a game of first in the A-10 with an excellent series win over Richmond. They’re now 5-4 against the top half of the conference, and a .500 showing in the next two weekends against fellow contenders VCU and George Washington would likely sew up a return to the postseason. In the America East, Maine got a much-needed series win over Hartford by virtue of a Saturday doubleheader sweep, and UMass Lowell won its home series with UMBC. Stony Brook has some breathing room up top, but the conference’s bottom five are within a single game of one another with four weekends to go in the regular season.

Division II

Team of the Week: In a week of dominance from the Northeast Division’s big guns, Southern New Hampshire set itself apart. The Penmen went 8-0, picking up six divisional wins and scoring double-digit runs six times. After winning five straight to start the week, SNHU visited Assumption for their first road series in eight games. The key to their season has been pitching, but the offense exploded for 60 runs in the three-game set. 63 hits, 25 for extra bases, and 12 of those came in the opener alone. Some eye-popping individual lines too. Mike Montville homered twice and drove in seven in the opener, bringing his team-leading totals to 6 and 33, respectively. DH Lorenzo Papa drove in nine on the weekend, and the guy didn’t even start the middle game. Can’t ask for much more if you’re co-head coaches Pat Austin and Chris Shank. And as crazy as it sounds with the season Franklin Pierce has had, SNHU would pull even in the loss column with a win on Wednesday.

Speaking of the Ravens, Franklin Pierce kept on rolling in a 4-0 week that’ll keep them #1 nationally in the Collegiate Baseball poll. They swept a solid Merrimack club in their first road series of the year, winning a 13-1 blowout in the opener before grinding out two close wins to sweep. Matt Walsh three hits, runs, and RBI paced the offense in the first game, and Paul Covelle, Paul Fahey, and Travis Landry battled through a five error day to win 4-3 in the second. In the finale, the Ravens trailed 6-2 after four, but a seven-run 6th proved enough for a comeback 10-8 win. That puts FPU at 34-2 on the year, and Wednesday’s meetings with the Penmen excepted, their toughest games are behind them. Matt O’Herron’s hitting north of .400, Jay Jabs is already into double-digit homer territory, and Paul Covelle’s 2.10 ERA is the worst of their top five innings guys. All in all, a dominant campaign that’s surpassed even the sky-high standards Jayson King has set in Rindge.

And don’t forget about Stonehill, who’s sitting at 23-9-1 and reeled off six divisional wins this week. Their pitching staff had the best weekend of the big three, allowing just a single run in a sweep of Saint Anselm. Starters Jeremy Roberts, Michael Young, and Neal Horan combined for 22.2 of one-run ball, striking out 21 and allowing just 11 hits. Brian Campbell and Brian Hocking both homered on the weekend.

In the Southwest Division, AIC and Southern Connecticut both took divisional series. The Yellow Jackets handed Pace its first conference series loss of the year. Dave Clark’s five-RBI day led the offense in a pair of comfortable wins in a Saturday doubleheader. SCSU, meanwhile, swept a competitive Sunday doubleheader out at Le Moyne. Nick Baviello’s homer broke an 8th-inning tie in the front end, and Pat Egan worked a pair of clean 9th innings to pick up two saves.

Outside the Northeast-10, Post had a 3-1 week in conference to put themselves in great shape heading into the last week of CACC play. The Eagles sit in third place, two games clear of fourth-place Concordia and even in the loss column with second-place Chestnut Hill. In the ECC, Bridgeport sits in a tie for the last playoff spot after a 3-2 week, but they’ve got three games of breathing space between them and fifth-place Molloy.

Division III

Team of the Week: The Little East’s voters expected a competitive 2015 when they gave three different teams multiple first-place votes. They just didn’t expect Rhode Island College to be in the mix, picking the Anchormen to finish in a tie for sixth. This weekend, RIC proved them wrong and then some.

The Anchormen had a 5-0 week that included wins over UMass Dartmouth and Eastern Connecticut. And the thing is, these games weren’t even close. It began on Monday, when Dylan Pingitore no-hit the Corsairs in an 11-0 romp. A 14-hit attack that included a homer and three RBI from Angelo St. Laurent out of the nine hole gave him more than enough support. On Saturday, they swept a doubleheader against Eastern Connecticut, 10-2 and 16-7. Dylan Cummiskey scattered eight hits over 6.1 in the first game, and Joe Yankee doubled twice and stole two bases in a seven-RBI day at the plate. Add these performances to solid midweek wins over Fitchburg and Curry, and you’ve got a surefire Team of the Week.

The wins leave RIC at 17-7 overall and 6-3 in the LEC, well-deserving of a share of first place and entry into this week’s NEIBA poll.  The Anchormen have excelled both offensively and defensively.  They’re hitting .350 as a team, 92 points better than their opponents. Yankee (.418), Brad Douglas (.424), and Matt Foley (.450) are all hitting north of .400.  On the mound, their team ERA of 3.84 is more than three runs better than their opponents. Besides the no-hit artist Pingitore (1.61), relievers Joe Brooks and Jake Roy both sport sub-2.00 ERAs in almost 20 innings of work on the year. Looking ahead, the Anchormen have a rematch with UMD and doubleheaders against Western and Plymouth as they look to stay near the top of the standings.

Elsewhere, just the major highlights in Division III from this weekend, since I’ll have a lot more up this week to look at playoff races and preview conference tournaments.

The GNAC wound down its regular season. Johnson & Wales, winners of 8 of 9, had a 6-1 week that saw them hand Saint Joseph’s its first conference loss. That came in the front end of a Thursday doubleheader. The 9-2 scoreline saw Jake Marchessault go seven complete and Andrew Hunton homered. The Monks also dropped a game to Suffolk, but Saint Joseph’s kept its white-hot April going with non-conference wins over Bowdoin, Endicott, and Southern Maine. The Sunday win over USM, which helped to drive the Huskies from the Top 25, saw Scott Betts go 3-4 and knock his team-leading third homer of the year.

This weekend’s CCC action saw some teams set themselves up well heading into the last week of play. Roger Williams had a perfect week that did wonders for its playoff hopes. It’s been a tough season for the Hawks coming off their ECAC title game berth. They entered this week at 7-16, but they had a 6-0 week they badly needed.  RWU got momentum going with a nice OOC win over UMass Boston on Wednesday, then took care of business in doubleheader sweeps of Eastern Nazarene and Nichols over the weekend. Jimmy Smith threw a seven-inning shutout in one of the wins over ENC, and Eric Proulx tossed 4.1 of one-hit relief in the final win of the weekend. Elsewhere, Western New England had a 5-1 conference week to get in the clubhouse at 11-5. Doug Milne had a 4-6 day with two RBI in a Monday sweep of Salve Regina. Curry continued its resurgence by taking excellent splits from WNEU and Endicott over the weekend.

In the NEWMAC, MIT took two of three from Wheaton in a series rife with playoff implications. The Engineers clinched it with an 11-0 win on Saturday. Nicholas Locascio got the win, and John Drago and Hayden Cornwell both homered for MIT. Plymouth State‘s Doyle McManus picked up his 500th win on Sunday. The Panthers’ head coach plans to retire after this season, his 31st at the helm. Thomas notched six NAC wins this week to move a long way towards a playoff berth. Mitchell swept Lesley over the weekend to run its record to 20-3 (11-1 NECC).

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