PAWTUCKET, R.I. – University of Massachusetts Dartmouth junior righty Matt Cronin (Framingham, Mass.) was named the 2018 Little East Conference (LEC) Pitcher of the Year, as announced by the league office this afternoon. The third-year hurler becomes the first member of the Blue and Gold to earn the major award since Corsair Hall of Fame Inductee Steve Pereira, who received the recognition in the first two inaugural years of the conference in 1997 and 1998. Also receiving all-conference recognition was sophomore Nate Tellier (Attleboro, Mass.), whose athletic ability all over the field earned a spot on the Second Team.
Strictly utilized as a reliever over the course of his freshman and sophomore seasons, Cronin underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm that caused him to miss the 2017 season. For the 2018 campaign, he transitioned to a starting pitcher's role and rapidly became the staff's ace, baffling all opponents ranging from within the conference to the top Div. III institutions in the nation.
In the Corsairs' first game of the year at the New England Baseball Complex against Worcester State, the Framingham, Mass. native struck out three in as many innings to nudge the squad to a 10-2 win before departing for Florida. He made his first career start on the bump of the historic Henley Field in Lakeland, Fla. against Wartburg, scattering six hits over five shutout innings alongside eight strikeouts. For his efforts, the junior got his first of multiple accolades this year by receiving LEC Pitcher of the Week.
It had not been until his fourth start that Cronin would allow his first earned run of the season against Plymouth State, pitching to an intimidating 0.00 ERA through the first three weeks of the campaign. After setting a new career-high with nine punch-outs over eight innings of one-run ball against Western Connecticut on Apr. 21, the ace would stay hot against Eastern Connecticut on Apr. 28, no-hitting the Warriors through 8.1 innings. While his bid for baseball immortality would be disrupted by a hard ground ball up the middle, he led the Corsairs to a pivotal conference win over the Warriors by finishing with just one hit allowed to lower his ERA to a nation-leading 0.35. The sensational performance earned him a spot on the Apr. 23-29 D3Baseball.com Team of the Week, elevating his performance from the conference spectrum to the national platform.
In ten appearances (nine starts), the righty has fanned 67 batters across 63.2 innings and has yielded just 35 hits for seven earned runs. His six wins are tied for second in the conference, while ranking second in the league with 67 strikeouts and a share for second place in wins (six). Per NCAA.com through games as of May 13, Cronin's sparkling 0.99 earned run average is tied for first in the country alongside Nick Powers of New England College.
Tellier was named to the LEC Second-Team, wrapping up his sophomore season as the team leader in nearly every offensive category for the Corsairs, including batting average (.382), hits (63), triples (three), runs batted in (37), runs (34), stolen bases (19), on-base percentage (.464), slugging percentage (.570), and is tied with senior Kenny Michael (Norwood, Mass.) for walks (24).
Predominantly the Blue and Gold's leadoff man this season, Tellier has done a tremendous job all year of setting the table for the squad – to start the season, the outfielder had reached base safely in the first 18 games of the campaign. He sits at 18 multi-hit contests in the 2018 circuit, including several clutch base-knocks that helped propel UMass Dartmouth in a handful of come-from-behind victories. On Mar. 16 with the Corsairs tied 3-3 in the ninth against Clarkson University (N.Y.), the sophomore tattooed a two-out RBI triple over the centerfielder's head to plate the game-winning run, salvaging the nightcap and forging a doubleheader split against the Golden Knights. Later on in the season on Apr. 26, the Attleboro native proved to be the difference in a competitive Thursday afternoon battle with Suffolk University, winner of the Great Northeast Atlantic Conference (GNAC) for four straight years. In UMass Dartmouth's fifth consecutive win, he blasted two homers, including a two-run laser in the seventh to top the Rams, 4-3. It was not the first time this year that he got to trot around the bases a pair of times in a single ballgame, as he uncorked a solo and two-run dinger the weekend before versus Western Connecticut.
With the leather, Tellier has patrolled the field with ease, topping UMass Dartmouth outfielders in total chances (70), putouts (62), assists (seven), while recording the least amount of miscues (one) for a share of second on the team in fielding percentage (.986). He has also proved his athletic abilities on the mound, making five appearances on the rubber that encompassed a tough road tilt with Tufts on Apr. 22 when the sophomore got the win in the squad's 9-8 triumph.
The Blue and Gold concluded its season on Friday, May 11, with an overall record of 25-15. It is the third time in the past four years that UMass Dartmouth has accomplished the 25-victory feat, posting its highest winning percentage (.625) since 2004.