NEC, SNHU swinging for trips to the College World Series

  • Terry Doyle

  • Ryan Tessier

  • Tom Blandini

  • The New England College baseball team gathers around first-year head coach Terry Doyle during a game earlier this season. After winning their first conference tournament championship, the Pilgrims are now seeking a trip to the Division III College World Series. Photo courtesy of Janice Sullivan

  • New England College outfielder Evan Delaney (20) celebrates with Connor Morin (35) after scoring a run for the Pilgrims, who will look to continue their tournament surge on Friday. Photo courtesy of Janice Sullivan

  • Photo courtesy of Janice Sullivan

  • Photo courtesy of Janice Sullivan

Monitor staff
Published: 5/23/2019 10:34:46 PM

New England College and Southern New Hampshire University will both be swinging for the College World Series this weekend.

The NEC baseball team is headed to UMass-Boston for a three-game Super Regional series against the Beacons with the winner advancing to the Division III College World Series in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And SNHU will host New York Institute of Technology in their three-game Super Regional with the winner going to the D-II CWS in Cary, N.C.

Deep tournament runs are nothing new for Southern New Hampshire, which has reached this stage of the NCAA tournament for four straight seasons and made it all the way to the semifinals in last year’s D-II College World Series. That’s not the case for Pilgrims, who have had a remarkable season under first-year coach Terry Doyle.

Doyle, 34, starred at Salem High, went to Boston College and played nine years of minor league baseball. He was a graduate assistant at NEC last year and was expecting to be in the same role this season, but when former coach Chris Shank unexpectedly resigned in January, Doyle was given the job as the team was beginning its preseason practices.

Despite the abrupt change, the Pilgrims didn’t miss a beat and opened the season with eight wins in their first 10 games. They also got hot when it mattered most, closing out the regular season with a four-game winning streak. They carried that momentum into the postseason and swept through the New England Collegiate Conference playoffs with three wins, the last two against top-seeded Mitchell College for the first conference championship in program history.

That led to the first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history for NEC, which made the most of its NCAA debut by winning three of its four games at last weekend’s regional championships in Gorham, Maine. Those games were played at the University of Southern Maine, the perennial powerhouse that the Pilgrims beat, 7-6, in Sunday’s 13-inning championship game.

Rochester’s Shaun Cormier was the hero on Sunday, pitching 7⅓ innings of scoreless relief before Nick Powers scored on a single from Jameson Cary to end the game in the bottom of the 13th. Powers, a two-way player, was named All-Region First Team on Thursday by d3baseball.com, which also named Doyle its All-New England Coach of the Year.

Powers led the team in regular-season wins with five, and he’s posted two complete-game wins in the postseason, allowing just two runs over 18 innings. For the season, he’s 7-1 with a 2.04 ERA and he’s hitting .364 with four home runs and 17 RBI. The Malden, Mass., native was one of six NEC players named to the All-NECC First Team earlier in May, along with pitcher Shayne Audet (led the NECC with 76 strikeouts), third baseman Xavier Nunez (last year’s NECC MVP), second baseman Anderson Jimenez (MVP of this year’s NECC Tournament), shortstop Luis Atiles (team-high .429 regular-season average) and center fielder and leadoff hitter Christian Aybar, whose 58 hits is a program season record, although Atiles is on his heels with 57 hits.

Five of those six All-NECC First Team Pilgrims are from Massachusetts, as are 19 of the 35 players on the NEC roster. There are six New Hampshire-based players on the team, including Concord’s Ryan Tessier, a freshman outfielder. Tessier has played in 14 games for the Pilgrims and gone 4-for-11 at the plate with three RBI.

There’s only one local player on the SNHU team, as well, but he sees lots of playing time – Bow native and Bishop Brady graduate Tom Blandini. The junior third baseman played in 48 games for the Penmen (40-13) and ranked third on the team in plate appearances (217), average (.295) and slugging percentage (.442), and he was second in RBI (29).

SNHU lost in the first round of the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament to Franklin Pierce, 3-2, but still received an invite to the NCAA East Regional. The Penmen, who are ranked No. 17 in the country in D-II, won their first game of the Regional, which was played on their home field in Hooksett, before losing to No. 25 LIU Post in the second game. But SNHU battled back from the loser’s bracket and earned some revenge by beating LIU Post in two games on Saturday, 8-2 and 4-1, to earn its spot in the Super Regional.

The Penmen’s first game against NYIT is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Friday in Hooksett. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday at noon, and Game 3, if necessary, will follow. The Bears (35-14) have the lovable underdog role in this matchup – they went 13-25-1 last year but have turned it around under first-year head coach Frank Catalanotto, who played 14 seasons in Major League Baseball, primarily for the Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays.

NEC’s first game against UMass-Boston (33-11) is scheduled for noon on Friday at Monan Park in Boston. The second game is scheduled for noon on Saturday with the decisive third game, if necessary, to follow.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20)



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