Bishop Brady grad Blandini hitting stride for SNHU baseball team

  • Southern New Hampshire University sophomore Tom Blandini follows through on a swing during a game against the University of Bridgeport last season. Courtesy of Southern New Hampshire University Athletics

  • Southern New Hampshire University infielder Tom Blandini fires over a throw to first base during a game last season for the Penmen. Courtesy / Southern New Hampshire University Athletics

  • Tom Blandini Courtesy / Southern New Hampshire University Athletics

  • Southern New Hampshire University sophomore Tom Blandini (bottom) slides into second base during a home game last season for the Penmen. Courtesy / Southern New Hampshire University Athletics

  • Southern New Hampshire University sophomore Tom Blandini (right) talks with a coach at third base during a game against the University of Bridgeport last season. Courtesy / Southern New Hampshire University Athletics

Monitor staff
Published: 3/23/2018 12:30:12 AM

It was far from baseball weather. Temperatures hovered around freezing and a blanket of snow covered up most of the stands at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Mass.

Even with the conditions on the road, it wasn’t hard for Southern New Hampshire University baseball coach Scott Loiseau to spot a familiar face in the crowd.

“We’re down in Northborough last weekend. It’s 20 degrees and Mr. Blandini is digging a hole in the snow and sitting down in the snow bank to take in 18 innings of baseball just supporting his kid,” Loiseau said. “We’re lucky to have people like that associated with the program.”

It’s nothing new for Paul Blandini and his wife, Mary-Bridget. Sports are in the family’s DNA.

Paul fell in love with the game of baseball as a kid and Mary-Bridget finished her soccer career as the all-time leading scorer at Plymouth State University. At least one of them – if not both – attend every game for the Penmen just to soak in any chance they can get to watch their son and sophomore infielder Tom Blandini take the field.

The fact that Tom is blossoming into a critical everyday player for the Penman is just a bonus.

“It’s really fun to watch,” Paul Blandini said. “Obviously as a parent you love watching your kids in general, but when you got a kid out there performing pretty well, it just makes you so proud and I love the game of baseball so I’m super stoked to see him out there playing.”

Tom, a Bow native and four-year baseball standout at Bishop Brady High School, as well as a longtime player for the Concord Cannons, has emerged as a reliable, do-it-all weapon at the top of the SNHU’s lineup this season. After an uneven freshman campaign, Blandini has settled into an everyday role for the Penmen (10-7). He’s started all 17 games, leads the team in triples (six) and is tied for the team lead in hits (20) while posting a .317/.434/.540 slash line to go along with six stolen bases.

“He’s kind of exactly what we need right now in terms of his mentality,” Loiseau said. “He’s a real confident kid and that’s part of what makes him a great player. … I thought last year he had a shot for rookie of the year in our conference and some things just didn’t go the way we thought. His opportunities didn’t come exactly like we thought they would, but we knew we had a good player on our hands.”

Blandini already collected his first collegiate walk-off hit – a two-run single to beat LIU Post on Feb. 24. – has five multi-hit games this season and rattled off a nine-game hitting streak for the Penmen from Feb. 25 to March 12. All while lowering his strikeout rate, raising his on-base percentage and providing SNHU with a threat on the base paths.

“It’s like night and day,” the elder Blandini said of his son. “What’s funny is the first year he’s always on a new team, he has that feeling out kind of year and never does super well. And then that second year on, he always excels and this is just another example of that.”

Blandini’s evolution into an impact college player really began this past summer when he was sent to the Future Collegiate Baseball League’s Nashua Silver Knights to play center field and hone his approach at the plate.

His playing time was sporadic to begin the campaign. By the end of the regular season, he was in the lineup every day. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Blandini was red-hot, batting .333 in 18 at-bats with one home run, a steal and three RBI.

“I noticed as a player I’m not necessarily a power hitter, I’m more of a contact hitter, so I look to get the ball in play. I’m fast, so if I get it on the ground I have a chance of beating it out, so that’s my style of game,” Blandini said. “Just hit the ball hard on a line, score a lot of runs and that’s what (Loiseau) said my job at the top of the lineup is, score a lot of runs, and that’s what I learned over the summer.”

Blandini also learned how to be ready for anything. He spent the summer bouncing around and learning the nuances of each outfield spot, then returned to SNHU and found himself at an entirely new position.

“When he left school, we met and we sent him out for summer to play center,” Loiseau said. “We were going to play him in center every day and he came back to school and he looked so good in the infield before a practice one day. I just hit some balls at third and he looked so good I just put him at third and it’s a natural position for him.

“He’s not your prototypical third baseman because he’s a little guy, but he’s super athletic and he’s really good on the run. We have good pitching, so a lot of times it’s soft contact down there so we just thought he’d be a good fit.”

Most coaches might not consider a 5-foot-7, 150-pound player at the hot corner. But most coaches also didn’t see the potential in Blandini from the jump like Loiseau did.

“He was my first junior in high school to commit ever. I just had to have him,” Loiseau said. “He was so undersized and fast twitched. I literally spent an hour with that kid and I had to have him on my team. He was that kind of player at camp. He was the smallest kid in camp ... but he was the best baseball player in camp and he literally chased every ball. It was ridiculous.”

Admittedly, Southern New Hampshire University wasn’t on Blandini’s radar that summer heading into his junior year at Bishop Brady. By the time he got home from that camp, his decision was made.

“I went home and went on the computer to search up SNHU baseball, looked through the roster and the records of the teams they played and they were just blowing teams out,” Blandini said. “I just wanted to be on a team that wins, and (Loiseau), that’s all he wants to do is win and I love that about coaches.”

It turns out Tom’s younger brother, Connor Blandini, has some of the same priorities. Connor, a junior at Bow High School, has committed to SNHU for 2019, leaving one year where the duo could potentially play together on the same college team – a thrilling thought for the entire Blandini family.

“It’s funny he’s coming here, but he’s been around. I had him visit, brought him on campus and he loved it just like I did,” Tom said of his brother. “He’s the same player, has a lot to work on but he’s going to be a good player and he’s going to make a name for himself.”

For Loiseau and the Penmen, they’re simply happy to add another player to the roster as special in character as the rest of the Blandini family has proven to be.

“I think we’re lucky to get Connor, he’s a really good baseball player and brings a lot of the same things to the table that Tom does,” Loiseau said. “I can’t say enough about the family. They’re unbelievable and the kids are incredible because of the mom and dad. … Hopefully every baseball player we get is talented, but if you really want to win at a high level, you need special people and I just think that we had another chance to add a special person to our program and it comes down to how great of a baseball family they are.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)

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