Through 20 games, the Southern New Hampshire University baseball team appears to be as advertised.
The Penmen, who were picked second (behind Franklin Pierce) in the Northeast Division of the Northeast-10 Conference’s preseason coaches’ poll, have a 15-5 record entering today’s game against St. Michael’s College. Teams in the Northeast-10 have yet to begin league play, but SNHU’s overall record is the best in the conference.
So far this season the Penmen have received significant contributions from two New Hampshire residents who transferred into the program: Franklin’s Derrick Sylvester and Goffstown’s Riley Palmer.
“Both have been very good for us,” SNHU coach Scott Loiseau said. “Both are playing well, and they’re both good leaders.”
Sylvester, a starting pitcher who came to SNHU via Boston College, is 3-1 with a team-best 2.81 ERA in five appearances (all starts). He has 21 strikeouts in 32 innings.Palmer began his career as a pitcher/shortstop at Franklin Pierce, but became a corner infielder after he transferred to SNHU following his freshman season. He’s batting .254 with two home runs, 10 RBIs and nine stolen bases this season.
Palmer will carry an eight-game hitting streak into today’s game against St. Michael’s, which is SNHU’s first conference contest.
“Derrick has the things you can’t teach,” Loiseau said. “He’s 6-6, he throws hard and he’s an intelligent pitcher.
“I think Riley got off to a slow start, but he’s come on lately. He’s separated himself as an everyday third baseman. He’s made himself a plus defender.”
Much was expected of Sylvester this season after he went 6-2 with a 1.34 ERA in 11 starts as a junior. His ERA was sixth among Division II pitchers in 2013. He posted those numbers after battling numerous injuries in 2011 and 2012. He redshirted the 2012 season following elbow surgery.
Before his senior season began, Sylvester was one of 125 players nationwide named to the Tino Martinez Watch List. The Tino Martinez Award is presented to the top Division II player each year.
“My sophomore season and then 2012 were super frustrating,” Sylvester said. “Because I hadn’t pitched much in the previous two years, there was a big turnaround from beginning to end last season. I pitched better as I gained arm strength.
“I’m lucky enough to be 6-6, so one of my strengths is being able to throw downhill. I’ve been fortunate enough to get some run support early in the season.”
Sylvester was a three-sport athlete (baseball, basketball and golf) at Franklin High School. He was a four-year starter in baseball, and was named the Class M (now Division III) Player of the Year in 2009.
He arrived at SNHU after spending one season at Boston College. He was named to the Northeast-10 All-Rookie Team after his freshman season, when he posted a 4-2 record with a team-best 2.72 ERA in nine appearances.
Palmer, who is also a senior, was a standout in both baseball and hockey at Goffstown High School. He helped the Grizzlies win the Class L championship in baseball when he was a sophomore, and was named the Class L (now Division I) Player of the Year as a senior, when he hit .462 with seven home runs.
Palmer has Improved every season since arriving at SNHU. He hit .202 with a 12 RBIs in 40 games (35 starts) as a sophomore, and batted .254 with five home runs and 38 RBIs last season. He’s hitting fourth in the batting order this year.
“Every year I look forward to doing better than I did the year before, but I don’t believe in batting average — I think it’s evil,” Palmer said. “I feel if I hit the ball hard then I’ve beaten the pitcher. Getting a hit is a bonus.
“I would say I have a lot of pop. I’ll drive the ball in the gaps more than I’ll hit home runs.
“I feel a big season coming from this team, and I’m real excited about it.”
Today’s game against St. Michael’s will be played at Franklin Pierce. SNHU will enter that contest having won five of its last six, and 11 of its last 13.
“We are off to a pretty good start, but it’s early,” Loiseau said. “The one thing I like about this group is they love to play baseball, and they play hard every day.
“Derrick has been really good for us so far, but I really think the best has yet to come for him this year — and for Riley too.”