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 Titans 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 tournament showdowns, and lots of laughs on and off the field too. 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.
Titans Across the Nation
Although the Titans’ 2015 playoff club drew heavily from New England schools, they also featured talent from around the country. From the D1 ranks, that included Iona’s Alex Fishberg and Fairleigh Dickinson’s Joel Roman. The Gaels’ Fishberg collected a team-high five saves last summer, and has worked well in the same role for his club this spring (1.93 ERA, 2 saves). Just across the Hudson in northern Jersey, Roman has been a regular at third for his Knights after hitting .231 with three homers in Torrington last summer.
D3ers Kyle Dominy (Oberlin) and David Gerics (Pomona-Pitzer) also featured in Torrington. Dominy joined the Titans after helping his Yeoman to their first NCAA Tournament ever last spring, where they made an improbable run to the regional semis as the 8th and lowest seed in the New York Regional. Dominy pitched seven strong in their opener against eventual national champions Cortland, and left the game with a lead. He worked out of the bullpen for the Titans last summer, posting a 4.09 ERA in 17 appearances, and has given up just one earned run in two early-season starts for the Yeoman this year. Gerics, meanwhile, has been one of the biggest parts of his Sagehens’ winning start to 2016, going 4-0 with a 2.06 to lead the rotation. That’ll come as little surprise to Titans fans, who saw him put up a 3.24 ERA and strike out better than a batter an inning in their rotation last summer.
Looking ahead to 2016, the Titans look to bring on board a much larger contingent of non-NECB players. That group is headlined by power-conference players Blair Lewis (Pitt) and KJ Brady (Washington), and includes representatives from a dozen other schools around the country.
Titans in New England
The meat of Torrington’s 2015 roster, including all three of their all-stars, came from schools right here in New England.
That group included representatives from nearly half of our Division 1 programs. Sacred Heart‘s two-man contingent formed 2/3 of the Titans’ all-star delegation. Despite joining the club late after their NCAA Tournament run, catcher Cody Doyle and outfielder Dan Schock both made impacts, the latter with a team-leading four home runs. In the early going in 2016, Doyle has platooned at catcher, and Schock has hit .250 with a homer as the Pioneers look to make back-to-back NCAA trips for just the second time in their Division I history.
SHU’s NEC conference mates combined to send six other players to Torrington. Bryant‘s duo of Zach Wood and Joe Paparelli both had three-homer, 20-RBI summers. They’ve been a part of a torrid 14-4 start for the Bulldogs that has them at #35 in the RPI and receiving top-25 votes. Central Connecticut‘s quartet consisted of Brett Susi, Nick Garland, Dean Lockery, and Franklin Jennings. Susi, a right-handed starter, posted a 3.02 ERA in four starts. Among the position players, Lockery led the club in batting average, doubles, triples, and runs, and Jennings shared the team lead with 11 steals. All four have contributed to CCSU’s early season sweep of Patriot League favorites Navy, and this week’s big win over UConn.
Speaking of the Huskies, UConn sent transfer pitcher John Russell to Torrington last summer. He struck out 43 against two walks between the Titans’ bullpen and rotation and has been a member of the Husky pen after transferring from UConn Avery Point for this season.
Also from D1, the Titans featured Quinnipiac‘s dynamic mound duo of Robbie Hitt and Taylor Luciani. Hitt’s 3.21 ERA and 50:12 K:B ratio helped him earned the ASG start for the West Division last year, and Luciani’s 2-1, 3.96 line for the Bobcats in 2016 includes a win over Virginia Tech. Rhode Island‘s Nick Johnson put up a 3.65 ERA and fanned 45 in the Titans’ rotation last summer. Fairfield‘s Mac Crispino (the Stags’ third-leading hitter) and Mike Conti (.389, two doubles in more limited action) have both contributed to the club’s 2016. Finally, Maine freshman Jeremy Pena has been a regular at the top of the Black Bears’ lineup, highlighting his early season with a home run against Miami.
The Titans also sported a trio of D2 and D3 representatives, Bridgeport‘s Ray Krieger, Post‘s Evan DeVico, and Eastern Connecticut‘s Tim Budd. Budd has had the best spring of the bunch, hitting .242 with five extra-base hits and starting all nine games of the Warriors’ 7-2 start.
While We’re in the Area…
Litchfield County doesn’t have a true home team during the spring, but DeVico’s Post club plays less than a half hour from Fuessenich Park in Waterbury. The Eagles are off to a bit of a slow start against a strong schedule, but did earn a nice doubleheader sweep of Stonehill in early March. They’re also only two games into the CACC slate where they made a name for themselves last season, winning seven of their last eight league games (including a sweep of ranked Wilmington) to finish an impressive second in the standings. Led by second-year head coach Ray Ricker (@CoachRix8), Post plays their home games at Waterbury Municipal Stadium, which, as a few of you may know, has some historical significance in the New England summer ball scene.
After that, Titans’ fans spring options include a Central Connecticut team that plays on campus in New Britain and features plenty of alums, or, in the city, Hartford and Trinity. The Blue Devils, as mentioned above, have had some good results on the young season, and the Hawks are off to the best start in their Division I history under Justin Blood. The Bantams, finally, play in the NESCAC, one of Division III’s most competitive conferences, under third-year head coach Bryan Adamski. Given how heavily the Titans draw from Connecticut, you’re bound to see some familiar faces anywhere you go to watch baseball in the Nutmeg State this spring.