For the first time since 2010, someone other than Saint Joe’s comes into this week as defending GNAC champions. After Suffolk wrested the championship away from the Monks last season, the two teams contested this year’s regular-season title through the final weekend, and both look primed for a deep playoff run. And of course, four other teams will be itching to break up their duopoly on the league’s autobid. They’ll play games in Waltham, Standish, East Boston, and Providence this week before deciding a champion come Sunday. More ahead on the history, the playoff race, and each of the six teams involved.
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.)
So we’re going to try something new with our weekend previews. Instead of going division-by-division, league-by-league like before, I’m going to break things down by region. The idea is to give people an idea of the best games on offer in their own backyards. Every week, I’ll pick the can’t-miss series from every corner of New England and talk about the narratives, players, and implications surrounding each of them. As I’ve written elsewhere, you’d have plenty of reasons to get yourself to a park even if we weren’t expecting sunshine this weekend. So thanks for clicking, enjoy the post, and if you won’t already be playing in one, get out and see a game.
We’ve gotten in a lot more non-conference baseball than we’re used to this year, but with the end of March, we’re finally getting into conference play. Leagues like the ACC, AEC, NEC, and NECC are in full swing now, and some fascinating title races are already taking shape. More on those, and on the slew of NECB clubs representing the region well as our center of gravity shifts from south to north in the weeks ahead.
(One other thing, a favor to ask: I’ll be linking the blog posts on a Facebook page from here on out, and I’d much appreciate it if you’d give it a like and help spread the word to folks who aren’t on Twitter to follow the season along with us. Thanks, and enjoy the post!)
The GNAC Tournament. It’s like the Iowa Caucuses of New England college baseball. Every year, it’s our first glimpse of what the next few weeks of playoff baseball will bring. Coming off a strong 2014 that saw Saint Joseph’s win a pair of games in the NCAAs and Suffolk take the ECAC title, the conference faltered a bit early in the season, but it righted the ship, and an intriguing tournament field promises an exciting week of baseball. All the action will be within a short drive from Boston, Providence, Portland, or Manchester, and playoff college baseball brings an intensity that’s a lot of fun to watch.
We’ve turned the calendar to April, and it feels like the conference standings are starting to settle out. We’re a couple weekends into league play in Division I, and New England teams sit atop the standings in the MAAC, NEC, and Patriot League. In Divisions II and III, some teams have gotten some separation in the early going. Franklin Pierce’s 27-2 start has powered it to a 7-1 divisional mark, and they swept one of their direct rivals this weekend. Every one of the Division III conferences has seen a team race off to a perfect start so far. Husson in the NAC (10-0), Endicott in the CCC (8-0), Saint Joseph’s in the GNAC (6-0), Mitchell (6-0) and Becker (5-0) in the NECC, MIT in the NEWMAC (5-0), Western Connecticut in the LEC (4-0), Amherst (3-0) and Wesleyan (3-0) in the NESCAC, and Salem State in the MASCAC (2-0). It’s still early, of course, but in all three divisions, New England teams have set the bar high for the rest of the teams in their conferences.
Division III explodes onto the scene this weekend, with more than half of New England’s teams in action. It’s a deep region, with many of last year’s playoff teams returning talent and other teams waiting in the wings. Most of them have scheduled like they mean business, as you’ll see below, and it’ll prep them for what looks to be another year of tightly contested playoff chases and exciting conference tournaments. Here’s a conference-by-conference rundown of this weekend’s games.