Ready to battle in the program’s seventh consecutive Little East Conference (LEC) postseason and eighth in the last nine years under the tutelage of Head Coach Bob Prince, UMass Dartmouth (17-19, 8-8 LEC) enters the stacked league playoff picture as the fifth seed following a roller coaster 2019 campaign. The LEC Baseball Championship Tournament will be hosted by top-seeded (#3) Southern Maine from Wednesday through Saturday at Ed Flaherty Field in Gorham.
RISING TO THE OCCASION
The Corsairs had no shortage of quality opponents by stepping up to not one, or two, but five nationally ranked opponents on the year. UMass Dartmouth rose to the occasion nearly every time out to the tune of an .800 winning percentage (4-1) against such foes.
- Mar. 10 vs. #14 Keystone (Florida): Two quick Corsair runs in the top of the first had the squad feeling comfortable until they were quickly erased by a Giant three-run shot in the bottom half of the opening frame. However, sophomore reliever Max Penton (Waltham, Mass.) submitted a sensational effort in his collegiate debut by posting six shutout innings to buy his team enough time to tally six unanswered runs for the 9-6 victory.
- Mar. 26 at #23 UMass Boston: In its fifth battle in six days after returning from an always dense Sunshine State slate, UMass Dartmouth marched in to Monan Park and rode the effort of junior Tucker Hetherman’s (Webster, Mass.) strong start that featured six innings, two runs, five hits, and six strikeouts. Classmate JR DiSarcina (Barnstable, Mass.) provided a bulk of the offense by going 3-5 with four RBI to queue up the nine-out save by Nate Tellier (Attleboro, Mass.), who sat down six without yielding a hit or run in the team’s 8-2 triumph.
- Apr. 2 vs. #3 Southern Maine: Hetherman stepped up once again by toeing the rubber and not departing it until the eighth inning behind a myriad of run support as eight of the starting nine collected hits in a convincing 7-0 shutout triumph over the Huskies.
- Apr. 24 at #7 Babson: Senior Pat Vartanian (Canton, Mass.) pushed the Corsairs ahead in the ninth with a go-ahead RBI knock for his third hit of the afternoon to ultimately snap the Beavers’ then nine-game winning streak with a 5-3 road dub.
AT THE DISH
- Corsair junior Mike Knell (Dennis, Mass.) has enjoyed a tremendously successful junior circuit with a slash line of .371/.464/.692. The everyday third baseman has not missed a single one of the Blue and Gold’s 36 contests, in which he has totalled 11 homers, 37 RBI, and 40 runs.
- Left-handed hitting senior outfielder Chris Wood (Berkley, Mass.) has used all fields to rack up a .326 batting average while also exhibiting a very patient approach at the plate, working a team-high 25 walks to boost his .451 on-base efficiency.
- Tellier has also shown his ability to spray the ball all over the field by mashing at a .313 clip to go along with 20 RBI. The two-way standout has also swiped 14 bags on the year.
ON THE HILL
- A season after coming back from Tommy John Surgery and compiling numerous league-, regional-, and nation-wide awards such as LEC, ABCA, and D3Baseball.com Pitcher of the Year accolades among others, senior All-America Matt Cronin (Framingham, Mass.) picked up right where he left off by earning three wins this season. With two complete games already in his ledger and six of his starts going for seven or more innings, the workhorse has rung up 70 hitters in 64.2 innings of work for a 2.09 ERA.
- Hetherman, too, has seen success on the bump in his first loop with UMass Dartmouth. The starter of seven battles, he has posted a 4-1 record and 33 strikeouts in 38.2 frames, including a seven-inning complete game versus Keene State (11-1 win).
- The Corsairs have been able to shorten games to as little as six innings when Tellier comes in from the outfield or second base to take the mound as he has registered five saves of six outs or more. On the year, he has shut the door successfully six times, punching out 38 in 24.1 innings for a career-high 14.05 K/9 ratio. He may be peaking at the right time for the squad’s bullpen as he stifled nearly the entirety of the Rhode Island College lineup in Friday’s regular season finale, striking out all eight Anchormen that he faced on his way to an eight out save.
- Corsair hitters have jumped on opposing pitchers when forced to go from the stretch, stringing together a .306 batting average with runners on and a .302 clip with runners in scoring position.
- Leading off innings, the first UMass Dartmouth batter has posted a .374 efficiency in the box.
- The Blue and Gold have made the most of their opportunities with runners on third and less than two outs by amassing a .538 average in such scenarios.
- Of the team’s 73 two-out RBI’s this year, Vartanian owns 13 of them.
- Corsair pitchers have muzzled left-handed hitting opponents particularly via the trio of Tellier, freshman Jon Levy (Norton, Mass.), and senior Chase Hussey (Claremont, N.H.), who have limited the southpaw opposition to a combined 2-52 overall.
WHEN & WHERE TO WATCH
No. 5 UMass Dartmouth has Game Two of the 2019 LEC Championship, taking on intrastate rival #2 UMass Boston at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Those unable to catch the Corsairs in action in Gorham will have access to live statistics and video at littleeast.tv. For more updates on the Blue and Gold’s playoff schedule as the tournament progresses, please visit the official LEC website (littleeast.com) or the UMass Dartmouth Athletic website (corsairathletics.com).
By: Kyle Diangkinay ’19, Athletic Communications Graduate Assistant