Weekend Preview — April 29-May 1, 2016

Playoffs! After Babson and Coast Guard kicked things off today, we’ve got full slates of conference tournament action in the NEWMAC and NECC to look forward to this weekend. That also means that we’ll have regular-season champions crowned and playoff spots decided all over D3. Add that to the top 4 facing off in the NE-10 Northeast and decisive weekends in the Rolfe Division, Patriot League, and NEC, and we’ve got a heck of a weekend to look forward to.

(Apologies for the delay in getting this out– the conference tournament previews set me back a bit. As a result I’ll only be focusing on Saturday and Sunday games in this post.)

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Previewing the NECC Tournament

Heading into this weekend’s conference tournament, you can make a pretty strong case that this has been the most competitive, entertaining season in NECC history. For the first time since its inaugural year in 2009, all four tournament teams enter the weekend at .500 or better. With their regular season championship, Mitchell’s seniors have won or shared the title every year they’ve been on campus. Elms, Southern Vermont, and Lesley all set or matched program records for wins. Of the six head-to-head series among the tournament teams, only one ended in a sweep, and that only after both teams had already clinched a playoff berth. All indications are it’ll be a very entertaining weekend in New London. More on the history, the pennant race, and the teams after the jump.

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Previewing the NEWMAC Tournament

A full 370 days after last year’s preview, history has repeated itself in the NEWMAC. The same teams earned the same seeds as in 2015, and with any luck, the history of this massively entertaining tournament will keep on repeating itself. Since the switch to the five-team, three-game-series format in 2014, four of the six series have gone three games, and three of those have been decided in one-run contests. Suffice to say, 2016’s first conference tournament also tends to be one of the best. Click on for more about the tournament’s history, this year’s pennant race, and the teams contesting this year’s NEWMAC Title.

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Weekend Preview — April 22-24, 2016

Somehow it’s the last full week of April, and we’ve been blessed with another weekend of sunshine to enjoy some great baseball all around the region. D3 takes center stage, with two key series in the NEWMAC that’ll decide a division title and a playoff spot. We’ll also hit up the GNAC, NECC, CCC, NAC, and Little East for matchups that’ll go a long way towards deciding conference standings at year’s end. In D1, we’ll preview big weekends for Quinnipiac, Bryant, Dartmouth, and Yale, along with an ESPN3 doubleheader for Harvard and Brown and BC’s home set with #4 Louisville. And finally, in D2, the Northeast Division’s biggest weekend yet comes our way in the form of #3 Southern New Hampshire’s visit to Merrimack. Enjoy the reading, and more importantly, get out and enjoy a game.

(One programming note before we dive in: I probably won’t be able to do a Weekend Roundup this coming Monday, but I’ll be back in the middle of the week with some preview material for next weekend.)

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Weekend Roundup — April 18, 2016

The weather was gorgeous this weekend, and the baseball was even better. We had more walkoffs than I can ever remember in a single weekend, and plenty of sweeps, upsets, and offense throughout the region. In Division I, UConn knocked off a top-30 opponent, Northeastern got a big road sweep, and the Ivy League standings got bunched about as tightly as possible entering the final two weekends. In Division II, Southern New Hampshire won its midweek grudge match with Franklin Pierce as part of a perfect week that left it atop the NE-10 Northeast. And in D3, a slew of title races came into focus in a weekend of walkoffs and upsets. Read on for more.
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Weekend Preview — April 15-17, 2016

Sunshine. Sweet, sweet sunshine. Taking Worcester as our bellwether, we’re looking at sunny and 50s to start the weekend, a sunny and 60s by Sunday. Around the region, sixty-three teams will play home games this weekend, and many of them are involved in title races that are heating up right along with the weather. We’ll take a region-by-region look below.

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Ankle Injury Sidelines Merrimack’s Petrone, but He’s Still Finding a Way to Give Back Off the Field

As you all know, I spend a disproportionate amount of my free time following New England college baseball, and one of the things that consistently amazes me is how much time the players find to serve their communities. Every time I turn around, they’re shaving their heads for cancer research, drafting a player from Team IMPACT, bringing in millions to a charity that’s near and dear to their hearts, or finding one of a thousand other ways of giving back.

It’s nothing short of incredible, especially when you consider that these guys play the most time-intensive sport in the NCAA. They spend more time on the field than anyone else, miss classes and lose sleep on long road trips, and often stay on campus long after their classmates have gone home for the summer. All while trying to juggle the many responsibilities of life as a college student. And yet, they still find the time, energy, and motivation to do good in their communities.

Meet Merrimack’s Ryan Petrone, a quintessential example of that spirit. His junior season as a .294-hitting regular for one of the top teams in the Northeast-10 was chugging along smoothly until he broke his ankle in mid-March. Instead of dwelling on how a promising season had been cut short (and I know from experience that it’s easy to mope after breaking your ankle), he saw an opportunity to devote more time to the Mini Warrior Baseball Clinics, the off-the-field endeavor he’s been using to give back to his community since he was 18.

Ryan, a Central Mass native, got his start in coaching when he was just 15, working at clinics run by the Worcester Tornadoes’ Nick Salotti, whom he’d met at a local hitting facility. The following year, when illness prevented Salotti from directing a clinic, Ryan ran the camp himself at just 16. After getting a couple more years’ experience under his belt, he started the Mini Warrior Clinics in 2013.

You can find a lot more information at the camps’ website, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight a few things here. For starters, they’re affordable and accessible. In a day and age when quality baseball camps usually mean a long drive and an outlay of several hundred dollars, Ryan’s clinics are a breath of fresh air. Even before discounts for families and multi-week campers, a week-long, full-day camp costs just $195, a good chunk of which gets donated back to the local little league. On top of that, it comes straight to a local field. And campers aren’t just a face in a crowd– the player/coach ratio is 8:1 at minimum. The coaching staff is drawn from the rosters of programs like UMass Lowell, Merrimack, Assumption, Roger Williams, and Springfield, whose success you’ve probably read about in these pages before. Overall, it’s a safe, fun, and affordable chance for young players to get great coaching during the summer.

If you’re from the Worcester area and know a player who’d enjoy the camps, you can learn more on the official website, or on Facebook or Twitter. Mini Warrior already has 2016 dates booked for Leicester, Paxton, Spencer/East Brookfield, Charlton, and Millbury with more to come. If you’re from outside Worcester County, you can still help by spreading the word or by donating at their GoFundMe page. (Donors include Merrimack alum and current Twins hurler Ryan O’Rourke, as well as 2011 World Series Champion Marc Rzepczynski.) Feel free to contact Ryan or myself with any questions, and thanks for reading!