New England Regional Preview

Austin Filiere was named the top draft prospect in D-III baseball by Baseball America in January.
MIT athletics photo

By Joshua Kummins

Baseball in New England is coming off a banner 2016 season at the Division I level as the region had five teams crack the NCAA Tournament field but for the region’s Division III squads, last spring ended on a much different note. Not one team advanced to the World Series for a second straight year. Perhaps the third year’s a charm for breaking that drought?

New England is home to a foursome of All-Americans and several teams receiving national attention in the preseason rankings, including one comfortably sitting inside the top-15. So, no matter what happens at season’s end, there’s a lot to be excited about before the snow clears and first pitch is thrown. Now, let’s talk baseball!

New Faces

Jonathan Martin, Bates: Martin moves north after spending the last 12 seasons at Vassar College, beginning his tenure as associate head coach for two years. He coached 40 All-Liberty League players during his time in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and guided the Brewers to their first postseason wins in program history in 2013 and 2014. Martin also spent the summers of 2004 and 2005 in the region as an assistant coach for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s former Mill City All-Americans.

Kameron Konert, Eastern Nazarene: Konert comes to Quincy, Mass., after spending the last three years as an assistant coach at Geneva College in Pennsylvania. He takes over for Addison Rouse who is now leading D-II Salem International.

Ernie May, Dean: The Franklin, Mass., school turns to a collegiate coaching veteran to guide its transition from the NJCAA to NCAA Division III. May, who was most recently an assistant coach at Harvard, has previous D-III experience at Trinity (Conn.) and Northland College and also guided Wofford College’s transition to the D-I level in the 1990s.

Mike Leonard replaced long-time head coach Bob Smith this summer at Middlebury.
Middlebury athletics photo

Mike Leonard, Middlebury: After winning 20 games in three of his six years at Bates, Leonard crosses state borders into Vermont to take over for the legendary Bob Smith who retired after more than three decades at the helm of the Panthers. A former Red Sox minor leaguer and standout at the University of Connecticut, Leonard becomes just the fourth baseball coach at Middlebury since 1952.

Christopher Shank, New England College: Shank spent the last eight seasons as an assistant coach at Southern New Hampshire University, a Division II power that won 50 games last season. The Franklin Pierce alum joins the Pilgrims as their full-time leader and also has D-III experience at WPI.

Al Donovan, Salem State: A native of nearby Lynn, Mass., Donovan moves to the top spot in the Vikings’ dugout after guiding the top pitching staff in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference for two seasons. The Central Connecticut State graduate takes over for Mike Ward who resigned after his teams won three Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference championships in his four years as head coach.

Games to Watch in 2017

March 31-April 1: Tufts at Trinity: In Hartford, the first series of NESCAC play will be a big one for the Jumbos, who last season outlasted the Bantams for their first title since 2011.

April 14: Salem State at Mass Maritime: These two teams have been the class of the MASCAC for the last several years and will play a big doubleheader in Buzzards Bay right in the thick of conference play.

April 18, 25: Southern Maine vs. UMass Boston: After early exits from the Little East Tournament last season, this home-and-home series should be hotly contested and could very well decide first place again.

April 21-22: Wheaton vs. MIT: These local rivals will meet in the final home-and-home series of the NEWMAC regular season, beginning in Norton, Mass.

April 22: Suffolk at Saint Joseph’s (Maine): The defending GNAC champions trek north from Boston for a doubleheader, their first clashes since playing three times last postseason in Providence, R.I.

Conference Previews

Junior shortstop Dave Murphy (right) and sophomore righty Steve Witkowski (left) played in the NYCBL All-Star game as members of the Cortland Crush this summer.
UMass-Boston athletics photo

Little East Conference: UMass Boston earned the LEC’s top seed and its first-ever NCAA at-large berth en route to winning 30 games in its first season on Monan Park, a facility to truly call home. Now, sights are set on a championship on Harbor Point as head coach Brendan Eygabroat calls this Beacons team one of the deepest he’s ever had, with senior utilityman and two-time All-Region performer Dan Mantoni (.300, 6 HR, 28 RBI; 4-2, 2.23, 51 SO, 60.2 IP) leading the way on both sides and classmate Dave Murphy (.316, 19 2B, 9 HR, 48 RBI) returning to the heart of the batting order. Mantoni also tops the pitching staff, but it’s a deep and versatile one with reigning LEC Rookie of the Year Fernando Burgos (4-2, 1.51, 1 SV, 32 SO, 59.2 IP) and J.T. Morin (5-0, 3.88, 1 SV, 62 SO, 60.1 IP) back after stellar debut seasons, Bobby Tramondozzi (5-1, 3.08, 1 SV, 42 SO, 49.2 IP) poised to step into a greater late-game role following the departure of closer Manny Garcia, and senior Matt Tulley transferring in from D-II power Rollins.

The Beacons became the first team other Eastern Connecticut State or Southern Maine to win the regular-season title since 2008, but the fifth-seeded Warriors won four straight games to emerge from a wild conference tournament with a championship. All-American outfielder Alex Zachary (.373, 10 HR, 36 RBI) broke out as a junior and returns to lead an offense that boasted five .300-plus hitters. First baseman Alex Parkos (.340, 7 HR, 38 RBI) finished his freshman season with a monster postseason run and will again team with Zachary to provide a dominant heart of the lineup. Rookies Jordan Muchin (4-1, 2.85), John Parker (4-3, 3.19) and Nick Rascati (3-3, 3.82, 2 SV) led the way on the mound. 

Despite entering last postseason with a No. 11 national ranking, Southern Maine missed out on NCAAs after losing its first two LEC postseason games. Don’t expect the Huskies to be down for long though, as they still return junior All-LEC first baseman Sam Stauble (.428, 10 2B, 41 RBI, 15 SB), third baseman Brandon Martins (.346, 1 HR, 29 RBI) and welcome senior Tyler Leavitt and juniors Nick George and Zach Bean back to the rotation after missing 2016 with injuries. The loss of two-time reigning New England Player of the Year Sam Dexter at shortstop is monumental, but his brother Jake (.214, 10 RBI; 5-1, 1.38, 1 SV, 28 SO, 26 IP) is expected to take over that position and also play a key role in the bullpen after earning All-LEC Second Team honors as a freshman.

UMass Dartmouth Senior Taylor Cacciola led the Corsairs starting lineup with his .340 batting average.
UMass-Dartmouth athletics photo

UMass Dartmouth finished between Eastern and its rival Western Connecticut State at regular season’s end, just two games behind the top two squads. Rising senior first baseman Taylor Cacciola (.340, 16 2B, 4 HR, 35 RBI) paced the Corsairs offensively, while infielder Jose Vasquez (.301, 3 HR, 24 RBI) was also among the LEC’s top-30 batters. Senior Sean Callahan (4-4, 3.97) and junior Mac Curran (3-4, 3.51) are the top returning arms. Bill Buscetto (.267, 10 2B, 12 RBI) looks to build off an All-LEC Second Team sophomore season for the Colonials, while E.J. Lavoie (.352, 11 2B, 21 RBI) also returns to the infield. WestConn loses its top three pitchers, but Shane Bierfeldt (2-3, 4.15) started six games as a sophomore.

Plymouth State finished last season in a three-way tie with Western and Eastern, and looks to build off momentum that nine of its players created while playing in competitive summer leagues, by far the largest number in program history. The Panthers return designated hitter Jarek Krajewski (.384, 17 2B, 3 HR, 28 RBI) and third baseman James Garnett (.318, 11 2B, 8 HR, 32 RBI) for their senior seasons, while Luke Mancini (.261, 16 2B, 5 HR, 29 RBI) also earned All-LEC honors as a sophomore outfielder. Garnett hit .333 with seven home runs for the NECBL’s Winnipesaukee Muskrats. Sophomore David Sampson (2-1, 3.30, 44 SO, 57.1 IP) will likely led the rotation.

Staying in New Hampshire, All-LEC second baseman Christian Bourgea (.320, 7 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 28 RBI) is back for his junior season at Keene State, while several arms look to make up the void left after Cody Dube graduated to the Baltimore Orioles organization after going in the 10th round of last June’s MLB Draft. Rhode Island College loses just four seniors and look to bounce back with their top six hitters returning, including outfielder Edward Apice (.323, 12 2B, 6 HR, 35 RBI) who led four players with .300 averages or better.

New England Women’s & Men’s Athletic Conference: The NEWMAC once again came down Wheaton (Mass.) and MIT as the rivals finished tied atop the conference standings for the second straight season in 2016. This time though, the Lyons finished with 31 overall wins for their best record in three years and broke MIT’s two-year run as league champion. Dan Southerland (7-2, 2.27, 1 CG, 41 SO, 63.1 IP) and Brady Furdon (5-1, 3.39, 34 SO, 63.2 IP) led one of the region’s best pitching staffs last season, one that will have to move forward without reigning NEWMAC Pitcher of the Year Eric Dumas is lost from the back of the bullpen. The Lyons hit a few ticks below .300 last year and return some key offensive pieces in senior outfielder Zachary Goodwin-Boyd (.301, 9 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 30 RBI) and sophomore first baseman Tyler Walsh (.259, 30 RBI).

The region’s loudest bat is found at MIT where Austin Filiere (.428, 13 HR, 55 RBI, 20 2B, 62 H, 30 BB, 14 SB) put together another All-American caliber season and then clubbed seven home runs for the Harwich Mariners of the prestigious Cape Cod League this past summer. The Engineer offense is hardly a one-man show as juniors Garrett Greenwood (.354, 44 R, 10 2B, 16 RBI) and Max Lancaster (.266, 18 R, 29 H, 23 RBI) return to the outfield and senior John Drago (.279, 42 R, 41 H, 8 2B, 21 RBI) captains the infield from the middle. Starting pitchers David Hesslink (7-2, 2.35) and Will Loucks (2-2, 3.95) combined to issue just 31 walks in 120 innings for last season’s ECAC championship squad. Drago and Hesslink were both All-NEWMAC Second Team honorees last season, while Filiere earned a First Team nod a season after being named National Rookie of the Year.

George Crowley was part of a 16-Run outburst as Babson defeated top-seeded MIT, 16-13 to reach the NEWMAC Championship Series. The Beavers lost to Wheaton (Mass.) in the finals.
Babson athletics photo

The rest of the league has been looking up to those two for quite some time, and Babson was the only other team to crack the 10-win mark in NEWMAC play a year ago. The lineup looks strong again with three All-Conference performers returning in senior Jack Halpin (.369, 15 2B, 4 HR, 35 RBI) and juniors Adam Ayala (.366, 15 RBI) and Mark Webber (.362, 12 2B, 6 HR, 38 RBI). On the mound, the Beavers have Teddy Carey (4-3, 2.84) anchoring the rotation and Matt Cuneo (5 SV) at the back end of the bullpen as juniors after each spent last summer in the Futures Collegiate League.

Worcester city foes WPI and Clark finished just a game apart in the middle of last year’s standings. This group of Engineers returns four of five starting pitchers from a team that won the West Division title, including senior Mike Vaitkunas (6-3, 2.62) and junior Steven D’Agostino (7-1, 4.01). Senior Nick Comei (.307, 21 RBI) and sophomore Steven Gallagher (.319, 7 HR, 32 RBI) make up the left side of the infield. Clark returns shortstop Kyle Bonicki after the junior established school records with a .466 average ― the best in New England and fourth-best in the country, 46 runs scored, 21 stolen bases and 68 hits, while setting a Futures League record with 75 hits for the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs. Cal Slepkow (4-1, 3.49, 1 SV, 2 CG, 53 SO, 56.2 IP) led the Cougars’ pitching staff as a freshman. Coast Guard, which matched the Cougars with eight NEWMAC wins, returns senior pitcher Colton Cannon (4-1, 3.83) after an All-NEWMAC Second Team season and its top three hitters, including junior infielder Zach Serna (.358, 10 2B, 3 HR, 23 RBI).

Springfield managed to win just 12 games a year ago, but hit 55 points better than the league’s last-place team and had six .300-plus hitters who appeared in at least 10 games. The regulars in that group as well as two top pitchers were seniors, so Springfield will look to the likes of sophomore Brandon Drabinski (.287, 9 2B, 1 HR, 20 RBI) and junior Kyle Allen (.206, 3 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 16 RBI) to lead offensively. Emerson went winless in conference and won just four times last year, but welcomes back senior shortstop Mitch Moormann (.367, 5 RBI) and two starting pitchers. According to second-year head coach Nick Vennochi, Moormann is the team’s “catalyst” and enters the season just 11 hits shy of the career century marker.

Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference: This conference has seen a recent run of dominance at the top as Salem State looks to capture its third straight title and fourth in five years this spring with 10 returning starters, but now with previous pitching coach Al Donovan at the helm. There will be no replacing four-time All-MASCAC second baseman Richard Fecteau who was drafted by the Angels last June, but the Vikings boast three solid hitters atop the offense in third baseman Dan Connors (.356, 57 H, 9 2B, 30 RBI), catcher Jose Cedano (.342, 19 RBI), and outfielder Joe White (.329, 39 RBI) after .300-plus seasons. With ace Sean Buckland and three-year closer Pete Gonski both departed, senior Mike Richardson (3-2, 3.28) and junior Steve Leavitt (2-2, 4.18) should anchor the pitching staff and Andrew McLaughlin will provide a boost after undergoing surgery.

Massachusetts Maritime catcher Logan Sullo, the two-time reigning MASCAC Player of the Year was named to the 2017 Preseason All-America team as an honorable mention selection.
Mass-Maritime athletics photo

On the southern shore, Mass Maritime has been Salem’s most recent challenger and should be in the mix again as junior catcher Logan Sullo (.419, 27 R, 52 H, 9 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 30 RBI) leads five positional starters returning. Last year’s MASCAC Player of the Year and an Honorable Mention All-American this preseason, Sullo is one of four Maritime hitters back after eclipsing the .315 batting mark. In the outfield, junior Connor Kennedy (.356, 10 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 22 RBI) also earned All-MASCAC honors last season. Senior Daniel Avery (5-3, 4.10, 55 SO, 52.2 IP) leads MMA’s pitching rotation after ten wins are lost with Kyle Kennedy and Kevin Kwedor graduating.

Fitchburg State will have junior catcher Nathan Littman (.355, 24 RBI, 18 SB) and infielder Andrew Mooney (.313, 14 RBI, 9 SB) back after helping the only other 10-win team in conference. The Falcons’ pitching staff will be without Tommy Parsons and Javier Lozada who combined for ten wins last season, but has Evan Meleedy back after a three-win rookie campaign.

Westfield State has sophomore Tyler Beach (.366, 12 RBI) and senior Nate Barnes (.348, 13 RBI) back on the right side of the infield, while Colin Dunn (.288, 4 RBI) and Aaron Clancy (.262, 11 RBI) also project to be starters at shortstop and behind the plate as second-years. Sophomore John Gegetskas (4-3, 1.47, 4 CG, 39 SO, 49 IP) and junior Nate Marshall (3-0, 1.31, 2 CG, 23 SO, 41.1 IP) lead Westfield’s four returning starting pitchers. Gegetskas earned MASCAC Rookie of the Year honors in 2016. Fifth-place Bridgewater State followed close behind the Owls, but graduated three All-MASCAC performers from last year. The Bears do return Randy Frazier (.314, 8 RBI) and Ryan Kelleher (.312, 13 RBI) who enjoyed strong sophomore seasons positionally, while their classmate Connor Birch (1-2, 4.35, 25 SO, 31 IP) will look to take a step forward on the mound.

Framingham State returns two All-MASCAC corner infielders in seniors Cole Josselyn (.253, 10 RBI, 14 SB) and Ryan Wardwell (.291, 11 2B, 4 HR, 26 RBI) while junior Kyle Pileski (.216, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 12 SB) returns to the outfield, but the Rams’ biggest losses reside on the where Zach Kirby and Dillon Corliss combined for five of the club’s ten victories and more than 100 innings pitched last season. Al Wallach (1-5, 4.95, 1 CG) slotted behind those two and returns as a junior.

A little further west, Worcester State returns a strong senior class that includes the likes of shortstop Mike Powers (.297, 7 2B, 1 HR, 22 RBI) and outfielders Adam Barry (.310, 9 2B, 19 RBI, 10 SB) and Jake Ryan (.297, 13 2B, 5 3B, 21 RBI, 10 SB). Tyler Barrie (4-5, 4.06, 39 SO, 51 IP) leads the Lancers’ mound men. MCLA returns outfielders Billy Pulasky (.333, 10 RBI) and Myles Candelet (.304, 3 RBI).

The reigning GNAC Pitcher of the Year, Worth Walrod, returns to head a deep pitching staff for Suffolk in 2017.
Suffolk athletics photo

Great Northeast Athletic Conference: The top two teams in the GNAC finished within a game of one another last year, but Suffolk edged past for its second straight title and NCAA Tournament trip. The Rams have an experienced corps returning on both sides of the ball as Brady Chant (.349, 65 H, 49 R, 10 2B, 9 3B, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 21 SB) is back in the outfield after a monster sophomore season after which he earned All-Region accolades. Designated hitter Kevin Belskie (.432, 9 2B, 2 HR, 24 RBI) is a fourth-year returner who led the GNAC in batting, while infielder Jake Frasca (.294, 14 2B, 8 HR, 40 RBI) earned a nod as the league’s Rookie of the Year and one of 10 All-Conference honorees. Senior Chuck Gibson (5-1, 2.57, 53 SO, 56 IP) leads a deep pitching staff, while reigning Pitcher of the Year Worth Walrod (5-2, 3.27, 46 SO, 55 IP) is also back for his third season.

This year’s Saint Joseph’s (Maine) team looks to return to the form that brought seven conference championships to Standish in a 10-year span as it boasts a veteran group that will also mix in some talented youth. Juniors Josh Partridge (5-1, 2.41, 1 SV, 42 SO, 59.2 IP) and Travis Godbout (6-2, 3.16, 45 SO, 42.2 IP) anchor a starting rotation that also includes senior Nick Malatesta (5-3, 4.02, 31 SO, 31.1 IP) and sophomore Grayson Jennings (3-3, 3.45, 40 SO, 47 IP). Utilityman Taylor Black (.333, 5 2B, 22 RBI) was one of the Monks’ eight All-GNAC honorees a season ago and joins shortstop Max McCoomb (.346, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 47 H), outfielder Dennis Meehan (.315, 7 2B, 2 HR, 12 RBI), and designated hitter Jameson Collins (.306, 5 2B, 4 HR, 34 RBI) among the team’s seniors. Outfielder Adam Twitchell and lefty Roderick Maynard are two freshmen expected to contribute after outstanding high school careers in the region.

Lasell is a team expected to compete again after leading a tight middle of the standings last season. A 21-win team last season, the Lasers will have to cope with losing GNAC Player of the Year Wes Hurty behind the plate, but return a pair of All-Conference performers as seniors in First Team outfielder Skylar Beckerman (.376, 11 2B, 1 HR, 25 RBI) and Third Team utility player Hector Coscione (.286, 10 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 24 RBI; 0-1, 1.64, 4 SV). Second-year designated hitter Brett Sherron (.321, 10 2B, 15 RBI) also earned All-GNAC honors. Sophomore Daniel Petr (3-1, 2.51, 1 SV, 30 SO, 46.2 IP) and senior Casey Johnson (4-3, 5.79, 34 SO, 42.0 IP) were regular starters who combined for nearly 90 innings on the mound last year. 

An hour south in Providence, four reigning All-Conference players are back for Johnson & Wales, which is coming off a fourth-place finish. Jake Marchesseault’s graduation leaves a gaping hole atop the pitching staff, but the Wildcats have a trio of upperclassmen expected to serve in starting roles with junior Keith Grant (6-2, 3.67) leading that group. JWU is well stocked at the plate as sophomore Dave Matthews (.382, 7 2B, 12 RBI) and seniors Lou Umberto (.320, 14 RBI) and Ryan Cabral (.313, 22 RBI), and junior Rob Ballinger (.311, 7 2B, 2 3B, 15 RBI) all garnered honors last season.

Catching the top four has been tough. Albertus Magnus loses two everyday players on the infield in Justin Poirier and Tyler Robertson, but several pitchers are back on the roster, as are second-years Dean Gullo (.354, 4 RBI) and Mike Browne (.314, 12 RBI). Junior Tyler Ferdinand (.403, 30 R, 58 H, 5 2B, 2 3B, 15 RBI, 31 SB) and senior Jacob Rayner (.325, 6 2B, 2 3B, 12 RBI) both return to the Rivier infield after earning All-GNAC honors last year. Anna Maria and Norwich look for their respective sophomores Matt Elliot (.306, 9 2B, 3 3B, 7 RBI) and Kevin Lynch (.252, 4 RBI, 14 SB) to repeat their solid rookie campaigns. Tanner Jakola (4-3, 3.75, 4 CG, 31 SO, 50.1 IP) will lead the AMCATS’ pitching staff.

Zach Bahan has celebrated a NAC title every year he has been on the squad and is looking for a fourth title for the Spartans.
Castleton State athletics photo

North Atlantic Conference: Castleton was the runaway leader in this league a year ago, posting a 30-win season for the second straight season and becoming the first team in NAC history to win three consecutive conference championships. The Spartans lose All-Region performers Nick Swim and Sam Spencer ​― respectively, the NAC’s Player and Pitcher of the Year ​― and All-NAC outfielder Dan Errico from last year’s squad, but will likely have reigning Rookie of the Year Charles Stapleford (6-2, 2.48, 46 SO, 54.1 IP) atop the rotation. All-NAC First Team utility player Zach Bahan (.315, 12 2B, 3 HR, 34 RBI) was one of seven Spartan regulars to eclipse the .300 mark last season, while senior first baseman Jim Buckley (.335, 2 HR, 37 RBI) and sophomore outfielders Dillon Benham (.333, 19 RBI) and Deagan Poland (.318, 9 RBI, 10 SB) were also part of that group.

Husson and Maine-Farmington tied for second and won 23 overall games apiece, but still finished six games behind the first-place Spartans in the league standings. The Eagles played for their 10th league title in 12 years in 2016 and have both All-NAC First Team third baseman Ryan Rebar (.319, 9 2B, 1 3B, 22 RBI, 7 SB) and lead pitcher Ben Walls (6-1, 2.82, 1 SV, 2 CG, 31 SO, 54.1 IP) back. Farmington returns senior catcher Jordan Croteau (.341, 7 2B, 1 HR, 21 RBI) and a pair of standout juniors on the mound in Riley Chickering (5-4, 3.83, 1 SV, 2 CG) and Nate Pushard (4-3, 4.63, 4 CG).

Thomas won 13 of its 20 games in conference play a year ago with graduated All-New England catcher Nik Beeson leading the way. Senior outfielder Jordan Gibson (.333, 1 RBI) returns after seeing limited action in 12 games last year, but junior Matt Rutherford (3-6, 3.99, 3 CG) looks to pace the pitching staff. The league’s bottom three were distant finishers, but All-NAC picks Nathan Frongillo (.393, 14 RBI) and Jackson Musco (.281, 12 RBI) return to the Colby-Sawyer outfield. Lyndon State loses second baseman Reece Tanguay, but his middle infield partner Ryan Cordeiro (.324, 11 RBI, 15 SB) earned Second Team All-NAC honors at shortstop as a sophomore last year. New England College senior Vincent Backert (.321, 15 RBI; 4-2, 3.27, 5 CG, 32 SO, 40.2 IP) finished the Second Team infield. The Pilgrims’ roster last season included 15 first-year players, but outfielder Conor Crouse (.352) was the team’s leading hitter as a junior.

New England Collegiate Conference: Mitchell claimed its third consecutive NECC title last year with senior designated hitter Tyler Pina (.372, 12 2B, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 9 SB) and junior second baseman Kyle Hartenstein (.378, 8 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 26 RBI, 9 SB) among its top six returning hitters, all of whom are back. Senior outfielder Chandler Whitney (.377, 29 RBI) and catcher/first baseman Francis Prettitore (.348, 28 RBI) are also part of that group. The Mariners lose three regular starting pitchers, but senior Axel De Jesus (5-2, 2.48, 2 CG, 35 SO, 58 IP) looks to finish strong atop the staff following the graduation of Al Jordan Johnson.

Stephen Harrison was one of six Blazers to appear on the All-NECC team in 2016.
Elms athletics photo

Elms also has key losses on the mound with reigning NECC Pitcher of the Year Tom Weldon and Andrew Sadowski among five graduated, but the Blazers and their five returning All-Conference performers should swing it well. Senior first baseman Jordan Zima (.341, 6 2B, 1 HR, 32 RBI) and designated hitter Stephen Harrison (.314, 6 2B, 1 HR, 25 RBI) lead that group. On the mound, Tom Owens (6-2, 3.53, 37 SO, 43.1 IP) was solid as a freshman.

Southern Vermont tied for third place a year ago and its 20 wins marked the best season in program history. A freshman on last year’s All-NECC Third Team, catcher Dan Mason (.347, 1 HR, 25 RBI) returns, while junior third baseman John Arancio (.354, 8 2B, 3 HR, 18 RBI) and sophomore center fielder Zack Stacey (.324, 10 2B, 4 HR, 29 RBI) were another two of five veteran Mountaineers above the .300 marker last season. Second baseman Noah DuBois should start as a freshman. On the mound, seniors Dylan Angelo (7-2, 3.10) and Joshua Hay (4-5, 4.30) lead the way.

Lesley was the team even with the Mountaineers and looks for a fourth consecutive improvement in its year-over-year win total after a 19-21 campaign in 2016. Two of the Lynx’ four returning All-Conference performers nabbed First Team spots in sophomore catcher Jacob Cervantes (.273, 1 HR, 14 RBI) and senior outfielder J.P. Agiorgousis (.337, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI), while Ryan Pumphret (.360, 4 2B, 2 HR, 22 RBI) was the team’s leading run producer as a freshman. 

Out in Worcester, Becker second baseman Chris Testa is the league’s top returning hitter after posting a .403 average (and 23 RBI) last year as a sophomore, but its offense has some depth with senior outfielder Josiah Shepherd (.357, 6 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 14 SB) and senior T.J. Sempkowski (.324, 2 2B, 5 3B, 6 HR, 29 RBI) also back in the fold. Senior Tyler Wagar (5-4, 4.64, 3 SV, 4 CG, 33 SO, 52.1 IP) leads the Hawks’ pitchers.

Newbury looks to a strong senior class to lead the way after shortstop C.J. Ingraham (.317, 13 RBI), outfielder Ian Hruniak (.321, 9 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 3 SB) and pitcher Ethan Forrest (2-4, 4.01, 2 SV, 6 CG, 65 SO, 60.2 IP) were named to the All-NECC Second Team last year. Junior Jacob Pringle (4-4, 3.16, 3 CG) led the club with 62.2 innings pitched last year. The Nighthawks lose reigning NECC Player of the Year and All-New England third baseman Ryan Zahornasky to graduation after he hit .434 last year. Daniel Webster looks to go out on the ultimate high as the Nashua, N.H., school enters its final year of existence with senior first baseman Dakota Williams (.380, 7 2B, 17 RBI) and sophomore outfielder Mike Pelletier (.313, 5 2B, 1 HR, 11 RBI) returning.

Cory Poplawski, Hunter Sleeper, Jonathan Lynch, John Militano, and Zack Smith were all named captains of the 2017 Seahawks.
Salve Regina athletics photo

Commonwealth Coast Conference: Salve Regina finished three games back of the league leaders last year, but won four consecutive elimination games to capture its first conference championship since 2005. The Seahawks boast one of the region’s top hitters in junior first baseman Alex Perry, a two-time All-New England performer who hit .379 with four home runs and 48 RBI before a .315 summer with the Futures League’s Brockton Rox. Like MIT, Salve is not a one-man show and enters the season with much talent and depth. Fourth-year head coach Eric Cirella calls his rotation “the most experienced in program history,” led by senior Cory Poplawski (4-4, 3.51) who also spent last summer with the Rox. Outfielder Zack Smith (.417, 15 2B, 2 HR, 44 RBI) was this website’s New England Rookie of the Year a season ago. He and Perry are two of eight returning starters positionally, and six of them hit .300 or better last year. Designated hitter Tristan Dacey (.343) provided offensive spark as a freshman too, belting nine home runs.

Endicott played all the way to the end in 2016, finishing a game short of its third CCC title in four years after matching Western New England for first place with a 13-3 league record. The Gulls return reigning CCC Player of the Year and All-Region third baseman Mike Kochiss (.410, 15 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 44 RBI), while three of his teammates were named Players to Watch this preseason by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. Junior second baseman Michael DeDonato (.333, 45 R, 12 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 17 SB) and first baseman Anthony Serina (.352, 8 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 27 RBI) will also be offensive leaders. The loss of First Team All-CCC pitchers J.J. Branch and Davarn Nova to graduation will hurt, but senior Nick Quattro (8-1, 1.42 in 2015) returns to pace the staff after missing last season due to injury.

Western New England was balanced in 2016 as fourth-year head coach Dan Gomez’s club led the CCC with a 2.95 ERA and also hit above .300. Bob Hamel (7-1, 1.88, 3 CG, 37 SO, 52.2 IP) was one of the region’s top lefties as a freshman and should play an even more important role following the graduation of both David Cherry and Tom Mahoney. WNEU loses three offensive All-CCC performers, but returns one of its best in senior first baseman Daniel Morin who led the club with 42 RBI while hitting .318. Erik Lacaire (.304, 17 RBI) and Ben LaCroix (.278, 9 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 22 RBI) were regulars in the outfield as freshmen.

Cam Cook set the Bison' season hit record in 2017.
Nichols athletics photo

Nichols set a program record with 24 wins and had four current juniors earn All-CCC First Team honors in 2016, including second baseman Cam Cook (.390, 67 H, 12 2B, 28 RBI), catcher Ross Caswell (.343, 32 RBI) and outfielder Nick Roy (.377, 42 R, 12 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 28 RBI). Cook set Bison program records in hits ― the second-most in the CCC last season ― and singles (54), while Roy’s .513 slugging percentage led the club and was one of ten statistical categories in which he ranked in the top five on the team. On the mound, Nichols returns starters StigErik McElhinney (4-3, 4.06) and Adam Rigney (4-5, 6.03) as well as junior closer Kevin Kirley whose 11 saves led the CCC and shattered a program record.

To the northeast, Gordon returns a host of talent with all of its top five hitters back from a season ago, including senior first baseman/outfielder Dean Demers (.417, 16 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 29 RBI) among three reigning CCC honorees. Senior Matt Amore’s 2.42 ERA ranked third in the CCC and second to Eastern Nazarene’s Brett Houle (1.51) among returners. Zachary Carmody (.386, 13 RBI) and John Greenlee (.378, 8 RBI) were the Lions’ top two hitters last year as freshmen, although the team managed just two of its 15 wins in league.

This year’s zenith for the New England region is Whitehouse Field in Harwich, Mass., where Curry ventured two years ago following its first CCC title since 2007. The Colonels took a step back last year, but senior Brian Burke rejoins the starting rotation with two All-CCC honorees in junior David Griffin (4-7, 2.54, 5 CG, 63 SO, 67.1 IP) and sophomore Matt Fogarty (6-2, 2.77, 3 CG, 45 SO, 55.1 IP; .245, 3 HR, 13 RBI) after losing last season due to injury. Senior Nick Crivello (.254, 9 RBI) was an All-CCC Second Team catcher last year, while classmate Alex McLean (.284, 12 RBI) paces the returning hitters.

Roger Williams and Wentworth finished ahead of Eastern Nazarene last year after each placed a pair of graduated seniors on All-CCC teams. George Lund (5-1, 2.98, 3 CG, 36 SO, 42.1 IP) aims for a strong senior season as RWU’s lead pitcher, while catcher Chris Bosco (.280, 4 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 12 RBI) made an impact as a freshman. Wentworth had a member of each class among its top four hitters last year with senior Jordan Burst (.382, 20 RBI) topping the team, while junior Tyler Weninger is the Leopards’ top returning pitcher (2-6, 4.69, 2 CG) and a regular position player (.298, 27 RBI).

Reigning New England Pitcher of the Year and Third Team All-American Speros Varinos led Tufts to a program wins record, the NESCAC title and the best NCAA finish in the region last year.
Tufts athletics photo

New England Small College Athletic Conference: No team in New England played deeper into May than Tufts, which went 11-1 in NESCAC play en route to its first conference championship since 2011 and a school-record 35 wins. Reigning New England Pitcher of the Year and Third Team All-American Speros Varinos (7-1, 2.15, 79 SO, 67 IP) and senior classmate Tim Superko (5-0, 3.10, 60 SO, 52.1 IP) return to anchor a pitching staff that was nearly an entire run better than any other in the league last season. The Jumbos do lose three All-NESCAC performers, but have third baseman Tommy O’Hara (.325, 10 2B, 4 HR, 48 RBI) and outfielders Harry Brown (.397, 13 2B, 2 HR, 27 RBI) and Oscar Kutch (.301, 10 2B, 1 HR, 25 RBI) among 25 total returners. The roster features just four newcomers, including Stony Brook transfer Malcolm Nachmanoff who can make an immediate impact on the infield.

The Jumbos’ closest competitor in the East Division was finalist Trinity, while Wesleyan and Amherst tied for the West lead with identical 7-5 league records. The Bantams return a pair of .300 hitters in senior designated hitter/infielder Nick DiBenedetto (.357, 8 2B, 1 HR, 17 RBI) and sophomore first baseman Jon Stamatis (.309, 19 2B, 3 HR, 23 RBI), while junior Anthony Egeln (4-2, 5.40, 34 SO, 58.1 IP) and senior Chris Speer (1-4, 6.37, 21 SO, 29.2 IP) will look to help fill in key losses at both ends of the pitching staff.

Although the bottom three teams in the East all finished with 4-8 league marks, only Bowdoin won 20 games overall. The Polar Bears were the NESCAC’s least productive offensive team, but its third-best pitching club. Senior Sean Mullaney (.304, 12 RBI) and junior Joe Gentile (.377, 10 RBI) both hit above .300 last year and are among five returning hitters among last season’s top eight. On the mound, junior Richard Arms (3-1, 3.38) is the top returning starter and juniors Ryan Dixon (0-0, 1.76, 1 SV) and Kyle Stanley (2-0, 3.15, 2 SV) return to the bullpen.

Senior shortstop Brendan Fox (.377, 1 HR, 25 RBI) is coming off an All-NESCAC season at Bates, while junior Connor Speed (3-4, 3.51, 54 SO, 48.2 IP) and senior Anthony Telesca (4-1, 3.89, 29 SO, 39.1 IP) pitched more than any other Bobcats last season. Four of Colby’s top six offensive regulars last year were seniors, as were three of its four most-used pitchers. Outfielder Matt Garcia hit .338 and made seven pitching appearances as a sophomore.

Wesleyan finished as the West’s top side, but only managed a 7-5 league mark. The Cardinals graduate reigning NESCAC Player of the Year Marco Baratta from their outfield, but return one of a couple two-way players named to the All-NESCAC First Team in senior Nick Miceli (.345, 25 RBI; 6-1, 3.41, 5 SV, 1 CG). Andrew Keith (.355, 14 RBI, 9 SB) was a welcome addition to the outfield last year, while four more of their top eight hitters from last year are eligible to return.

Amherst righthanded pitcher Jackson Volle was selected as an ECAC 2016 DIII New England All-Star.
Amhest athletics photo

Amherst was the other West team to play postseason baseball and has a trio of returning All-NESCAC performers in senior ace Jackson Volle (6-1, 1.79, 1 CG, 44 SO, 60.1 IP), shortstop Harry Roberson (.336, 28 RBI) and senior outfielder Anthony Spina (.341, 8 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 8 SB). The Purple and White also welcome back senior outfielder Yanni Thanoupulos (.321, 3 HR, 33 RBI) who played for the Futures League champion Nashua Silver Knights along with Roberson.

Middlebury loses just five seniors from last year’s roster, but will have its first new head coach in 33 years this spring. The Panthers look to junior infielder Brendan Donohue (.316, 11 RBI) to pick up some offensive slack, while Spencer Tonies (.346, 11 RBI) was strong as a rookie. Colby Morris (2-4, 6.18) and John Bunting (1-6, 7.04) were frequently used as rookies on the mound. Like the Panthers, Williams also finished last season with a 6-6 record in NESCAC play. The Ephs return NESCAC Rookie of the Year and starting shortstop Kellen Hatheway (.331, 8 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 21 RBI) and senior pitcher Luke Rodino (5-3, 3.21, 49 SO, 56 IP). Hamilton rounded out the West, but Massachusetts native Ryan Wolfsberg (.418, 4 HR, 30 RBI) was a bright spot in the outfield and had an outstanding senior summer for the NECBL’s New Bedford Bay Sox.

Independents: Brandeis begins the first year of “round robin” play in the University Athletic Association with some uncertainty as the Judges welcome 16 freshmen to the roster after losing their top six hitters from a year ago. Second-year head coach Derek Carlson’s pitching staff will again have the services of ace Sean O’Neill who posted five wins and the UAA’s second-lowest ERA (2.18) as a rookie before being granted a medical redshirt.

Dean is a new NCAA program in the region and has ten returning players from its 2016 roster, while junior Jesus Garcia (.293, 10 RBI) is Maine-Presque Isle’s leading veteran.