New England Regional Preview

Wheaton (Mass.) and UMass-Boston finished 1-1 against each other in 2017 but will need to both get playoff bids if they will meet on the field in 2018. photo by Kylie Bridenhagen

by Joshua Kummins

After New England teams were shut out of the College World Series in back-to-back years, the 2017 season was twice ― and oh so close to three times ― as nice for the region, as a pair of Massachusetts programs were among the nation’s final eight teams playing ball in May. UMass Boston and Wheaton are two of the top teams in what looks like another strong regional race.

Their challengers are many. Babson was a worthy regional finalist in Harwich, while Southern Maine was one win in New York away from crashing the second-to-last Appleton dance, too. Tufts is always in the mix, and the likes of Salve Regina, Castleton, and Suffolk are adding their names to this region’s growing list of annual competitors.

Eleven New England teams received consideration for the national rankings for the second straight season. And, seven players from these parts were picked as Preseason All-Americans. It’s going to be a fun few months ahead.

New Faces

Paul Bortolotti, Curry: Bortolotti earns a promotion to the head coaching position after spending the last seven seasons as the Colonels’ pitching coach and the main assistant to 17-year skipper Dave Perdios, who left the program following 2017. He hails from Milton, Mass., where Curry is located.

Dan Briand, Anna Maria: A Becker College grad and former captain, Briand takes over the AMCATS after two years as an assistant coach at Fitchburg State and a decade with Northbridge American Legion Post 343. He has also coached at Roger Williams and his alma mater at the Division III level.

Anthony Leonelli, Pine Manor: Leonelli was tabbed to guide the new Chestnut Hill, Mass., program in September 2016 after leading Blackstone Valley Technical High School for four seasons. His teams won 65 games and a conference championship in that span, while eight players moved to the college level. He also coached Division III basketball for 11 years between Green Mountain College, Rhode Island College, WPI, and Wentworth.

Adam Skonieczki, Southern Vermont: Skonieczki succeeds Dave Gage, who was hired at Stevenson after guiding the team for which he played for five years. The Binghamton, N.Y., native moves north following a two-year assistant coaching stint at Buffalo and has also coached at Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Georgetown College.

Games to Watch in 2018

March 2: It’s only fitting that defending regional champion UMass Boston helps to get the New England season going. Their first of four home games in five days to begin 2018 comes against Lasell of the GNAC.
March 13: Pine Manor opens its first season against Lancaster Bible in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 21: Last year’s New England runner-up Babson faces a stiff test against No. 4 Wisconsin-Whitewater in the last of its seven games in Auburndale, Fla.
March 30-31: The first NESCAC weekend of the season will be a big one for defending champion Tufts as Trinity visits Medford.
April 2: Lesley and Mitchell conclude their three-game season series with a single game in New London, Conn., where the Lynx clinched last year’s NECC championship.
April 3: NAC powerhouse Castleton visits up-and-coming New England College in their first of two April doubleheaders.
April 7: Two of the top CCC programs meet for a doubleheader in Newport, R.I., as Salve Regina hosts Western New England.
April 17: Southern Maine and UMass Boston are likely to lead the Little East pack again, so their home-and-home matchups will be crucial. The series will be played over two Wednesdays, beginning in Boston.
April 20-21: Wheaton and MIT always contend in the NEWMAC. Their three-game series begins with a single Friday game in Cambridge
April 28: GNAC powers Saint Joseph’s (Maine) and Suffolk conclude the regular season against one another with a doubleheader in East Boston.

Conference Previews

Salve Regina is gainng national attention after
appearing in the last two NCAA Playoffs.

Salve Regina athletics photo

Commonwealth Coast Conference: Returning to the CCC winner’s circle for the second straight year in 2017 were the 36-12 Seahawks of Salve Regina, who return nine reigning All-Conference players and seven All-New England picks over the last two seasons. Salve has two of the league’s top arms back in strikeout leader Jimmy Fitzgerald (6-2, 2.75 ERA, 73 K, 52.1 IP) and left-handed Rookie of the Year Patrick Maybach (9-0, 1.36 ERA, 67 K, 59.2 IP). Catcher Christian Vargas (.357, 3 HR, 28 RBI) and third baseman Colton Eremian (.292, 13 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 15 SB) were both named to the league’s First Team a year ago, while first baseman Alex Perry (.317, 14 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 16 SB) is a two-time selection and former Player of the Year. Second baseman John Militano (.358, 14 2B, 1 3B, 32 RBI, 29 SB) was the team’s leading hitter, while the outfield is entirely comprised of All-CCC performers, including junior Zack Smith (.327, 8 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 35 RBI, 10 SB).

A 25-win team for eight straight seasons, Endicott (25-19) returns the standout junior duo of CCC Pitcher of the Year Kevin Gould (6-1, 2.38 ERA, 45 K, 53.0 IP) and top reliever Will Bryant (0-0, 1.27 ERA, 7 SV, 18 K, 21.1 IP). The Gulls do lose reigning Player of the Year and starting shortstop Mike Kochiss to graduation, but second baseman Michael DeDonato (.310, 8 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 19 SB) and outfielders Nick Berno (.338, 5 2B, 4 3B, 10 RBI, 16 SB) and Michael Casciano (.302, 2 HR, 23 RBI) are all back after hitting .300 or better as juniors. 

Western New England (22-18) return junior lefty Bob Hamel, who sported a 2.21 ERA and tied for second in the CCC with seven wins, while All-CCC outfielder Ben LaCroix (.329, 5 HR, 35 RBI) and infielders Jared Rosenblatt (.306, 2 HR, 28 RBI) and Alex Loparco (.286, 11 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 8 SB) are also back to the team based in Springfield, Mass. Another .300 hitter, Aaron Rios (.307, 16 RBI, 8 SB) was honored as a sophomore designated hitter. The team that tied the Golden Bears for third place a year ago, Curry (15-20) boasts one of just two returning All-CCC pitchers who is now a senior in David Griffin (3-5, 2.00 ERA, 3 SV, 53 K, 67.1 IP). Outfielder John Cave (.274, 11 RBI) is the Colonels’ top veteran hitter.

Nichols (23-19) has a strong core returning from a team that made a second straight postseason appearance. Second baseman Cam Cook (.383, 9 2B, 2 3B, 19 RBI, 20 RBI), outfielder Nick Roy (.379, 8 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 32 RBI, 17 SB), and first baseman Kyle Bouchard (.351, 10 2B, 1 HR, 16 RBI) are all back from what was the second-best offensive club in the CCC last year. The Bison also return starting pitchers Danny Hayden (7-2, 3.15 ERA) and StigErik McElhinney (5-3, 5.07 ERA), who combined for 12 wins in 20 appearances.

Gordon (13-22) will be missing three-time All-CCC slugger Dean Demers, but junior infielder Christian Hodge (.353, 7 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 22 RBI) was the Fighting Scots’ other .300 hitter a year ago. Fellow junior Derek Hudson (2-2, 5.18 ERA, 34 K, 40.0 IP) is Gordon’s top returner on the mound. Wentworth (15-16) has a pair of All-CCC players back on its roster in First Team designated hitter Tyler Weninger (.297, 10 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 28 RBI) and Third Team pitcher Ryan Obin, who went 5-3 last year but posted the fifth-best ERA in the nation at 1.13.

Roger Williams (12-27) had catcher Chris Bosco (.324, 7 2B, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 11 SB) and outfielder Justin Stone (.371, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 6 SB) earn CCC honors as underclassmen last year, while senior Sam Bennett (3-3, 3.19 ERA, 41 K, 42.1 IP) returns to top the rotation. Despite its last-place finish, Eastern Nazarene (11-22-2) had the fourth-best hitting club in the CCC a year ago, thanks in large part to the team-leading effort of infielder Steven Pesce (.381, 6 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR, 23 RBI) as a rookie. Senior Alex Way (4-3, 4.60 ERA) was the Lions’ leading arm.

TEAM TO BEAT: Salve Regina

Seniors Mark Fusco (pictured) and Ryan Pordes
will give the Rams a potent 1-2 combination on
the mound in 2018.

Suffolk athletics photo

Great Northeast Athletic Conference: Sixteen players return to a Suffolk (28-17) team that won its seventh-ever GNAC title and fourth in the last decade and finished as a regional semifinalist in NCAA New England Regional in Harwich, Mass last season. Brady Chant (.361, 13 2B, 12 3B, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 17 SB) enters his senior season with a trophy case already stocked full as a three-time GNAC First Team outfielder and Second Team Preseason All-American, and has the opportunity to break nearly every offensive school record. The Ram lineup will have a much different look as four positional starters and reigning GNAC Pitcher of the Year Chuck Gibson are lost. Seniors Mark Fusco (4-4, 2.25 ERA) and Ryan Pordes (7-1, 3.20 ERA, 54 K, 76 IP) are back in the starting rotation.

After earning the league’s No. 1 seed for a fifth consecutive season in 2017, Saint Joseph’s (Maine) (31-8) has revenge on its mind after its season came to a sudden end with back-to-back GNAC tournament losses. The Monks lose three All-Conference picks in Taylor Black, Max McCoomb, and Jameson Collins, but Will Sanborn’s club returns depth at nearly every position, led by .300 hitters Noah McDaniel (.380, 24 RBI) and Joey Murphy (.331, 18 RBI) on the infield as juniors. One of the top left-handers in New England, senior Josh Partridge (6-2, 1.61 ERA, 48 K, 44.2 IP) anchors an experienced pitching staff.

The two top returning hitters in the GNAC belong to Lasell (16-16) in the persons of second baseman/pitcher Dave Marsell (.387, 18 RBI; 1-0, 2.57 ERA, 7.0 IP) and first baseman Dom Mascolo (.386, 4 HR, 21 RBI). The Lasers’ other veteran standout is last year’s All-GNAC Third Team third baseman Andre Marchesseault (.345, 1 HR, 24 RBI). The other team in the top half of the league last year was Johnson & Wales (23-19), which returns four of its All-Star performers, including First Team outfielder Dave Matthews (.380, 4 RBI, 37 RBI) and Rookie of the Year Joe Maracic (.292, 19 RBI). The Wildcats also bring back senior Keith Grant (3-5, 4.75 ERA) and junior James Smiegocki (4-2, 2.08 ERA) on the mound.

Norwich (12-24), Albertus Magnus (10-21-1), Rivier (3-29), and Anna Maria (7-31) all remain looking up. A Second Team All-GNAC performer last year, Norwich outfielder Kevin Lynch (.364, 10 RBI) is the top returning player from the bottom group of teams. The league’s top utility player, Tyler Ferdinand (.360, 7 RBI, 11 SB; 0-4, 6.32 ERA, 2 SV) is back with Rivier.


UMass-Boston firstbaseman Chris Fowler had
a 41 game hit streak in 2017. photo by Kylie Bridenhagen

Little East Conference: What can UMass Boston (38-12) do for an encore? After capturing their first NCAA at-large bid as a program in 2016, the Beacons strung together seven straight wins after facing elimination on the second day of LEC tournament play to win the league crown and then advance to their first College World Series since 2010 via a sweep of the NCAA New England Regional in Harwich, Mass. Head coach Brendan Eygabroat again sees depth in his group that also benefits from infielder David Murphy (.316, 19 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 48 RBI in 2016) and lefty J.T. Morin (5-0, 3.88 ERA, 1 SV, 62 K, 60.1 IP) returning to full health. All four of the team’s graduates played a key role in last season’s success, but the lineup is still strong with all four infielders back as upperclassmen, including First Team Preseason All-America first baseman Chris Fowler (.367, 13 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 48 RBI), who put together a 41-game hitting streak last year. Morin and junior Fernando Burgos (5-2, 4.08 ERA, 47 K, 57.1 IP) lead the rotation, while the back end of games will be left to the outstanding senior-junior duo of Bryan Kaufman (3-0, 5 SV, 1.03 ERA, 24 APP, 43 K, 61.1 IP) and Bobby Tramondozzi (4-3, 6 SV, 3.49 ERA, 24 APP, 40 K, 38.2 IP). 

Southern Maine (34-13) actually finished a game ahead of the Beacons in the regular-season race and was a regional finalist in New York. It, too, has a cupboard stocked for at least a repeat performance and a shot at reaching Appleton for the first time since 2014. The Huskies had six underclassmen hit above .300 on a 34-win club last spring and return eight positional starters as well as key starters Dalton Rice (6-1, 3.78 ERA, 80 K, 69.0 IP) and Henry Curran (3-1, 4.55 ERA, 34 K, 31.2 IP) as juniors. Outfielder Dylan Hapworth (.394, 14 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 41 RBI) was the LEC’s Rookie of the Year, while Jake Dexter (.356, 1 HR, 25 RBI; 4-2, 12 SV, 2.66 ERA, 26 APP, 34 K, 40.2 IP) is a third-year, multi-position sparkplug who starts every day on the middle infield and led the region in saves last year. Shortstop Andrew Olszak (.314, 13 2B, 1 3B, 34 RBI) trailed only Hapworth in the RBI category among the Huskies and returns to an lineup that also includes All-LEC Second Team outfielder Zach Quintal (.361, 50 R, 69 H, 16 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 13 SB). 

UMass Dartmouth (25-20) looks to build momentum from its second 25-win season in three years and first conference championship appearance since 2013. All-LEC Second Team shortstop Erick Ramirez (.308, 17 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 27 RBI, 20 SB) anchors the lineup as a junior, while two-way player Nate Tellier (.294, 9 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 27 SB; 1-0, 2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 9 K, 7.2 IP) was the lone Corsair to appear in all 45 games. The senior starting trio of Gianni Esposito (1-4, 5.52 ERA), Benjamin Lodge (6-2, 4.55 ERA, 1 SV), and Mac Curran (1-3, 7.09 ERA) return, as does sophomore reliever Robbie Carrillo (2-2, 2.32 ERA, 3 SV) whose 25 appearances ranked among LEC leaders.

Eastern Connecticut State (21-16) won’t have the services of Alex Zachary in the outfield, but junior third baseman Alex Parkos (.372, 15 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 40 RBI) joined the reigning LEC Player of the Year on last season’s All-Conference First Team and sits in the middle of a lineup that posted a .310 average. Senior first baseman DJ Scavone (.292, 12 2B, 2 HR, 22 RBI) and junior center fielder Alexander White (.317, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 9 SB) are also key returners. Jordan Muchin (4-5, 5.05, 63 K, 62.1 IP) leads a pitching staff that will strive for consistency.

The remaining four clubs finished last season below .500 in the conference in 2017, but Rhode Island College (17-19) could make a jump up the ladder as five of its six .300 hitters are back in the lineup, including first baseman Frank Pettinato (.350, 1 HR, 21 RBI), designated hitter/pitcher Mike Webb (.338, 22 RBI; 2-3, 3 SV, 4.30 ERA, 26 K, 44.0 IP), and outfielder Brad Douglas (.328, 14 RBI, 14 SB). Along with Webb, the pitching staff includes senior Daniel Greaves (3-5, 7.20 ERA, 42 K, 55.0 IP). Several transfers join the Anchormen, including pitcher Andrew Veiga from the University of Rhode Island.

Keene State (15-23) enters the spring in a similar situation in losing only 10 at-bats from a season ago to graduation, so its lineup is fully intact with first baseman Connor Longley (.395, 4 HR, 24 RBI) and designated hitter John Tarascio (.388, 4 HR, 24 RBI) leading the way as juniors. Longley posted the league’s second-best average and won an NECBL championship with the Valley Blue Sox this past year. The Owls will miss LEC Pitcher of the Year Michael Crimi and his 72 strikeouts, but sophomore Andrew Houde (2-5, 2 SV, 4.66 ERA, 42 K, 48.1 IP) will take over the top slot following a summer with the NECBL’s hometown Swamp Bats.

Cam Ruziak had a .983 fielding percentage as he
grabbed All-Little East honors at the end of the
2017 season.

Plymouth State athletics photo

The other New Hampshire squad, Plymouth State (19-19) returns its cornerstone offensive pieces in All-LEC catcher Cam Ruziak (.263, 1 HR, 18 RBI) and outfielder Ryan Richard (.374, 17 RBI, 21 SB), as well as sophomores David Sampson (0-6, 1 SV, 5.68 ERA) and Dylan Gaita (3-2, 4.54 ERA) to lead the pitchers. Western Connecticut State (15-20) loses its top two regular pieces from a team that hit .299, but five of its top six innings eaters last year are upperclassmen. Key seniors for the Colonials include catcher Zach Sagar (.338, 6 2B, 10 RBI), third baseman Joe Daigle (.322, 9 RBI), and versatile infielder Bill Buscetto (.286, 11 RBI), while juniors George Bielizna (3-2, 4.64 ERA, 38 K, 54.1 IP) and Taylor Donofrio (0-1, 4 SV, 2.70 ERA, 17 APP, 25 K, 20.0 IP) pace both ends of the pitching staff.

TEAM TO BEAT: UMass-Boston

Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference: The finish to the MASCAC season gone by proved that anything can happen when the calendar flips to May. It was not regular-season champion Westfield State (28-9) that emerged from the field come playoff time, but a pair of teams that finished at and below the .500 mark. The Owls, though, are positioned well for a return to the top with All-MASCAC outfielders Anthony Crowley (.395, 7 2B, 6 3B, 7 HR, 40 RBI) and John Lippincott (.336, 10 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 30 RBI) leading an experienced, athletic lineup. Westfield also returns three key members of the starting rotation that paced its league-best pitching staff in senior Nate Marshall (5-1, 1 SV, 3.05 ERA), junior John Gegetskas (3-1, 3.56 ERA, 51 K, 48.0 IP), and senior Nate Barnes (3-2, 3.43 ERA).

Despite finishing under .500 in MASCAC play, Worcester State (20-22) finished bracket play on top for the first time since 2014. The key returners in Dirk Baker’s Lancer lineup stood out as underclassmen in 2017, including the league’s Rookie of the Year in first baseman Ben Palatino (.331, 11 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 24 RBI) and fellow sophomore Kevin Larkin (.338, 3 HR, 20 RBI) and junior Mike Ferrara (.322, 4 HR, 30 RBI) in the outfield. On the mound, Luke Brennan (4-6, 5.75 ERA, 67 K, 56.1 IP) and Kyle Sullivan (6-2, 3.06 ERA) are junior starters.

orcester bested nearby rival Framingham State (20-24) for last year’s title, but the Rams are poised for another run as they return one of the region’s most veteran pitching staffs while losing just three total seniors. MASCAC Pitcher of the Year Kevin Connelly (7-1, 2.35 ERA, 63 K, 69.0 IP) and junior classmate Kyle Hodgson (1-5, 1 SV, 4.32 ERA, 70 K, 75.0 IP) are two of the club’s top arms, while junior Jordan Pallazola (.265, 12 2B, 7 HR, 38 RBI) is a returning MASCAC Second Team performer behind the plate.

Salem State (22-20) hit a league-leading .310 last year, but was single-handedly eliminated from playoff contention by the Rams. It marked the first season since 2012 in which Salem did not win the MASCAC regular-season and/or tournament title. The Vikings return All-MASCAC First Team second baseman Brendan Greene (.349, 8 2B, 2 3B, 26 RBI, 8 SB) and outfielder Joe White, who led last spring’s club with 33 RBI while hitting .354. On the mound, Richie Sharp (6-1, 5.13 ERA) earned six wins in 10 appearances as a freshman.

Fitchburg State (14-20-1) returns its six of its top seven hitters from a year ago, including three All-MASCAC honorees in utility player Noah Milliard (.397, 10 2B, 1 3B, 14 RBI), shortstop Brandon Lefebvre (.305, 24 RBI, 10 SB), and outfielder Sean Maki (.352, 11 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 10 SB). The Falcons lose top starter Tyler Smith to graduation, but junior Andrew Mooney (0-2, 5.46 ERA) returns to the rotation along with Tommy Parsons, who missed all of last season with an injury after winning six games as a sophomore, are back.

Despite posting the sixth-best average for MCLA (12-18) last year, Christian Seariac (.275, 6 RBI, 7 SB) earned All-MASCAC Second Team honors as a freshman utility man. Senior Liam Nolan (1-6, 7.14 ERA, 44 K, 40.1 IP) leads a Trailblazer pitching staff that did not have a senior make one start on the mound.

Connor Kennedy has batted .350 over the first
three years as a member of the Buccaneers.

Mass Maritime athletics photo

The bottom two teams in the league each return a reigning All-Conference performer. Mass Maritime (12-16) has hot swinger Connor Kennedy (.383, 6 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR, 14 RBI) back in the outfield as a senior, while junior Brian Kwedor (4-2, 1.80 ERA) leads the pitchers. The Bears of Bridgewater State (10-21) lose Player of the Year Ryan Feeney, but his double play partner returns in the person of senior second baseman Matt Levasseur (.311, 1 HR, 15 RBI).

TEAM TO BEAT: Westfield State

New England Collegiate Conference: A walk-off upset allowed Lesley (22-19-1) to continue its best season in program history as this league’s champion for the first time ever, and the Lynx return the top five hitters from a team that ultimately played three games deep in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional. J.P. Agiorgousis (.321, 11 2B, 2 HR, 19 RBI) is back as the infield’s senior leader, while first baseman Ryan Pumphret (.291, 4 HR, 22 RBI) and catcher Jacob Cervantes (.298, 17 RBI) were All-NECC Second Teamers as sophomores. Also returning are seniors Tom Muratore (7-5, 2 SV, 4.24 ERA, 51 K, 74.1 IP) and Nick Iadevaio (5-4, 2 SV, 3.17 ERA, 44 K, 65.1 IP), who combined for more than 40 percent of the team’s innings pitched last season.

Mitchell (29-13) returns the runaway top bat in the region from a season ago in shortstop Garret Griffin, who posted the nation’s fourth-best average (.496, 62 H, 45 R, 10 2B, 6 HR, 41 RBI) en route to winning NECC Player of the Year honors. He teams up with fellow senior Kyle Hartenstein (.422, 70 H, 51 R, 19 2B, 3 HR, 43 RBI) to form one of the region’s best double play combinations and help lead a team with a mix of returners and talented freshmen. On the mound, senior Eddie Santiago (6-1, 3.73 ERA, 65 K, 60.1 IP) leads the Mariners.

The Elms (18-20) pitching staff brings back a pair of talented arms in sophomore Jacob Graveline (5-3, 4.21 ERA) and junior Matt Plasse (5-3, 2.89 ERA) following All-Conference First Team campaigns. Plasse was the league’s Rookie of the Year. An NECC Second Team outfielder as a sophomore, Alex Hoss (.317, 13 RBI) is the top returning Blazer after the club’s top four regular hitters graduated this offseason.

Chris Testa (.319, 5 HR, 27 RBI), Josiah Shepherd (.277, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 22 SB), and Kevin Perez (.324, 2 HR, 16 RBI) lead an experienced Becker (19-19) lineup that hit .308 as a team last season. On the mound, the Hawks will turn to juniors Tanyon Ventres (3-3, 5.22 ERA) and Daniel Diaz (2-1, 11.66 ERA, 32 K, 29.1 IP) as well as senior Michael Iacovelli (4-2, 1 SV, 4.93 ERA) and Chris LaDou (3-1, 6.35 ERA) to lead the way. Newbury (18-18-1) brings back outfielder Matthew Sobray (.400, 10 2B, 7 3B, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 10 SB), whose was one of just 11 hitters in the region with a .400 average or better last spring.

Southern Vermont (8-26) returns junior Zack Stacey (.321, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 9 SB) and sophomore Connor Pingitore (.286, 3 RBI) to the outfield while looking to replace its top two starting pitchers. Dean (16-15-2) joins the NECC after opening its Division III tenure as an independent, replacing now-defunct Daniel Webster. The Bulldogs’ top four hitters all departed, but Christian Ponce (4-1, 4.36 ERA) leads a group of four returning pitchers who were freshmen last year.

TEAM TO BEAT: Mitchell

Brady Furdon was 1-1 in the NCAA Regionals
and D-III World Series in 2017 for Wheaton. photo by Kylie Bridenhagen

New England Women’s & Men’s Athletic Conference: The NEWMAC enjoyed a strong baseball year in 2017 as four teams eclipsed the 25-win marker, including NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional champion Wheaton (Mass.) (27-17) and New England runner-up Babson (29-15).

It looked like the season came to an end for Wheaton after it was swept it out of the NEWMAC semifinals by eventual champion Babson, but the Lyons used an NCAA at-large bid as a second life. And, four wins in five games and their first regional championship since 2012 followed. Not a single Lyon earned an All-Region honor last spring, but sophomore Trevor Marques (3-2, 1 SV, 2.89 ERA, 53 K, 43.2 IP) and seniors Brady Furdon (5-2, 3.32 ERA) and Dan Southerland (3-3, 3.63 ERA) return to lead what was the league’s second-best pitching staff. Top hitters Zach Goodwin-Boyd and Josh LaJoie are lost to graduation, so senior second baseman Chris Ruocco (.295, 11 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 19 RBI) will help lead the offense along with outfielder Jared Sharkey (.310, 11 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 10 SB) who played in all 44 games as a sophomore.

Babson is coming off its winningest season in program history and first NEWMAC title since 2009. NEIBA Coach of the Year Matt Noone’s Beavers return seven positional starters and eight of the top nine pitchers from a team that won four elimination games in last May’s New England Regional, including senior Preseason All-American designated hitter Ryan Arena (.331, 12 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 36 RBI) and NEWMAC Second Team second baseman/pitcher Connor Gill (.286, 8 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI; 5-0, 3.33 ERA). Shortstop Brian McHale (.366, 12 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 27 RBI, 12 SB) and catcher Sean Harrington (.311, 11 2B, 1 HR, 18 RBI) both hit above .300 as underclassmen last year, while seniors Teddy Carey (6-3, 3.44 ERA, 79 K, 70.2 IP) and conference ERA leader John Floegel (3-1, 1.77), and juniors Michael Genaro (6-2, 2.90 ERA) and Edward Lehr (2-2, 5.50 ERA) all return to the pitching staff.

Despite losing shortstop Austin Filiere and lefty David Hesslink to the professional ranks, MIT (21-14-1) returns the NEWMAC Rookie of the Year and its fifth-best strikeout pitcher in sophomores Matt Johnston (.401, 14 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 32 RBI) and Jared Tramontano (4-3, 3.21 ERA, 45 K, 42.0 IP), respectively. Johnson was the lone rookie in a group of three .400 hitters in the league last season. The Engineers also return senior first baseman/outfielder Kyler Hocher (.342, 8 2B, 4 HR, 36 RBI) and junior southpaw Patrick Callahan (5-2, 3.99 ERA) after both earned Second Team All-NEWMAC honors.

Third Team All-Region third baseman Steven Gallagher (.345, 9 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 52 RBI) and outfielder Ryan Tropeano (.430, 9 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 30 SB) lead a strong WPI (25-12) lineup as juniors, but the Worcester-based Engineers have middle infield and depth pitching slots open for the taking. Gallagher led the league in RBI last year, while Tropeano won the batting title and swiped the second-most bags in all of New England. Senior Steve D’Agostino (2-1, 4.95 ERA, 35 K, 40.0 IP) and junior Doug Rives (6-2, 1 SV, 3.92 ERA, 43 K, 41.1 IP) return to weekend pitching roles, while Keith Scales (4-2, 3.89 ERA) is a key sophomore.

Clark (26-13) set a school wins record and played postseason baseball for the first time since 2010 after challenging for the West Division’s top spot, ultimately clinched by the Cougars’ Worcester rival for the third straight year. J.P. Pyne’s club returns a slew of key pieces, including a pair of senior, All-NEWMAC standouts in Second Team Preseason All-America shortstop Kyle Bonicki (.391, 50 R, 61 H, 20 2B, 7 3B, 4 HR, 31 RBI, 12 SB) and outfielder Teddy Downing (.411, 11 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 11 SB) as well as Pitcher of the Year Cal Slepkow (6-1, 2.70 ERA, 52 K, 66.2 IP).

Emerson (8-21) finished deep at the bottom of the East Division last year, despite a .301-hitting season from senior second baseman Neil Perry (.301, 8 RBI, 9 SB) and solid first-year efforts from Jack Fox (2-5, 2.52 ERA) and Sam Knox (2-3, 4.43 ERA) on the mound. Springfield (15-14) and Coast Guard (12-23) rounded out the West side. Sophomore lefty Shawn Babineau (2-2, 1.89 ERA) and junior Brian Johnson (2-3, 2.43 ERA, 37 K, 33.1 IP) paced the Pride rotation, and second baseman Mark Joao (.388, 6 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 27 RBI) returns as the team’s offensive catalyst. Third baseman Zach Serna (.318, 7 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 21 RBI) is a veteran player back in the fold for a Coast Guard team that struggled on both sides of the ball last year.


Tufts' first baseman Nick Falkson was
the first Jumbo since 2008 to earn
NESCAC Player of the Year honors.
Tufts athletics photo

New England Small College Athletic Conference: Tufts (30-10-1) won its second straight NESCAC title last spring before being ousted from NCAA contention with a pair of one-run losses in New York. The Jumbos will always be in the thick of the conference race, but they’ll have to replace two career 18-game winners on the mound in two-time New England Pitcher of the Year Speros Varinos and lefty Tim Superko. The first Jumbo since 2008 to earn NESCAC Player of the Year honors, first baseman Nick Falkson (.373, 8 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 37 RBI) joins fellow senior infielder Tommy O’Hara (.351, 13 2B, 4 HR, 46 RBI) and shortstop Will Shackleford (.368, 6 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 28 RBI) as returning All-Conference performers. Junior R.J. Hall (3-4, 3.39 ERA) is the lone holdover from a rotation that paced New England’s third-best pitching staff a year ago.

Middlebury (22-16) and Amherst (20-16) tied atop the West Division last year, but both lose key pieces to the puzzle. The Panthers do return a pair of .300-hitting regulars in sophomore Justin Han (.319, 4 HR, 20 RBI) and junior Sam Graf (.323, 3 HR, 30 RBI) as well as the league’s leading closer in junior Conor Himstead (1-0, 1.64 ERA, 8 SV, 18 K, 22.0 IP), but first baseman Jason Lock and outfielder Ryan Rizzo are lost to graduation. Junior Colby Morris (6-4, 4.46 ERA) was the only Middlebury pitcher with double-digit starts last year. While the Mammoths won’t have NESCAC batting champion Yanni Thanopoulos and Anthony Spina roaming the outfield or Jackson Volle on the mound any longer, their five other .300 hitters are back, including shortstop Harry Roberson (.359, 12 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 9 SB) and outfielder Ryan Hardin (.327, 16 RBI, 12 SB) as seniors.

Connor Speed (1-7, 2.98 ERA) and Connor Russell (2-1, 3.27 ERA) return to a pitching staff that helped Bates (16-18) finish within two games of the Jumbos for the East title and ranked second with a 3.51 team ERA. Sophomore outfielder Will Sylvia (.287, 1 HR, 9 RBI) is the top Bobcat hitter. Bowdoin (15-18) welcomes back its top four hitters, including Sawyer Billings (.313, 14 RBI) and the league’s reigning First Team utility player in junior Brandon Lopez (4-1, 2.62 ERA; .333, 1 HR, 15 RBI).

Trinity (Conn.) (22-14) had two freshmen, a sophomore, and two juniors all hit above .300 last year, including catcher Alex Rodriguez (.342, 8 2B, 3 3B, 23 RBI) who won NESCAC Co-Rookie of the Year honors. Junior Eric Mohl (7-2, 2.55 ERA) joined graduated utility man Nick DiBenedetto, who now plays in the Baltimore Orioles organization, on the All-NESCAC Second Team. Also returning to the Bantams is senior Brendan Pierce, who hit .275 with five of the team’s 10 home runs. The Mules of Colby (10-25-1) rounded out the East Division last year with 18 combined freshmen and sophomores, including leading run producer Tyler Mulberry (.304, 10 2B, 17 RBI). However, their top hitters were now-seniors Ben Coleman (.415, 6 RBI, 14 SB) and Matt Treveloni (.333, 6 RBI).

Wesleyan (19-16) returns outfielder Matt Jeye (.285, 3 HR, 29 RBI) and first baseman/pitcher Ryan Earle (.252, 3 HR, 18 RBI; 5-0, 2.10 ERA, 4 SV, 21 K, 30.0 IP) who both played in every game a year ago. Lefty Mike McCaffrey (3-3, 4.11 ERA, 1 SV, 56 K, 46.0 IP) was a Futures Collegiate League All-Star for the Brockton Rox. Williams (19-11) brings back All-NESCAC First Team infielder Kellen Hatheway (.362, 12 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 25 RBI) and lefty John Lamont (4-1, 1.80 ERA, 37 K, 40.0 IP), while senior Jack Roberts (.368, 2 HR, 27 RBI) was named to the Second Team infield. Hamilton (15-17) looks to avoid its third straight fifth-place West Division finish, but the going will be tough as its top six regulars were seniors last year. Graham McOsker hit .348 with five RBI in 10 games as a rookie first baseman, while senior Dan DePaoli (3-5, 3.19 ERA, 38 K, 42.1 IP) is the Continentals’ top returner on the bump.


Castelton P/1B Davis Mikell was tabbed as the
NAC Rookie of the Year in 2017.

Castleton athletics photo

North Atlantic Conference: Castleton (34-10) is coming off its third straight 30-win season and fourth straight NAC title. The Spartans look like the favorites to remain in the top spot as last season’s top six hitters were a freshman (Davis Mikell) and five sophomores, while their pitching staff led the nation with a 2.24 ERA. Mikell stood out on both sides en route to earning NAC Rookie of the Year honors, hitting .313 with nine home runs and 32 RBI while going 6-2 with a 1.64 ERA and 73 strikeouts in nine appearances. Dillon Benham (.301, 3 HR, 36 RBI, 13 SB) earned All-NAC honors in the outfield. Mikell and junior Charles Stapleford (2-2, 3.00, 30 K, 30.0 IP) will lead a rotation that loses four to graduation; however, no pitcher on the team had an ERA higher than 3.60 over any amount of innings in 2017. 

A strong New England College (24-20) club with top-to-bottom talent could be a serious challenger to the Spartans. Not only do the Pilgrims return seven starters from last season, but they bring in a group of 22 newcomers that includes eight transfers. Preseason All-American and three-time All-Region outfielder Evan Delaney (.391, 9 2B, 9 HR, 41 RBI, 33 SB) leads the veteran group, while sophomore Stanley Vargas (4-3, 4 SV, 3.74 ERA, 74.2 IP, 110 K; .299, 14 RBI, 14 SB) paces a starting staff that is mainly comprised of his classmates and juniors.

The middle of the pack was tight as Lyndon State (22-20), Husson (22-20), and Colby-Sawyer (19-19) were all separated by just two games. Five players named to All-NAC teams return, including the league’s top second baseman in Colby-Sawyer senior second baseman Doug Avellino, who hit .365 with 26 RBI. Ryan Glendye (4-4, 4.73 ERA) helped the Chargers pitch better than any team in the NAC aside from Castleton. Sam Huston (.323, 3 HR, 35 RBI) returns to Husson as a catcher. Ben Rollins (.313, 11 RBI) is Lyndon’s top veteran, while Zak Johnson (5-4, 4.56 ERA; .293, 12 RBI) helped the Hornets to a third-place league finish as a sophomore.

Thomas (7-31-1) and Maine-Farmington (5-29) rounded out the league’s top four teams in 2016, but dropped to the bottom two places last year. Firstly, the Terriers had a pair of players named to the NAC Second Team as freshmen in second baseman Darren Kelly (.298, 4 RBI) and outfielder Grant Corbett (.248, 4 HR, 17 RBI). The NAC’s top utility player was now-UMF sophomore Derek Bowen, whose .374 average trailed only Delaney among the league’s hitters.

TEAM TO BEAT: Castleton

Independents: Brandeis (6-21) of the University Athletic Association is an unbelievably young team yet again as just four players on its roster are upperclassmen. Victor Oppenheimer led the Judges with a .325 average and was one of seven freshmen position players to play in at least 16 games for the team last year, while senior Sean O’Neill (3-4, 3.32 ERA, 53 K, 59.2 IP) will be the pitching ace again.

A few miles from Waltham, Pine Manor begins its varsity existence as an independent this spring with a roster of 23 newcomers. Head coach Anthony Leonelli cites a trio of freshmen in starting pitcher Armando Maldonado, second baseman Joey Mello, and catcher Evan Reynolds as key players.