2013 Preview – The Northeast Conference

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on February 7th, 2013 in 2013 National Preview, Northeast
 

2012 CONFERENCE ISR: 31

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HOW THEY’LL FINISH IN 2013:

1- Bryant

2- Monmouth

3- Sacred Heart

4- Central Connecticut State

5- Long Island

6- Fairleigh-Dickinson

7- Wagner

8- Quinnipiac

9- Mount St. Mary’s

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THE LOWDOWN.

I have a newfound love affair with the NEC. Last spring, while I was in Connecticut for the NCAA hockey Regionals I spent the day off at three different NEC venues in one day: at Sacred Heart (which was at the same venue as the hockey Regionals), at Central Connecticut (with D1Baseball.com’s Jeremy Mills) and at Quinnipiac (one of the coolest college parks I’ve been to). On the field, every team in the NEC has at least two starting weekend pitchers and five fielders coming back for this season. Yes, everyone should be better. But the Bulldogs of Bryant should still be the top dogs – bad pun intended. But don’t get the idea that it will be as easy as last year’s title run, which was won by three games. Monmouth, Sacred Heart and CCSU have more than enough horses to be right in the thick of things. And even the lower rung teams like LIU, FDU, Wagner, QU and The Mount all have a lot of experience back on their roster, particularly in the pitching department. So look for lots of close games and a tight race to the title.

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BREAKTHROUGH TEAM:

- Everybody in the lower half.

Again, this is setting up for one of the better conference races as everyone at the bottom of the rung, from LIU down to The Mount, has a chance to spring to the top rung. If you twist my arm, I’ll give the nod to Wagner, who had issued the fewest walks as a pitching staff and the offense which stole an NEC-best 80 bases.

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TRENDING DOWN:

- None.

If anything, maybe it’s Bryant, who will be brought closer to the pack this season in the Northeast Conference battle royales. But if BU’s conference-worst .261 batting average doesn’t improve, that gap will disappear completely.

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BIGGEST CLEATS TO FILL:

- Ryan Van Spronsen, RHP, Wagner.

This dude hit my radar multiple times last season, going the distance in seven games and also tossing eight full innings in three others last year as the Friday ace. Too bad he’s not around any more, it was just plain fun being on Van Spronsen Watch every weekend.

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BEST PLAYER:

- John Murphy, SS, Sacred Heart

Murph is not just a great hitter, finishing third in the NEC at .347, but he’s also a solid glove and a senior dugout leader for the Pioneers. He plays huge when the stakes are highest, having been named an All-Tournament performer in the last two NEC tournaments, even getting named the NEC tourney MVP in 2011.

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BEST PITCHER:

- Peter Kelich, RHP, Bryant

Leading a well-stocked arms corps, Kelich is the best of a good pitching staff. Good thing too, ‘coz considering BU’s offense was relatively weak last season, Kelich and Co. will have to be on top of their game until the bats come around.

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IMPACT NEWCOMER:

- Shaun Flynn, INF, Wagner

The JC All American comes to the Seahawks with a lot of expectations, having hit .504 last year at Burlington CC. The Seahawks have some holes to fill, so Flynn’s appearance comes at the right time.

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STEAL A LEAR JET FOR…

- Monmouth at Bryant, May 10-12.

With all the parity in the NEC, I still expect these two teams to square off for the regular season title. Last year they split the four-game series, but since BU wasn’t eligible for the post-season, they didn’t meet in the NEC tourney. As the second-to-last weekend of NEC regular season play, this series will have a huge impact on who takes the pennant.

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CAPSULES…

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- BRYANT (33-21, 24-8)

2012 ISR: 187

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP Peter Kelich (8-3, 1.81)

RHP Craig Schlitter (6-6, 2.70)

RHP Salvatore Lisanti (2-3, 1.54, 9svs)

OF Kevin Brown (.281-9-35)

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NOTES:

- It’s been since the Bush 2 administration when the last time the Bulldogs haven’t won 30+ games. Impressive streak, no? And don’t look for that string to end anytime soon as the Dogs have many key difference-makers coming back to the roster and should be contenders again.

- The Bulldogs had offensive issues last year, hitting just .261 as a team and none of the returnees have hit better than .300+.

- But the good side is the amount of pitching that returns as the top seven hurlers from last year’s staff are all back again and six of them had ERAs below 4.00. If you have any doubts about how good of quality the arms corps was last year, note that they gave up just eight home runs all season, none of them giving up more than one. Friday/Saturday starters Peter Kelich and Craig Schlitter combined for eight complete games.

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- CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE (28-24, 19-13)

2012 ISR: 231

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 6

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All Conference Candidates:

OF Dylan Delacruz (.326-2-25)

OF J.P. Sportman (.353-7-33)

LHP Cody Brown (6-4, 4.41)

RHP Josh Ingham (2-1, 3.20, 7svs)

1B Tyler McIntyre (.291-10-38)

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NOTES:

- A super-strong 7-1 finish to last year’s regular season helped the Blue Devils get into the NEC tournament. But CCSU went belly-up in Norwich, having a teeth-gnashing pair of 3-2 losses to Sacred Heart and FDU. That’s been eight months of pain to live with in the off-season. Hopefully, with all they have back on the team for 2013, they can turn that into motivation for this season.

- If the Blue Devils want to make a jump to top dog in the NEC, they’ll have to play big in the clutch. Last year, they went just 5-11 vs. the top half of the NEC (Bryant, Monmouth, Sacred Heart and FDU).

- The double play duo of Anthony Turgeon (.258) and Josh Ingham (.317) returns and should help improve the .966 fielding percentage.

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- FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON (25-28, 18-14)

2012 ISR: 258

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 5

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All Conference Candidates:

1B/LHP Eric Anderson (.300-8-40 & 3-2, 4.78)

OF Jordan Ritz (.270, 12SBs)

RHP Craig Warner (3-5, 3.96)

2B Kyle Weeks (.247, just 6Es)

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NOTES:

- How about these guys? The Knights more than doubled their win total from 2011, going from 12 wins to 25. Even their conference win total was doubled-up as well, going from 9-23 in 2011 to a solid 25-28 last year. So give coach Gary Puccio a modicum of credit, doing this all in his first two years at the helm.

- One of the things that coach Puccio has done very well is bring in his own guys and have them perform right away. Aside from the four all-senior, all-conference candidates above, three other returning starters and the five other returning pitchers of note were all sophomores. So that was a young team that did all that improving last season.

- The best sophomore of the group was LHP Eric Snyder, who was 2-3, 5.20 on the mound, but the big thing was his 12 saves, the most for any FDU hurler in at least a decade.

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- LIU-BROOKLYN (22-33, 13-19)

2012 ISR: 275

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP Justin Topa (6-7, 4.46 in 2011)

OF Pete Leonello (.327, 12SBs)

RHP Jordan Wilcox (3-1, 2.81, .21OBA)

LHP Matt McCormick (6-5, 3.91)

RHP Chris Franzese (3-7, 3.63, .229OBA)

RHP Tito Marrero (1-2, 1.61, 7svs, .156OBA)

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NOTES:

- For a guy who didn’t even play last season, Justin Topa has put together quite a resume of late. He was named a top 10 pro prospect in the well-respected Northwoods League last summer and then was ranked No. 81 collegiate prospect by Baseball America. Coach Don Maines is relieved to see his big horse back and hopes he can play injury-free and up to potential all season long. He was injured before the final weekend of the regular season in 2011, missing the NEC post-season.

- This team is LOADED in the pitching department. All three weekend starters are back, so is mid-week starter Chance Fuglistahler (4-5, 5.46), ace reliever Tito Marrero and a handful of relievers, including RHP Brad Reimer (1-3, 5.96) and Evan Zerff, who went just 1-2, 6.95 last year, but in 2011 he had a school-record 13 saves in 24 appearances.

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- MONMOUTH (35-24, 21-11)

2012 ISR: 205

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 2

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

2B Jake Gronsky (.313-2-35)

3B Danny Avella (.288-8-45)

LHP Andrew McGee (7-4, 4.58)

LHP Dan Smith (6-6, 4.88)

RHP Jonathan Shippee (3-4, 3.99)

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NOTES:

- The Hawks finished up the 2012 season on a 5-8 skid, which included a 2-2 showing in the NEC tournament, dropping both meetings with Sacred Heart. In fact, the Hawks should be breathing fire when they meet up with the Pioneers, having gong 1-5 against them last season.

- Coach Dean Ehehalt has to like the fact that this will be a very junior/senior-heavy team for 2013. Of the seven pitchers included in the numbers above, six of them are 3rd and 4th year guys. Soph RHP Adam Yunginger (0-1, 3.99, 3svs) should be a star of the future.

- With slick gloves like Jake Gronsky, Danny Avella, 1B Owen Stewart (.218) and SS Jon Guida (.254), the defense should be steady force after fielding at a very good .971 pace last season.

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- MOUNT ST. MARY’s (14-40, 7-25)

2012 ISR: 289

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 0

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

C Mark Quarenta (.333-4-34)

LHP Karl Lamont (2-6, 5.02)

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NOTES:

- Aye caramba! Last season was the second straight campaign where The Mount finished with a 7-25 conference mark and in the basement of the NEC. A 3-17 skid ended the season as the Mountaineers lost their desire to compete.

- Three pitchers that had weekend starting assignments come back in Karl Lamont, RhP Thomas Williams (3-3, 6.69) and RHP Scott Nickerson (1-5, 7.31), who are senior, sophomore and sophomore respectively.

- SS Nick Walker (.233) and C Mark Quarenta will lead an experienced defense that should field a lot better than last year’s .955

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- QUINNIPIAC (9-38,8-24)

2012 ISR: 292

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

3B Zak Palmer (.342)

OF Nic Civale (.312)

RHP Spencer Kane (4-6, 6.29)

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NOTES:

- Head coach Dan Gooley collected his 500th win last season in early April, but still suffered through a tough season that left the Bobcats with single digit win totals in the NEC and overall.

- Starting pitchers Spencer Kane and Nick Fabrizio (1-7, 4.74) combined for 10 complete games last season.

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- SACRED HEART (25-32, 19-13)

2012 ISR: 241

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 1

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All Conference Candidates:

SS John Murphy (.343, 25SBs)

C Dan Perez (.313, 0errors)

LHP Nick Leiningen (6-6, 4.53)

RHP Troy Scribner (7-6, 4.62)

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NOTES:

- For the second season in a row all three weekend starters on the mound return to the roster for the Pioneers. The encouraging part is that Nick Leiningen, Troy Scribner and Kody Kerski (4-4, 4.94) combined for 17 complete games. On the downside of that, there is very little returning to the bullpen for the back end of games. Some newbies are going to have to come in and contribute right away.

- John Murphy had a great summer in the Cape Cod League last summer, hitting .308 for Bourne and even playing in the Cape All Star Game as well. With his speed and bat discipline, he could be one of the best tablesetters in the country.

- Power and dash is provided by catcher Matt Charmello (.282-3-21) and speedy OF Keaton Flint (.276), who stole 20 bases last season and will team with John Murphy in helping to put pressure on opposing defenses.

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- WAGNER (22-33, 15-17)

2012 ISR: 267

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 6

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All Conference Candidates:

OF Jayson Keel (.273, 10SBs)

OF Ian Miller (.312, 34SBs)

C Jason Gordon (.300)

2B Nick Dini (.293)

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NOTES:

- Last year’s early season schedule was so ridiculously tough, it wasn’t surprising to see the Seahawks struggle with a 3-11 start before the NEC portion kicked in. Fortunately, coach Jim Carone and company put together a much more manageable early season slate. After a tough opening weekend at the N.C. State Tournament, they’ll play winnable games with teams like Richmond, Fordham, Norfolk State, VCU, LaSalle and St. Joseph’s.

- One thing you have to like is how OF Ian Miller fared against some of the best talent in the country after he was named the No. 5 ranked pro prospect in the high-level Alaska League last summer. Miller hit .287 for the Mat-Sui Miners, which was among the top 20 hitters of the League.

- Big expectations are in line for INF Shaun Flynn, who is a highly-regarded incoming JC transfer. Flynn hit a mind-numbing .504 with 29SBs for Burlington County College, good enough to lead all of the JC ranks. He’ll have two years of eligibility left at Wagner.

- Two more players to keep an eye on for this coming season are sophomore jack-of-all-trades Nick Dini and Matt Morris. Dini had what the Wagner website says “turned in arguably one of the finest rookie seasons in school history.”  Morris, a crafty left-handed pitcher, has had a hard-luck career so far in Staten Island starting two games in 2011 before being shelved due to an arm injury. Then in 2012, he never saw the field due to even more injuries. But the coaches are high on his potential and are hopeful he’ll rise from the ashes in 2013.

- All American ace Ryan Van Spronsen will be sorely missed. Mainly because I liked writing about him every other week or so after an another awesome outing and just ‘coz I really dig his name. But most importantly the Seahawks coaches and players will miss him as the staff’s leaning post. But RHP Ryan Casey (4-4, 5.81) could develop into a Friday ace as well, especially after throwing five complete games last season. Also watch for an even bigger emergence from RHP reliever Anthony Battaglia, who was 3-3 with a 1.84 ERA and four saves.

- Even though there are a lot of experienced arms coming back for this spring, the bad news is that Battaglia is the only returning pitcher with an ERA under 5.00. So there is definitely a need for every arm on the staff to amp-up their game in 2013.

 

COMMENTS:

February 8, 2013 at 11:06 pm
Coach Gary Puccio, FDU says:

Hi Eric,

First of all, I just want to thank you for the kind words you have written about me the past two seasons. It is greatly appreciated. You obviously do your homework and seem to take a lot of pride in your analysis of each conference. I truly enjoy reading all of them.

I also just want to correct a couple of things — Eric Snyder is a RHP and Jordan Ritz is a sophomore. We are young again this year, and the league is better as you said. Hopefully we will find a way to continue to go up rather than drop back. Time will tell.

Thanks again. Looking forward to reading your stories/blogs all season.

Gary Puccio, Head Coach, FDU