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.
Team of the Week: We’ve seen glimpses of great things from UConn this year, but Jim Penders’ team hasn’t been stringing together wins like we’ve come to expect in seasons past. All that changed this week. After picking up a pair of solid midweek wins, the Huskies swept #30 Houston. Now this wasn’t quite the Houston team that went to a super in 2014 and hosted a regional last year, but as the number next to their name would suggest, they’re a formidable opponent. This weekend in Storrs, however, the UConn pitching staff was too much for them to handle. In Friday’s 3-2 opener, Anthony Kay pitching into the ninth, striking out seven and allowing just one earned run before giving way to Patrick Ruotolo, who fanned both batters he faced to pick up the save. On Saturday, freshman Tim Cate allowed just a run while striking out six in seven (a bad day at the office by the standards of someone who’s fanned 53 in 40 2/4 this year) before giving way to Randy Polonia, whose two clean innings earned him save #6. And on Sunday, William Montgomerie struck out seven in 5 1/3 scoreless, and active Division I hits leader Bobby Melley slugged a double and a homer to complete the sweep. This puts the Huskies just a half game back of surprise AAC leaders Cincinnati, and with more pitching like this, they’ll have a high seed in Clearwater this May.
Team of the Week: In a weekend of sweeps in Division I, Northeastern was the only team to earn theirs on the road. After beating Quinnipiac at home in midweek, the Huskies trekked down 95 to take on Delaware in a CAA set. Aaron Civale’s eight innings led the way in Friday’s 6-1, and the following day, I was in the stands for the series clincher, also the most tightly contested game of the weekend. NU jumped on top early, leading 3-0 after three thanks in part to an RBI double from Josh Treff (that would be a theme). Delaware worked their way back into it, though, tying the game in the 6th. They looked like taking the lead in the 7th after a one-out triple, but Husky starter James Mulry did well to strand him there. That provided a momentum boost that helped to reenergize the offense. In the top of the 8th. A miscue by the Blue Hens’ right fielder allowed the go-ahead run to score, and another Treff double (his third of the day) made it 5-3. After Max Burt’s 9th-inning solo shot off the foul pole tacked another run on to the lead, Mike Fitzgerald closed out the series win. On Sunday, the offense put up two touchdowns to complete the sweep. It’s a big swing from .500 to 7-4 for the standings for NU, made even bigger by College of Charleston’s shock sweep at the hands of Hofstra. A mid-May trip to South Carolina to face CofC is the only time they’ll have to go south of Long Island for the rest of the regular season. Combine that with the face they’ve won 9 of 11, and Mike Glavine’s team looks primed for a strong stretch run.
As promised, more sweeps. In Rhode Island, Steve Owens’ Bryant team took all four from the Wagner team that finished second to them in the NEC in 2015. The fair weather meant some great fan support, and the Bulldogs didn’t disappoint. James Karinchak struck out eight in seven scoreless in the opener, and a late RBI from Mickey Gasper helped decide the 3-2 game that clinched the series on Saturday. The club’s now 12-1 in conference, and they next take the field in the NEC in a big meeting with second-place Sacred Heart in two weeks’ time. In the MAAC, Fairfield swept its way into first place, taking all three from a Niagara team that entered the weekend tied with the Stags in the standings. In the opener, the Stags trailed late, but Jake Salpeitro’s clutch two-out, two-run double lifted Bill Currier’s club to a 3-1 win. From there, Salpietro and Brendan Tracy both drove in a pair in a 9-3 series clincher, and Kyle Dube fanned ten in Sunday’s 4-2 finale. Elsewhere in the MAAC, Quinnipiac pulled off a sweep of its own against Iona that rocketed the Bobcats back into playoff contention. The series was tightly contested, but John Delaney’s club had the edge in all three games. In the opener, Thomas Jankins struck out eight and allowed just three baserunners in eight scoreless in a 2-0 win. In game two, John Bodenhamer won the series with a 13th-inning walkoff single that brought in Rob Pescitelli. And on Sunday, the Bobcats walked off yet again, this time off the bat of Louis Iannotti. A tough schedule the rest of the way means they’ll have to earn their wins, but this weekend has put them in a position to make a run at a playoff spot.
A few other series to note. Maine picked up its first AEC series win over UMBC. Colin Ridley’s two-RBI triple keyed a five-run 7th in Sunday’s comeback win. The weekend in the Rolfe Division set us up for a photo-finish final two weeks, as Harvard‘s road series win over Yale and Brown‘s split with Dartmouth leave just two games separating the four teams. It’s Harvard’s first series win over their rivals since 2009, and just the second time Brown’s managed this good a result against the Big Green since the Bears’ title-winning season in 2007. In the NEC, Sacred Heart took three of four from CCSU to remain just a game back of Bryant in the loss column. And finally, Holy Cross picked up four conference wins this week, and now sit just a game back of first-place Navy in the Patriot League.
Team of the Week: Southern New Hampshire had what might’ve been the best week of its stellar season, beating arch-rivals Franklin Pierce in a top-10 matchup on Wednesday before picking up four more divisional wins over the weekend. The highlight, of course, was taking to the road to even the season series with the Ravens. A two-run single from Ryan Gendron helped the Penmen jump on top early, and a combination of Viehoff, Walkinshaw, and Clough held down the fort from there. On Friday, they retook the field at Saint Anselm, and though the Hawks played them close, a Carson Helms solo shot and a lockdown save from Mitchell Powers saw out a 4-3 win. SNHU won another close one in their weekend series opener with Assumption on Zach Goldstein’s walkoff homer. (That was also the game that landed Manny Cruz at #2 in the SC Top 10.) From there, an 18-3 win completed a Saturday doubleheader sweep, and Joe McCarthy’s seven strong at the FisherCats’ Northeast Delta Dental Stadium finished off a perfect week. Scott Loiseau’s team is now 31-3, 10-1 in the division, and poised to climb even higher in the national rankings.
Their primary Northeast Division rivals, the aforementioned Ravens and Merrimack, both had one-loss weeks. After dropping the midweek tussle, Franklin Pierce took out their frustration on Bentley over the weekend, putting up 40 runs and shutting out the Falcons twice in the three-game set. Jay Jabs slugged two more homers in the middle game to pad his league lead, and freshman Ryan Boldwin came off the bench in the finale to hit his first career home run, an 8th-inning grand slam. John Amendola took top honors on the mound, hurling a nine-inning shutout in game two. Merrimack, meanwhile, went 5-1 in a busy week that included midweek divisional wins over Bentley, Assumption, and Saint Anselm, along with a road series win over Saint Michael’s. Tyler Lyne’s 11th-inning triple broke a deadlock to beat the Falcons 11-9 on the road Monday. In Tuesday’s win over the Greyhounds– MC’s closest rivals for third place entering the week– Sean O’Neill homered and drove in a pair, and Matt Nicholson, Matthew Ronai, and Pat Florence had multi-RBI games of their own. The week leaves Nick Barese’s team at 6-2 in the division, just a game back of SNHU and FPU in the loss column. Now comes the business end of the season though– the Warriors have the uneviable task of trying to slow down SNHU next weekend, then hit the road for series with FPU and Stonehill to wrap up the regular season.
A few quick hits from elsewhere in D2. New Haven had a 3-0 week highlighted by a midweek win over crosstown rivals Southern Connecticut. In the 6-0, Jack Zagaja homered, and Kellen Croce allowed just three hits in eight. At 4-2 in the division, the Chargers are at the right end of the Southwest Division standings ahead of next weekend’s trip to Adelphi. Staying in the Southwest, AIC got its second series win in as many seasons over Adelphi– Karl Kapinos’ homer and two RBI helped make the difference in Sunday’s 10-7 rubber match. Back in the Northeast, Stonehill righted its ship with a 4-1 week in divisional games. Alexander Joyce’s three-run jack in the 12th helped lift them to an extra-inning win over Saint A’s on Saturday. Saint Michael’s took a game off Merrimack to get off the schneid in the division, with Nick Addona’s three-run homer making the difference in a 4-2 win. Finally, Post swept a twinbill from Dominican to get back into the playoff mix in the CACC.
Team of the Week: After a perfect Florida trip that vaulted them into the top 25, Western New England scuffled a bit upon coming back north, dropping four of six in the remainder of March. With a 7-1 week that included five CCC wins, however, the Golden Bears have put that into the rearview mirror and now sit tied atop the conference. The week started off on the right foot with a sweep of Gordon, the CCC’s surprise team in 2016. In the 9-2 opener, Erik Lecaire (3-4, 2B, 2 R) and Kevin Marciano (2-3, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB) paced the offense, and Tom Mahoney (7.0 IP, 2 H, o R) threw a shutout in a 2-0 win in game two. On Sunday, Dan Gomez’s team earned a split in a big twinbill with rivals Endicott. In their game one win, the Golden Bears trailed entering their last ups despite David Cherry’s 10 strikeouts, but the team rallied to put men in scoring position, and Kevin Marciano’s RBI single tied things before Eduardo Colmenares won it on the walk-off. Between the two road DH sweeps and the combined 3-1 record against Gordon and Endicott, WNE has put some of their toughest baseball behind them, and it should be an exciting sprint to the finish with the likes of Endicott and Salve Regina to decide the league title.
Team of the Week: Castleton surged to the top of the NAC standings as part of a big 5-0 week that saw them notch four conference wins and take a top-25 scalp. The Spartans were 7-1 down after five in the opener of their four-game midweek set with Colby-Sawyer, but Zach Bahan’s 6th-inning homer got the ball rolling on a comeback that ended in a 10-7 extra innings win. Ted Shipley’s team used that momentum to comfortably complete the sweep, then carried it over to a road upset of #19 Amherst on Sunday. Nick Swim had two doubles and four RBI before three innings were out, a big reason the Spartans led 11-3 early and went on to win 11-6. The Spartans haven’t lost in nine games back from Florida and hold the upper hand in the standings entering next weekend’s big home set with Husson. A good result there would put them well on their way to another regular-season conference title, which they’ve won or shared every year since 2007.
The GNAC produced plenty of headlines this week, none bigger than a no-hitter from Lasell‘s Daniel Petr. The freshman, making just his fourth career start, needed just 81 pitches in a seven-inning no-no against Anna Maria. Saint Joseph’s GNAC weekend included a split with the Lasers and a big sweep of Johnson & Wales. Max McCoomb came through with a walkoff RBI single in the opener, and Grayson Jennings and Corey McNamara combined to throw a one-hitter in game two. Suffolk‘s 5-1 week kept it tied atop the standings with the Monks– Drew Carter exited the weekend leading the league with a .419 average. And Rivier, just 6-18 coming into the weekend, surprised by earning DH splits with the Rams and JWU. Spencer Aguiar picked up his fourth save in a 2-1 win over Suffolk that opened the weekend, and Ty Seaton’s two-RBI double keyed a comeback win over the Wildcats in the weekend finale.
Like their fellow brainiacs in the Rolfe Division, the NESCAC standings are very, very tight entering the stretch run after some key series wins this weekend. In the East, there’s only a game and a half separating second from fifth, and in the West, only two games separate Amherst at the top from Hamilton at the bottom. Tufts, sitting at 5-0 and in first place in the East after sweeping Trinity, is the only team to have separated itself. The decisive moment of the series with the Bantams came in game two. The Jumbos led early, but Trinity fought back to tie the game with a pair of 7th-inning homers. That sent the game to extras, where, in the 8th, shortstop Matt Moser came up with the biggest homer of the day, a solo shot to left center that won the game and the series for John Casey’s team. In the West, meanwhile, it was Williams who used a walkoff to earn a big series win of their own. The Ephs trailed Little Three rivals Wesleyan for most of the game, but tied things at 2 in the 6th to set up a dramatic 7th. With two on and one out, freshman Kellen Hathaway came up with the biggest moment of his young career, launching a three-run homer over the left-field fence to clinch a big series win. After sweeping them on the way to their last playoff appearance in 2012, Bill Barrale’s team had suffered three straight sweeps at the hands of the Cardinals, but they changed that this weekend. Combine those results with series wins for Colby (over Bowdoin) and Middlebury (over Hamilton), and we’re in for an exciting stretch run in this league.
We move next to our other two-division league, the NEWMAC, where the Worcester schools did well in the West, and MIT and Wheaton put up winning weeks to enter next weekend’s showdown in a dead heat. Clark played some of their best baseball of the year in a sweep of Springfield, earning three comfortable wins over the Pride. First baseman David Eschen had a monster series, to lead the offense, going 7-15 with two doubles, two homers, and nine RBI. On the mound, sophomore Patrick Robinson put together an excellent start in the finale, giving up just a run on five hits, striking out eight, and pitching into the ninth. The sweep put the Cougars back into the playoff picture, thanks in part to WPI‘s series win over Coast Guard. Alex Venditti’s league-leading 11th homer of the year, a grand slam, helped the Engineers to a 23-3 romp in the series clincher. Next week’s Clark-CGA series will likely decide who gets the division’s second playoff spot after WPI. In the East, meanwhile, MIT (two of three from Babson) and Wheaton (sweep of Emerson) both had strong showings to enter the week of their decisive showdown dead even at 11-2 apiece. Even before you consider they’re rematching the last three league championships, next weekend’s games in Cambridge and Norton will have a decided playoff feel to them.
In the Little East, Western Connecticut followed up last year’s sweep by taking a road split off Southern Maine. Craig Frobel went eight, striking out seven and allowing just one earned run to give USM its first conference loss in the opener, but Matt Bender’s successful squeeze brought in Jake Glauser for a game two walkoff that kept the Huskies tied atop the league standings. At 5-1, USM is even with Plymouth State, who earned its first sweep of Eastern Connecticut in a very long time. In game one, Cam Ruziak’s two-RBI double led a four-run 8th in game one’s comeback 7-3 win, and Jarek Krazewski’s walkoff homer completed the sweep in game two. The two league leaders will meet up in a big doubleheader next Saturday.
Southern Vermont’s 4-1 league week led the way in the NECC. I wrote recently about how the Mountaineers were in good shape in the league with many of their toughest games behind them, and they cashed in on the opportunity this week, sweeping a doubleheader from Daniel Webster and taking a series from Lesley. On Wednesday against DWC, Dylan Angelo went seven strong to win the 3-1 opener, and Dan Mason scored the winning run to walkoff 10-9 in the nightcap. Over the weekend, SVC split the first two games with the Lynx, but in the rubber match, the offense put up two touchdowns and Angelo became the program’s all-time wins leader in a 14-2 result. That puts Dave Gage’s team at an excellent 8-4 in conference, and a good result in Wednesday’s home doubleheader against last-place Newbury would all but assure them of their first playoff berth since 2011. In the other series I spotlighted for this week, Elms took a big two of three against Mitchell in a rematch of last year’s title series. In the opener, Tom Weldon went all eight innings of an extra-inning contest, fanning ten and getting win #9 when Alex Hoss came through with a walkoff single. Game two went a bit more comfortably for the Blazers, with Dan Brunetti’s two-RBI single highlighting a seven-run first that sealed the series win early. Mitchell came back to take the rubber game 4-2 behind Tyler Pina’s double and two RBI, and the Mariners remain in first in the standings, but it’s a big series win for an Elms team that’d dropped three league games in the space of the week prior.
In the MASCAC, Salem State and Mass Maritime remain tied atop the standings after splitting their big Saturday doubleheader. Dom Rosado’s two-run double in the 5th put the Vikings on top for good in a 5-3 win in the opener, and MMA’s Daniel Avery tossed a two-hit shutout to win game two 1-0 on Connor Kennedy’s late RBI single. Elsewhere, Fitchburg State‘s road sweep of MCLA allowed the Falcons to pull even with Westfield at a game back of the leaders– Robert Lewis homered and Javier Lozada threw a three-hit shutout in game two’s 12-0 win. And Bridgewater State swept their twinbill from Worcester State for the first time since 2012– the Bears’ pitching staff allowed just one run between the two games.
Endicott‘s 3-1 CCC week kept them tied atop the CCC standings with Western New England. The Gulls came back to take the nightcap 4-2 behind Owen Bautze’s seven-strikeout complete game. Elsewhere, Salve Regina stayed level with those two in the loss column with a 4-0 week that included nice OOC wins over Mitchell and Amherst and a league sweep of Wentworth. Colton Eremian homered and John Kussmaul tripled and drove in three in the 12-7 week that completed the perfect week. The Seahawks have now won seven straight. In the NAC, Maine-Farmington‘s weekend sweep of Lyndon put it back in the playoff picture. Tom Grady homered and drove in six in two blowouts on Saturday, and Kyle Peterson threw a seven-inning shutout to clinch the series in Sunday. Elsewhere, UMF’s Maine neighbors Thomas played a competitive game against D1 Maine in the midweek before taking a weekend series from NEC behind some strong pitching. And finally, Brandeis swept a weekend set from NYU, with Benjamin Bavly’s 8th-inning homer capping off a 11-9 comeback win in the finale.