Home sweet home.
For the third consecutive season, the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship East Regional Tournament will be hosted by Southern New Hampshire University.
“It’s great for our guys to play at home, to remain in their daily routine,” said SNHU head coach Scott Loiseau. “It’s definitely an advantage. The backing and support we’ve received in recent years from our university president all the way down has made the difference. They were the ones who decided to upgrade our field and it has paid off for us. If we don’t have the field we now have with lights, we’re not in the discussion of hosting a regional.”
The six-team, double-elimination regionals begin Thursday at 11 a.m. when the Penmen (39-12), the top-seed in the region and newly crowned Northeast-10 Conference champs, battle No. 6 seed Felician (N.J.) College (29-18), the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference champion.
Two other first-round games on Thursday are: No. 3 seed Wilmington (Del.) University (34-9-1) facing No. 4 seed St. Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.) College (34-15) at 3 p.m., while No. 2 seed Franklin Pierce University (35-16) takes on No. 5 seed Dowling (N.Y.) College (33-15) at 7 p.m.
The tournament continues Friday and Saturday with game times listed at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. The regional championship game is slated for noon on Sunday.
Loiseau and his Penmen have played every team in this tournament during the regular season except for St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Penmen split two games against Felician. The Golden Falcons won the first meeting 6-4 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the Penmen won the rematch 6-2 on March 14 in Cary, N.C., site of the Division II College World Series set for May 24-31.
Derrick Sylvester of Franklin gained the mound win against Felician. In 6 2/3 innings, he allowed 10 hits, two runs, one walk and fanned four. Sylvester earned Most Valuable Player honors in the NE-10 Tournament. He opened the tournament last Wednesday with a complete-game three-hitter in a 9-1 win against Bentley College. Sylvester (8-2) faced 32 batters, walked two and fanned 15 hitters.
Sylvester got the final two outs in relief Sunday in the Penmen’s 2-0 championship game win over Adelphi.
Loiseau said Sylvester will get the start Thursday against the Golden Falcons, who are expected to start lefthander Jerry Vasto, the CCAC Pitcher of the Year.
Vasto suffered the regular season loss against the Penmen, giving up nine hits in seven innings. He walked one, fanned five and surrendered four runs.
Vasto (6-2, 1.46 ERA, 13 games) enters Thursday’s game on a 22-inning shutout streak. Opponents are hitting .202 against him this season and he has 68 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings on the mound.
“Felician is a tough matchup,” said Loiseau. “Their shortstop, (Aaron) Brill, was named player of the year from their conference. Up and down the lineup, they’re a solid team.”
Leftfielder Joe Petosa, rightfielder Jay Collazo and third baseman Scott De Jong combined for 13 hits in the two games against the Penmen.
Penmen fans will get to watch one of the best base stealers in the nation. Senior Brendan O’Brien of SNHU stole 55 straight bases dating back to last year before he was caught in the NE-10 first-round game against Bentley last week.
The 55 straight swipes rank as the second-longest streak in NCAA Division II history.
“Brendan is an A-plus player who leads by example,” said Loiseau. “He’s our catalyst. The amazing thing about his base-stealing mark is that when he gets on base, everyone knows he’s going to steal and he still doesn’t get caught.”
The Penmen enter the regional winners of eight straight games. The Golden Falcons have captured 10 of their last 13 games.
Against the other regional teams during the regular season, the Penmen split two games against Dowling, took two-of-three games against Franklin Pierce and beat Wilmington in the lone meeting back on March 4.
Tickets for each day will be $6 for adults and $4 for students with ID, senior citizens and children ages 2-12.
Children under the age of 2 will be admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Dartmouth softball heads west for NCAAs
The Dartmouth College softball team earned an NCAA trip to Arizona State to compete in the four-team, double-elimination Tempe Regional.
Dartmouth (31-17) will play the Sun Devils (44-10-1) on Friday at 6 p.m.
In the 3:30 p.m., opener, San Diego State (39-17) plays Michigan (42-12).
The Big Green received the Ivy League’s automatic bid after defeating Penn in Hanover in the best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series, two games to one.