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CCSU Baseball Endures Successful Transition Season

By Tom Liljedahl

With four conference games left this season, the CCSU baseball team is in a familiar position, competing for a spot in the Northeastern Conference tournament.

After winning the NEC tournament last season, the Blue Devils viewed 2011 as a transition season. However, the team currently sits in fifth place in the conference with a 15-13 record, a mere half game behind Bryant University for the final spot in the NEC tournament. The tournament will take place May 19 and 20, at Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium in Norwich, Conn., and the winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“We lost nine important seniors from last year’s team, including infielder Sean Allaire, who was the Conference Player of the Year,” said head oach Charlie Hickey. “We had to replace a lot of good players, but we still had high expectations coming into the season.”

Other critical seniors from last year’s team included first baseman Tommy Meade, and outfielders Richie Tri and Kyle Zarotney, all of whom were three year starters. Despite the losses, Hickey had reason to be confident, as he has led the Blue Devils to the conference tournament nine times since coming here from Providence College twelve years ago.

“Coming into the season we had a lot of new guys such as freshman and transfer students, as well as a lot of guys who didn’t see the field due to older teammates, so in that sense it is a transition season,” said Mitch Wells. “Getting everyone used to how things are done here is always tricky, but that’s what the offseason is for. Come spring, I had just as much confidence in this team as I did last year’s team.”

Wells has led by example for the young team with a .371 batting average, 40 RBIs, and 30 runs scored. The pitching has also stepped up, with a pair of sophomores leading the way. Nick Newmann leads the team in strikeouts, with 50, and Todd Savatsky, who boasts a 3.00 ERA, each have five wins on the season.

“Last year we had a lot of veterans on the team with a lot of games under their belt. But this year we have a lot of new comers that were asked to step up and produce. Our goal remains the same: the NEC championship,” said Savatsky, who went from a red shirt to a conference starter this season.

Among the new comers are outfielder J.P. Sportman, infielder Dylan Delacruz, and outfielder Anthony Turgeon, all of whom start for the Blue Devils as freshmen. Turgeon is third on the team with a .327 batting average.

“We knew we were going to need contributions from new players this season,” said Hickey, “A lot of guys have really come on strong and gotten us going.”

Wells remains confident that this team will continue to be successful. “No one can be considered young at this point in the season, that’s just an excuse. I think we’re ready to battle this last weekend of conference play, make the tourney, and win it again.”

If the team hopes to defend the title, the Blue Devils must rebound from being swept in four games by Sacred Heart University this past weekend. The team plays host to Northeastern University at 3 p.m. on Wed., May 11, before travelling to Long Island this weekend for three critical NEC games.

Blue Devils Swept Away

Sacred Heart Completes Four-Game Sweep of CCSU

By Christopher McLaughlin

If good pitching and defense is the recipe for success in baseball, it’s no wonder why the CCSU Baseball team (23-21-1) was swept in its four game series against Sacred Heart (27-20).

Blue Devils pitching surrendered a combined 23 earned runs, and the eight errors the CCSU fielders committed led to seven unearned runs, bringing the total to 30. To put it into perspective, Sacred Heart pitching allowed 16 earned runs and the three errors the Pioneers’ committed errors only led to one unearned run.

Though the CCSU bats were able to get hits off of Sacred Heart pitching, the team was nowhere near as productive as the Pioneers. In the entire series, CCSU hit four extra base hits, while Sacred Heart hit 17. CCSU hit no homeruns, Sacred Heart hit four.

Mitch Wells, Pat Epps, and JP Sportman combined for 15 hits, and 5 RBI. Sacred Heart’s 3-5 hitters, combined for 17 hits and 12 RBI.

Though there were very few bright spots in a series in which CCSU was out-played, the Blue Devils at least showed heart. All four games saw the Blue Devils battle until the end, regardless of the score. Even with the valiant effort, the damage done could not be overcome, and Sacred Heart was victorious.

“For the first time in a long while, we deserved this,” said Head Coach Charlie Hickey. “We didn’t pitch well, played very poor defense, and ran into an aggressive offense, it’s kind of the perfect storm for getting swept. If there is a silver lining, it’s that we didn’t quit. These are the wars you go through, and you have to persevere through them.”

The series opened up with CCSU taking a 3-0 lead in the second inning over the Pioneers. While the offense was clicking, CCSU starter Todd Savatsky threw three no-hit innings, but then things began to fall apart.

CCSU maintained its lead until the sixth inning, but Rob Griffith led off blasting a pitch over the score board in left-center. After a few more base hits, a throwing error led to Sacred Heart’s second run of the inning, and drove Savatsky from the game.

The first batter relief pitcher Ray Natoli faced, hit what appeared to be a deep fly ball that ended up being carried over the fence by the wind, for two more Sacred Heart runs. Natoli got out of the inning without any more damage, but enough had been done.

CCSU was able to cut into the lead on a Dylan Delacruz sac fly, but Sacred Heart canceled out the run by picking up one more in the eighth. The Blue Devils led off the ninth with a base hit, but it was quickly erased on a double play. After the twin killing, Sacred Heart shut the door on the Blue Devils comeback, and closed out the first game 7-4.

“It didn’t seem like we were able to capitalize on our opportunities,” said Hickey. “We have to give credit to their defense, it’s a championship caliber team they have, and we made costly errors that created extra outs and allowed them to score.”

A leadoff walk began the second game, and first of a double-header, the skies opened up and the rain and lightning forced an hour long rain delay. CCSU starter Dave Krasnowiecki returned to the mound when play resumed, and though he got out of the first inning without any harm, the rest of the game was a different story.

Sacred Heart put up numbers in each of the next four innings to blow the game open. The Blue Devils trailed 11-0, when Sean Miller-Jones hit an RBI single to finally put CCSU on the board in the fourth. Despite trailing by 10, CCSU refused to pack it in. In the seventh and final inning the Blue Devils put up three runs on four hits. Though the team scraped until the final out, the lead proved to be insurmountable and CCSU lost game two.

“This team is playing the best out of anyone we played all year,” said Hickey. “We battled until the end and I‘m proud of the way we fought, but they were able to get out of it.”

Though Sacred Heart bats were quiet to end its 11-4 romp, the team lay dormant, waiting for the game to mean something again. The pioneers opened up the second game of the double header, with a barrage of hits, pushing three across the plate to give them an early lead.

Sacred Heart tacked on two more in the third to extend the lead to five, but the Blue Devils’ bats exploded in the fifth. Six runs on seven hits gave CCSU its first lead since it led 3-2 in game one. Epps doubled twice in the inning, and RBIs from Sportman, Anthony Turgeon, and Normand Gosselin helped CCSU erase the deficit.

The lead was short-lived as Sacred Heart picked up a two-out RBI in the sixth to knot the game up. The Pioneers came back in the seventh with two more to put them back on top. Sacred Heart pitcher Robbie Maguire struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to close out the game, and secure a series victory for the Pioneers.

“It’s all part of the perfect storm to get swept,” said Hickey. “Every bunt play turned into an adventure for us and it shouldn’t be like that. All the little things we did wrong hurt us and the things they did wrong we didn’t take advantage of.”

Where the other three games turned into slugfests, game four was the pitcher’s duel. Both pitchers played well, only giving up two runs during their time on the mound.

CCSU scored its first two runs on sac flies from Andy Lalli. In the ninth, however, Blue Devils starter Harry Glynne quickly loaded the bases on the first three batters he faced. After going eight innings of one run baseball, Glynne was in danger of taking the loss, so Hickey went with closer Josh Ingham.

While Sacred Heart got a run in to tie it, Ingham did well considering the situation he was thrust into, and got out of the inning only allowing the one run. With CCSU unable to get a run across in the ninth, the game was sent into extra innings.

The Pioneers struck first in extra innings, picking up two runs in the 11th. CCSU had a chance to tie, after loading the bases in the bottom of the inning, but only one run reached home safely. For the fourth game, Sacred Heart prevailed over CCSU, and completed its sweep of the Blue Devils.

The reality is we ran into a good team playing great baseball,” said Hickey. “We’re at the point of the season where this is a stiff blow to the chin. We’re going to have to swallow our pride and regroup over the next week. We pushed this one hard and it wasn’t pretty, but when you load the bases in the bottom of the 11th I’ll take my chances of getting a hit every time.”

The Blue Devils started the weekend tied with Sacred Heart for third place in the NEC, but after dropping four straight, CCSU is now in fifth, while Sacred Heart moves into second. The Blue Devils have just four games left in the season, including Senior Day on Wednesday the 11th.

Sacred Heart Sweeps Saturday Doubleheader Against Blue Devils

By Chris McLaughlin

After an hour long rain delay, Sacred Heart took it to Blue Devil pitching and swept Saturday’s double header 11-4 and  8-6.

With one on and one out in the first inning of game one Saturday, the skies opened up and the rain and lightning forced a rain delay. When play resumed, the Blue Devils stuck with starter Dave Krasnowiecki.

While he showed no effects of the delay in the first, Sacred Heart got to him in the second. The Pioneers picked up three in the second. Two more crossed the plate in the third for Sacred Heart while the Blue Devils bats remained quiet.

Steve Tedesco and Rob Griffith took Krasnowiecki deep in the fourth, bringing the lead to 7-0 and chasing Krasnowiecki from the game. The Blue Devils finally got on the board in the fourth when JP Sportman picked up the first hit of the game for CCSU.

The struggles for Blue Devil pitching continued as a bases loaded walk was followed up by a bases clearing triple to break the game open. Though there was a 10-run deficit, the Blue Devils didn’t go down quietly. In the seventh and final inning, the Blue Devils scrapped for three runs on four hits, showing signs of life going into game two.

Sacred Heart opened up the second game with a barrage of hits, collecting three runs in the process. Miscues in the field continued to trouble the Blue Devils in the third, as two sacrifice bunts turned into base hits when CCSU, leading to two more runs.

Sacred Heart starter Cody Kerski was in control for much of the game, but things completely unraveled in the fifth.  Three straight hits followed by a sacrifice fly brought in two runs. A two-run single by Anthony Turgeon brought in two more to tie the game and drove Kerski from the game. The inning was capped off by a Pat Epps RBI double to give the team its first lead of the afternoon.

The lead wouldn’t last long, as Sacred Heart tied the game in the top of the sixth. Sacred Heart then came out in the seventh and picked up two more runs. Down two in the final inning, the Blue Devils were unable to rally, and the double header ended in defeat for CCSU.

The Blue Devils also lost the series opener on Friday.

Saturday Starters Key in Sweep at Quinnipiac

Complete Games Highlight First Conference Series Sweep Since 2009

By Kenny Barto

Dave Krasnowiecki pitched a complete game on Saturday to help the Blue Devils sweep Quinnipiac. Photo: Kenny Barto.

This weekend, the CCSU baseball team came away with four huge road victories against conference foe and in-state rival Quinnipiac. It was the Blue Devils’ first Northeast Conference series sweep in over two seasons, the last coming in 2009 at Long Island.

Even though the series covered three days, Friday through Sunday, the story mostly rested on two pitchers’ performances in the doubleheader on Saturday. Dave Krasnowiecki and Nick Neumann both turned in their second straight complete games, which were instrumental in CCSU getting the weekend sweep. For Krasnowiecki, it was his third shutout in four starts.

“It reminds me of some days when we had Barry Hertzler and Louie Pappariella running out there on Saturdays,” said CCSU Head Coach Charlie Hickey. “It’s a nice way to play, and it pays dividends when you can play five to one or six to one baseball.”

The first game of the series on Friday saw a blowout that inflated the scoreboard to a football-esque score of 26-3. The Blue Devils were led by key offensive efforts by Mitch Wells (5-for-7, 4 RBI), Pat Epps (4-for-7, 5 RBI, HR) and Sean Miller-Jones (3-for-6, 6 RBI, HR).

“Everyone was on base [on Friday],” Hickey said. “We just went out there and had a really good game offensively and were able to keep their offense in check.”

Mitch Wells (right) celebrates with teammates. Wells had four RBIs in Friday;s 26-3 rout of the Bobcats. Photo: Kenny Barto.

The big win gave both Krasnowiecki and Neumann the momentum and confidence to take the mound and hand in impressive performances on Saturday. Krasnowiecki started off strong by striking out three batters in the first. However, as the case has been all season, he struggled a bit with his command and walked one batter who eventually made it to third after a throwing error on a stolen base attempt, but couldn’t score.

Krasnowiecki didn’t run into any more trouble until the fourth inning, where a leadoff single and another walk put runners on first and second. Quinnipiac used some small ball tactics and advanced both runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. With just one out, Krasnowiecki made some key pitches and ended the inning with a strikeout and ground out.

Other than the fourth inning, Krasnowiecki did a great job of scattering his baserunners. He allowed one hit in the fifth, one walk in the sixth and worked a one, two, three seventh to secure yet another shutout. He accumulated only three hits, walked three and struck out six to improve to 4-3 on the season with a 3.02 ERA. Over his last four starts, he has an ERA of just 0.66 (two runs in 27 innings) and has held the opposition to a .157 batting average (14 for 89).

“I had no idea it was that low,” Krasnowiecki said. “I always go back after the fact and look at anything, but that’s definitely surprising, and it makes me feel great about how I’ve done so far.”

On Saturdays, Krasnowiecki shares the mound with another outstanding pitcher in Neumann, who continued his success by starting game two of Saturday’s doubleheader with 4 2/3 innings of perfection.

Neumann simply cruised through the Quinnipiac lineup until the Bobcats got back-to-back hits in the fifth, but was able to ease his way out of trouble with the help of a double play. With no outs in the seventh and a runner on first, Neumann was hit in the foot by a line drive, but it was deflected right to Wells at third base, who was able to quickly get it to first for out number one. Neumann’s tempo seemed to be interrupted, as he gave up one more hit that allowed the first and only run to score for Qunnipiac.

Neumann’s final line stood at seven innings, five hits, one run, no walks and five strikeouts in a seven inning game that took just an hour and 16 minutes.

“I thought all-in-all it was pretty good out there today,” Neumann said. “They were getting themselves out today and in the beginning it was four pitches, four fly balls, so it made it a little bit easier.”

Neumann leads the Blue Devils in ERA (with a minimum of three appearances) at 2.09. He has walked just nine batters in 56 innings.

“It’s like a competition to see who can do better every weekend,” Krasnowiecki said. “I think he fell off a little, couldn’t finish it off in the seventh inning, but it was a good day out there all around.”

Neumann feels the same way about his teammate that starts ahead of him on Saturdays.

“I definitely feed off of him, he’s a hard worker,” Neumann said. “And it helps out our bullpen a lot to be able to come out and throw complete games.”

For Hickey, he embraces the added team chemistry on a day that is supposed to be the toughest of the series.

“It gives you a good feeling when you’re going to play a series that you play four games,” Hickey said. “We haven’t been here in a while, so I trust that we’ll find even better pitching from now on.”

With the Blue Devils going into Sunday for the chance at a sweep, Harry Glynne took the mound for his second straight start in the number four slot of CCSU’s weekend rotation. Glynne turned in an impressive performance, going seven innings, giving up four hits and one earned run while striking out five and not giving up a single walk. Nick Boyd took the ball in the eighth with a 5-1 lead, and gave up four earned runs to the Bobcats. The 5-5 tie continued for four more innings, largely because of good relief pitching from both sides. Josh Ingham pitched 4 2/3 innings of shutout baseball, giving up five hits and struck out eight.

“We saw Josh Ingham come in and get some outs against a team that could taste winning,” Hickey said. “He threw strikes and made the big pitches, and did really well out there.”

With two outs in the 12th inning, Miller-Jones came through with his 10th hit and 11th RBI of the series with a huge home run to left field.

“That felt good,” Miller-Jones said. “As a group we wanted that sweep, and to get the winning run was just felt really good.”

The Blue Devils added a second run from Danny Hickey hitting an RBI single after Tyler Caserta and Normand Gosselin got on base. Josh Ingham worked a scoreless bottom half, completing CCSU’s sweep of Quinnipiac.

“You don’t get caught up with all that stuff,” Hickey said. “It was just an opportunity to come out and take advantage of a team that had been struggling and to put us in a better position as the season winds down.”

The Blue Devils will play their second to last out of conference game at Boston College on Wednesday and will face Sacred Heart over the weekend, who is tied with the Blue Devils for third place in the conference at 15-9.

Springer’s Two Home Runs Highlight Eight-Run UConn Comeback Over CCSU

By Kenny Barto

In a game that seemed to have the atmosphere of an NCAA tournament game, the Connecticut Huskies were able to come back from an eight-run deficit on the road to beat the Blue Devils 16-14.

“That’s some entertainment at the ballpark for you,” CCSU Head Coach Charlie Hickey said. “It’s a fun game to play in, they’re a very good baseball team and we came out and put ourselves into a position to win, but it didn’t work out in the end.”

CCSU’s offense came alive early when Jake Matuszak and Dylan Delacruz led off the game with back-to-back singles. Both runners advanced on a Mitch Wells fly-out, and Matuszak scored when Pat Epps hit a deep foul-out to left field. UConn answered in the second inning with a two-run single through the left side.

The Blue Devils kept battling, however, and were able to score three runs in the third. With one out, Wells singled to left field and was quickly driven in by Epps on a double down the left field line. Anthony Turgeon drove in the other two runs in the inning with a single through the right side, but one of the runs was unearned due to a throwing error by the right fielder.

The fourth inning was another good one for CCSU, netting four runs. Josh Ingham reached on an error by the third baseman to lead off the inning. Matuszak drove Ingham in on a triple to left center, followed by a Delacruz line drive home run to left field. Sean Miller-Jones would drive in the final run, but was thrown out at second trying to stretch his single into a double.

UConn answered with a run in the fifth, but CCSU added another three runs in their half. With two runners on, Matuszak would get another RBI on a single to left field. Delacruz followed by hitting a hard line drive to UConn center fielder and New Britain native George Springer. Springer couldn’t handle the ball and it went off of his glove, which scored Andy Lalli. The final run came on a fielder’s choice, with Wells getting the RBI.

UConn began their comeback in the sixth inning, putting up a five spot against the Blue Devils. Springer would impress his hometown crowd by hitting a bomb into the trees in right center field. The Blue Devils tried to keep up in their half of the sixth with three runs led by a two-run double by Lalli. Matuszak got his third RBI of the game when he reached on a fielder’s choice, but that would be it for the CCSU offense.

Springer would show off his potential first-round draft pick skills by hitting another three-run home run in the seventh. After that, UConn would add five more runs to put the final score at 16-14.

“In a game like this, it just proved to us that we didn’t have the pitching to matchup against them,” Hickey said. “But, this was also a mid-week out of conference game, so our focus now shifts to Friday at Quinnipiac.”

The final numbers for the game were staggering. Thirty total runs, 34 hits and seven errors on ten total pitchers, five for each team. CCSU’s starter, Roy Natoli, seemed to pitch with a lot of confidence, but his relievers could not pick him up. Nate Sturgis gave up three earned runs, plus two more that were charged to Natoli. Jason Foster followed by giving up four runs, one of which was earned, followed by Nick Boyd and Ingham giving up three runs and one run respectively.

Even though the score was high, the first few innings were back and forth, which entertained the crowd of over 200 that showed up. Both teams were against the fence the entire game, and both teams wanted the win even though the game essentially meant nothing in the standings.

“Whenever you play a game like that against a program like that, it’s only going to make your team better,” Hickey said. “We got a lot of young guys out there to play against some good competition, so it really helped us a lot.”

The Blue Devil baseball team was CCSU’s only sport to play against a UConn this season, excluding club teams.

They will hit the road Friday through Sunday for a four-game Northeast Conference series against Quinnipiac.