GORHAM, ME - After a year's absence, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's baseball team is back in the Little East Conference Tournament.
The Corsairs are seeded fifth and will begin play Wednesday against second-seeded Eastern Connecticut State in the second game of the day. Game time is 12:30 p.m. at the Southern Maine Baseball Field. The tournament is a double-elimination affair and continues through Saturday.
The Corsairs and Warriors split their regular season doubleheader at ECSU, with Eastern winning the opener, 3-2, at home on April 27th, and UMD coming back to take the nightcap, 13-5. UMass Dartmouth went 15-21 and 6-8 in the Little East, while the Warriors were 28-11-1 and 10-4.
"Making the tournament was one of our goals, that's something we spoke about from day one," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach Bob Prince. "We have a very young team, and our players have not yet experienced tournament play. This is a major step moving in the direction we want to go in, and it's an honor to be in this tournament. Arguably, this is one of the top three conferences in the country in Division III baseball, and this is what you play for."
The host Huskies are the favorite, but several teams have the ability to go all the way.
"We have the talent, our coaching staff believes in our players, and it's a matter of our players believing in themselves that we can compete with the top teams in the tournament," said Prince. "It's about doing the little things. When you start playing a high level of baseball, you have to pitch well, play good defense and do a good job offensively, and we've been doing that the last couple of weeks on a more consistent basis."
The Corsairs' pitching staff has shown improvement.
"Our pitchers have stepped up, and (sophomore) Nick Fuller (New Bedford, MA/New Bedford HS) has turned into a true number one," said Prince. "When he's on the mound, we always have a shot to win. Everything else has fallen into place, people understand their roles, and we've been doing the little things right. We haven't been making a bunch of errors, we've been minimizing big innings by our opponents, and we've been getting two out hits."
A win in the opening game could go a long way.
"In any tournament, getting into the winners' bracket is an advantage," said Prince. "It's good to get off to a good start, although it's not an insurmountable situation if you don't. If you extend your stay, it keeps your pitching on track. We're going to have to come out and play the way we've been playing. The key is not beating yourself, and focusing on your job to the best of your ability, and we like our chances when we do that. "
At Southern Maine, Prince is returning to the school where he starred as a player and served as an assistant coach before joining the Corsairs.
"Last week, was the first time I've been back, and it was nice to get that out of the way," said Prince. "I saw people I hadn't seen in a while. I had great relationships with the people who are here, they do a great job, and the tournament will be run very well."
The winner of the tournament earns the LEC's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III regionals next week.
UMASS DARTMOUTH BASEBALL