For the first time in 2016, we saw action in all three divisions (even one game in right here in New England!). As a region, we’re off to a much quicker start than last season, especially in Division I, where several teams grabbed the headlines in their first weekend out on the field. More on that, and some D2/3 action, after the jump.
I mean, where do I begin? After last year, when every early-season win was grounds for a duck-boat parade and champagne, I didn’t expect too much, but all around the country, New England teams made noise on opening weekend.
Co-Team of the Week: In a weekend of big wins, Mike Glavine’s Northeastern club stole the show. The Huskies got some respect from CAA voters who picked them to tie for third this season, but a pair of wins over #30 Oklahoma suggests their ceiling is even higher than that. With Friday’s opener knotted at 2 after six, Charlie McConnell (a freshman making his collegiate debut) led off the seventh with a double, and two batters later, veteran Pat Madigan drove him in for a 3-2 lead. A slim margin on the road against ranked opposition, but more than enough for the Husky pitching staff. Starter Aaron Civale pitched into the eighth and struck out eight before giving way to Mike Fitzgerald, who got the last five outs to put the icing on a huge win.
As if one win over the Sooners wasn’t enough, the Huskies promptly retook the field and beat them again, 5-3 in the front end of Saturday’s doubleheader. Max Burt (5-8 in the two wins) both drove in and scored a run in a three-run first, and a Madigan RBI double made it 4-0 in the fourth. OU got one back in the fifth to drive Dustin Hunt from the game, but freshman Andrew Misiaszek came on to escape the jam. He stayed in despite giving up a pair in the seventh, and after NU added a ninth-inning insurance run, he retired the side in order to earn a 5-3 win. The Sooners took the final two games to salvage the split, but that won’t do much to spoil a huge opening weekend for Mike Glavine’s club.
Co-Team of the Week: Back east in Cary, NC, Steve Owens’s Bryant club got off to the best start in program history with a 4-0 weekend. It started with a 6-1 win over Army behind James Karinchak and Justin Snyder and a come-from-behind 8-5 win over Monmouth early Saturday. Then things got interesting. In game two of a doubleheader with the Hawks, first-year lefty Steve Theetge was chased in the fifth after allowing four runs on six hits, but after that, eight Bryant relievers combined to keep Monmouth off the scoreboard for the next twelve innings. The game was tied at 4 from the seventh until the 17th, when Mickey Gasper’s bases-loaded double put the Bulldogs on their way to a dramatic 8-4 win. On Sunday, an exhausted pitching staff and Big Ten opposition made a win look unlikely (not to mention they had to wake up for a 10 AM start after the previous night’s 6:22 affair lasted almost till midnight), but Bryant clinched a perfect weekend with a 3-1 win over Penn State. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered heading into the prestigious Tony Gwynn Classic in San Diego next weekend.
Bryant wasn’t the only team to start the year 4-0, as Boston College swept Northern Illinois in Glendale. Mike King’s seven-inning, one-hit performance on Friday set the tone for an Eagle staff that gave up two runs in the entire series, and the bats came out in force for a 17-0 blowout on Sunday. Back east, Maine took a power-conference scalp in a 4-3 win over Clemson on Friday. Justin Courtney’s five-inning, eight-strikeout start kept the game close, and Brett Chappell’s RBI triple in the seventh was the difference. Elsewhere, Connecticut (9-6 over UTSA) and Holy Cross (3-2 over Long Beach) both notched Sunday wins.
Post was the only D2 to see action this weekend, going 1-2 against northern opposition in Virginia. CACC Player and Rookie of the Week Andrew Avots homered in a narrow 2-1 loss to LeMoyne on Saturday, and the Eagles then split a Sunday doubleheader with Mansfield. In game two’s 10-6 win, Avots led the way offensively (4-4, 3 RBI), and Enzo Esposito and Tyler Kovalewich combined to fan ten.
Team of the Week: First-year head coach Derek Carlson’s Brandeis team made a splash, sweeping a three-game set with St. Joseph’s of Brooklyn down in Florida. On Wednesday and Thursday, the Judges clinched the series with a pair of dramatic 4-3 wins. In the opener, Brandeis trailed 3-1 heading into the ninth despite a stellar relief outing from Elio Fernandez. Ryan Tettemer changed that with one swing on a game-tying triple, and Connor Doyle doubled him in to take a 4-3 lead. Ryan Healy then worked a perfect ninth to earn the save. In game two, Brandeis battled back from an early 3-0 hole to tie the game after five, which is how it stayed until the 11th, when a wild pitch brought Rob Trenk in from third for a walk-off win. A 14-hit attack in the series finale sent the Judges back north with a comparatively relaxing 8-2 win and a series sweep. It’s their best start since 2008.
In the other D3 action, a pair of Vermont schools had strong southern swings. In North Carolina and Virginia, two-time defending NAC champs Castleton recovered from a 0-3 start to head back home at .500. A 2-1 Friday win over Averett righted the ship ahead of a pair of blowout wins over the weekend, 12-5 over the Cougars and 15-5 over William Peace. The 3-4 tandem of Nick Swim and Dan Errico combined for 10 RBI, seven XBH, and pair of homers in those two games. Nearby, Southern Vermont went 2-1 in their own trip to Virginia. After losing 3-2 to Southern Virginia in the opener of a Saturday doubleheader, they returned the favor with a 3-2 win later that day. All-Name Team honoree Jean-Carlos Berasgoico went five solid and got the win thanks to Niko Horwith’s sixth-inning sac fly. Senior Chris Bradt then threw a scoreless sixth and seventh to earn the save. On Sunday, RJ Pingitore’s two-RBI single in the first was all starter Dylan Angelo needed. His seven-inning shutout led the Mountaineers to a 3-0 win and a winning weekend. Whether Bernie Sanders can duplicate this success in those states’ March primaries remains to be seen.
Finally, we get to the real shocker of the weekend, a February home game. On Sunday, Clark welcomed Worcester State to a brand-new Granger Field. WSU took home a 16-9 win in a game that saw 29 hits (eight for extra bases) and 12 pitching changes. George Bielizna, Michael Powers, Josh Creamer, and Adam Barry all drove in multiple runs for the Lancers. (Incidentally, if you’re in the Worcester area, you can catch Clark in action again next Sunday when they host Elms at noon. Forecast is high 40s and sunny, and you can find directions here.)