For some background to this post, check out this piece from a couple weeks back. I’ll cover as many summer teams as I can between now and the start of conference play, and take a look at how some of their players are faring nationally and locally, as well as their fans’ local viewing options right here in New England this spring.
If you’re reading this, you might be one of the 800,000 people who took in a collegiate summer baseball game in New England last year. It’s no secret that New England has a very special tradition in this department, but it’s also no secret that the support doesn’t translate as well to the NCAA season. I’m here to try and convince you that it should, and also to fill you in on what some current and former Mainers are up to this spring.
First Off, Why College Baseball?
If you’ve enjoyed watching games during the summer, you’ll love what’s on display in the spring. Short seasons where every pitch matters and playoff races are always tight. Win-or-go-home conference tournaments, where every day is game seven. Players who aren’t afraid to show emotion, don’t take themselves too seriously, and aren’t just playing for their next free agent deal. Underdogs dogpiling, unforgettable nights at the office, and, well, things like this. Quirky ballparks, unorthodox playing styles, comebacks, walkoffs, and championships. A dirt cheap (and often free) price of admission. The ultimate prize of a College World Series trip to Omaha, Cary, or Appleton. No, it’s not pro baseball, but in many ways, what makes it different makes it great.
Mainers Across the Nation
The Mainers team that finished second in the North Division last year featured talent from some of the nation’s top programs. Both Virginia (David Rosenberg) and Vanderbilt (Joey Abraham and Nolan Rogers), the two teams who contested both the 2014 and 2015 College World Series finals, sent players to Sanford last summer. Rogers hit .278 in 16 games, and Abraham went 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 9.0 K/IP in the rotation.
Sanford’s 2015 squad also featured a player from this year’s Big Ten favorites, Michigan. Harrison Wenson had an okay summer with the Mainers (.241, 2 HR, among the team leaders in BB and HBP), but the junior has been tearing the cover off the ball for the Wolverines in 2016. As of March 7, he’s leading the team with a .394 average, 3 HR, 10 RBI, and a .727 slugging percentage. In their Leap Day win over #10 Cal, he doubled, scored two runs, and caught a staff shutout in a 5-0 win.
A bit closer to home, Mainer Ben Greenberg (no really, he’s from Scarborough) is off to a strong start with Fordham. After featuring in Sanford’s rotation last summer, he’s earned three of Fordham’s four early-season wins, all while sporting a 1.62 ERA. His Rams visit New England for an A-10 series with UMass in late April. At the other end of New York, a strong summer from Canisius’ Iannick Remillard (5 saves, 2.00 ERA, all-star selection) has him earning MLB Draft plaudits.
And it’s not as if you need to be told what a great organization the Mainers have, but I’ll note that Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin, Michigan’s Erik Bakich, and Canisius’s Mike McRae will all be sending players back to southern Maine in 2016.
Mainers in New England
Sanford also drew heavily from some of New England’s own top programs last summer, with their final roster featuring contributors from seven NECB teams spread across all three divisions.
In Division I, 2015 alum and two-way Bryant star Brandon Bingel has helped the Bulldogs to a stellar 8-2 start, getting a win on the mound over Penn State that capped a wild 4-0 weekend at the start of the year. Also in the Ocean State, Ben Wessel’s stellar summer in Sanford’s rotation (4-3, 1.74 ERA) helped him earn a spot in Rhode Island‘s. After finishing near the top of the A-10 last year and reaching the tournament title game, the Rams will look to earn a coveted NCAA Tournament berth in 2016.
From Division II, the Mainers had a pair of players from Southern New Hampshire. Mike Mastroberti hit .405 in an early-summer stint in Sanford, and right-hander Ian Searles had a 3.73 ERA in 12 outings. Their Penmen are off to a stellar 9-0 start as they look to qualify for their fifth straight NCAA Tournament. Post righty Matthew D’Ariano, who worked in a few games down the stretch for Sanford last year, has a 1.40 ERA in three starts for the Eagles this season, and helped them to a big doubleheader sweep of Stonehill last weekend.
Sanford’s Division III NECB contingent featured some of the best talent the region had to offer. Southern Maine‘s Sam Dexter, who hit .324 with a team-leading 13 doubles in 2015, heads into 2016 as Division III’s most decorated player. As if being named the D3 Player of the Year in 2015 weren’t enough, he earned one of 50 places on the watchlist of the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s best collegiate player. (No one else from D3 made that list.) On the mound, meanwhile, Keene State‘s Cody Dube (1.80 ERA, 43 K’s in 30 relief innings for Sanford) was one of only two Division III hurlers named an NECBL All-Star. Finally, lefty Thomas Fortier, a Maine native and Saint Joseph’s pitcher, got the ball a couple times for the Mainers down the stretch last season. He’ll be part of a Monks staff that looks to return to the NCAA Tournament in 2016.
This summer, the Mainers will renew their strong connection to New England, with players from Bryant, UMass Lowell, Brown, Maine, Fairfield, Franklin Pierce, Rhode Island, and Southern Maine donning the green and gold.
In the Area
For Mainers fans, some of the best Division III baseball in New England is just a short drive away. Dexter’s Southern Maine team plays in a beautiful yard on the school’s Gorham campus. At the moment, they’re the only New England team ranked in D3Baseball’s Top 25 and are looking to return to the D3 College World Series after making back-to-back trips in 2013 and 2014. On May 6, Ed Flaherty’s club will wrap up their regular season by renewing a decades-old rivalry with Eastern Connecticut. If the preseason poll is anything to go by, the doubleheader in Gorham that day could decide the Little East title. Their next-door neighbors, Fortier’s Saint Joseph’s club, play at Mahaney Diamond on SJC’s campus in Standish. The Monks have roared off to a 4-1 start on their Florida trip, and are looking to make their 9th NCAA trip in 11 seasons. Their April 16 meeting with the Johnson & Wales team that knocked them out of the GNAC Tournament last year is a date to circle on the calendar, as is their short trip to USM two days earlier.
Sanford fans jonesing for some Division I action can trek north to Orono to watch Steve Trimper’s Maine club, who’ve already notched a win over Clemson this season. (They visit UMass Lowell for a three-game set at LeLacheur Park at the end of April if you’re not quite up for that drive.) The Pine Tree State is also home to seven other Division III programs– the NAC trio of Maine-Farmington, Thomas, and Husson, CBB rivals Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin, and independents Maine-Presque Isle. (Colby, I should mention, will be opening up a brand-new ballpark on April 2.)
Thanks very much for reading, and until baseball is back at Goodall this June, be sure to get out to enjoy the weather and catch a game!