Dini’s MLB Debut Highlights Sizzling Summer for NEC Baseball Alumni

When Jon Heyman tweets your name, you’re kind of a big deal, in the baseball world, at least.

Former Wagner backstop Nick Dini, who has been working his way up the Royals’ farm system since being selected in the 14th round of the 2015 MLB Draft, received his first call-up to the major leagues and Heyman took to Twitter to spread the news.


Dini, who was hitting .296 with 13 homers for AAA Omaha prior to his promotion, made his big league debut on August 8 against the Tigers and proceeded to rip a sixth-inning single to left field.

The 2015 NEC Player of the Year is the first Northeast Conference product to record a hit in the major leagues this season, but he isn’t the only NEC alumnus succeeding in the pro ranks.

In fact, the month of August has been quite kind to a number of Northeast Conference alumni who are pursuing their MLB dreams.

Hours prior to Dini’s debut, the New York Mets announced the signing of former all-NEC hurler Brad Brach (Monmouth). The Garden State product, who was recently released by the Cubs, has logged 1.1 scoreless innings of relief in two appearances thus far with the Mets.

Brach, who made his MLB debut in 2011, has a 3.31 career ERA and has fanned 527 batters over 497.0 frames.

A trio of former Bryant Bulldogs have also been bringing the heat to the diamond this summer. RHP James Karinchak (Indians), catcher Mickey Gasper (Yankees) and LHP Jack Patterson (Cubs) are thriving and have received promotions at some point this season as a result.

Former Wagner centerfielder Ian Miller, who was at the AAA level in the Mariners’ system, was recently dealt to the Minnesota Twins and could be called up once MLB rosters expand in September.

Another Wagner Seahawk – Ben Ruta – has spent the entire 2019 season with the Class AA Trenton Thunder (Yankees).



Here’s a tweet-by-tweet rundown of the aforementioned players and some…



The Wagner alumnus has made two starts since his promotion. He has one hit, one walk and one run scored.



The righty reliever, who was a two-time all-NEC first team starter during his collegiate days, has come a long way since being selected in Round 42 of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Padres. The 2007 NEC Pitcher of the Year made his MLB debut for San Diego in 2011 and went on to compete for three more teams (Orioles, Braves, Cubs) prior to his recent signing with the Mets. Brach was a 2016 American League All-Star for Baltimore.



His 7.27 ERA since being called up to AAA is a bit deceiving. Karinchak has held the opposition scoreless in seven of his 10 relief appearances for Columbus. He’s struck out 23 batters in 8.2 innings since the call-up, but has surrendered two untimely home runs. During a 10-game stay in the Eastern League (AA) earlier this year, Karinchak was a perfect 6-for-6 in save opportunities and did not permit a single run to score. He allowed only two hits and two bases on balls while striking out 24 batters over the 10.0 shutout innings.



Traded for cash considerations to the Twins, Miller moved from the Class AAA Pacific Coast League across the country to the International League. His speed and masterful defense make him a prime candidate to join the Twins for the September stretch run. Overall, Miller is batting .266 with 107 hits and 65 runs  in 109 games this season.



Mount’s former lefty starter has been on the doorstep on the majors on a couple of occasions during his pro career before injuries derailed his plans. Feigl, who reached AAA with the Braves organization in 2015, could receive a shot at the bigs with the Rangers. He’s currently on the Injured List (aka the DL), but he’s performed well in 14 relief appearances for Class AAA Nashville this season. He has a 2-0 record with a 3.43 ERA. Feigl fanned 24 batters and walked only three in 21.0 frames.



The former SHU shortstop, and NEC champion, played six games at Class AA Tennessee before jumping up to the Iowa Cubs of the Class AAA PCL. He has a .321 OBP in 35 games since the promotion.



Patterson, the 2018 NEC Pitcher of the Year, earned his way to AA after posting a 0.00 ERA over 23.2 innings in Myrtle Beach. He has made two starts for the Cubs’ affiliate in the Class AA Southern League and is 1-0 with 3.38 ERA.



The former CCSU corner infielder, a 30th-round pick in 2017, earned a promotion to Minnesota Twins’ Class AA affiliate Pensacola. Since his promotion from the Florida State League to the Southern League, Costello has 16 hits, including five dingers, in 72 at-bats.



Like Miller, Ruta has shown plenty of prowess on the basepaths. He has 22 steals in 102 games this summer after swiping 12 bases in his first 36 appearances with Trenton in 2018. He’s batting .253 with 35 extra-base hits and 49 RBI for the Thunder.


MICKEY GASPER, BRYANT (Advanced A – Tampa)

The former NEC Player of the Year, who was a late-round pick by the Yankees in the 2018 MLB Draft, started the season in the Single A South Atlantic League before being bumped up to Advanced A ball. Gasper is batting .333 with seven RBI in 11 games with the Tampa Tarpons. In the SAL, the catcher/first baseman compiled a .347 OBP with 42 RBI over 82 games.



TREY McGOUGH, MOUNT ST. MARY’S (Short Season A – West Virginia)

After being drafted this past June, the former all-NEC southpaw starter pitched to a 1.04 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 17.1 innings of rookie ball. The Pirates have since elevated McGough to the short-season New York Penn League. He was touched up for six runs in his first two appearances with the WV Black Bears, but has fired 3.0 one-hit frames since.








Proving They Belong: NEC Alumni Notes from NFL Preseason Week 1

Tom Kennedy (Photo: DSPics)


The NFL Preseason is full of opportunity and a number of NEC alumni are looking to take full advantage.

Following one full week of NFL Preseason games, here’s what we’ve noticed thus far…


JULIAN STANFORD (Wagner), Buffalo Bills

The NFL veteran, who broke into the league as an UDFA with Jacksonville in 2012, has continued his special teams prowess in his second season with the Bills. The former all-NEC linebacker, who is a member of every Bills’ special teams unit, opened Thursday’s preseason game against the Colts on kickoff coverage. He also saw second-string reps at middle linebacker, backing up Tremaine Edmunds.


GREG SENAT (Wagner), Baltimore Ravens

The 2018 NFL Draft pick has rebounded from an injury that landed him on IR for his rookie season. Fighting for a reserve spot on the Ravens’ 53-man roster, Senat has taken second-team reps at Left Tackle thus far during training camp. He played more snaps (58) than any other offensive player in the Ravens’ preseason opener against Jacksonville.



MARCELIS BRANCH (Robert Morris), Pittsburgh Steelers

The former all-NEC defensive back is back in the Steel City, attempting to crack a 53-man NFL roster. The Robert Morris product signed his initial NFL contract as an UDFA with the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. He spent the 2017 campaign as a member of Atlanta’s practice squad before being released just prior to the start of the 2018 regular season. This past winter, he signed a reserve contract with Pittsburgh, which currently lists Branch third amongst four strong safeties on its preseason roster. He was credited with three solo tackles and a pass break-up during the Steelers’ 30-28 triumph over Tampa Bay on August 9.



JERMAINE PONDER (Saint Francis), Pittsburgh Steelers

It was a whirlwind of a week for the UDFA rookie from SFU. After spending the spring and the first portion of training camp with the Cleveland Browns, Ponder was released on August 3 to make room for DT Tracy Sprinkle on the 90-man roster. Three days later, Ponder returned to work after agreeing to terms with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He made his NFL preseason debut on defense during the second half Friday’s game against Tampa Bay.



JACOB DOLEGALA (Central Connecticut), Cincinnati Bengals

Despite receiving rave reviews for his work during spring activities and the early stages of training camp, Central Connecticut’s all-time leading passer is still waiting to take his first snap in a NFL preseason game. Dolegala was one of four Bengals’ quarterbacks in uniform for a Preseason Week 1 date with the Chiefs, but he did not see action. Fellow Bengals’ rookie Ryan Finley, a fourth-round draft pick competing for a roster spot, saw a significant amount of playing time and averaged a pedestrian 6.05 yards per attempt to go along with one TD and one INT.



TOM KENNEDY (Bryant), Detroit Lions

He earned all-NEC honors in two sports (football, lacrosse) and now he’s trying to earn his way into the NFL. The former Bryant receiver went undrafted this past April, but impressed the right people as a tryout invitee to Lions’ rookie minicamp.  After signing in the spring, Kennedy’s athletic prowess has made for an intriguing storyline during training camp. With Detroit hosting New England in the preseason lid-lifter, Kennedy saw plenty of fourth-quarter action. He logged a 21-yard kickoff return early in the period and went on to produce a key play on the Lions’ lone scoring drive of the game. Converting a 3rd-and-13 from the Detroit 27-yard line, Kennedy beat his defender over the middle for a 29-yard reception. He was officially credited with one catch on two targets.



While Jake Carlock’s old team is moving up to the DI FCS ranks, Long Island University’s former star defender is making plenty of preseason noise for the New York Giants. Signed as an UDFA after two ultra-productive seasons as an LIU defensive back, Carlock enjoyed a memorable preseason debut. The safety/linebacker returned an interception 59 yards for a score in the Giants’ win over the Jets.










Trio of Top Selections Highlight #NECFB Representation on STATS Preseason All-America Teams

It’s a special start to the season for six Northeast Conference football seniors.

Headlined by a trio of First Team selections, the NEC found itself with a sextet of representatives when STATS Inc unveiled its FCS All-America Teams On Tuesday.

Duquesne’s AJ Hines, who will take aim at a fourth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, earned one of two running back slots on the All-America First Team.

After snagging All-America Second Team accolades following the 2018 campaign, Central Connecticut guard J’Von Brown and Wagner linebacker Cam Gill garnered First Team recognition heading into the 2019 season.

Saint Francis punt returner Nick Rinella landed on the Preseason All-America Second Team while Saint Francis linebacker Da’Jon Lee and Sacred Heart running back Jordan Meachum earned Third Team plaudits.



AJ Hines, RB (Duquesne) – First Team

The 2016 STATS Jerry Rice Award winner continued his march toward NEC immortality last fall, piling up more than 200 scrimmage yards in four regular season wins as well as a FCS playoff victory over CAA member Towson.


J’Von Brown, OG (Central Connecticut) – First Team

The 350-pounder protected the NEC’s least-sacked quarterback and started all 11 games at Left Guard for conference’s top-ranked offense, which averaged 6.8 yards per play and 5.9 yards per rush.


Cam Gill, LB (Wagner) – First Team

The NEC Defensive Player of the Year, who led the circuit with 13.5 sacks, made the second-most tackle-for-loss (24.0) in the FCS and logged at least 2.0 hits behind the line of scrimmage in seven different games including visits to Montana State and ACC member Syracuse.


Nick Rinella, PR (Saint Francis) – Second Team

The all-NEC safety proved dangerous on punt return, scoring two touchdowns and accounting for the second-highest average (12.3 ypr) amongst FCS leaders with at least 20 attempts.


Jordan Meachum, RB (Sacred Heart) – Third Team

Emerging as his team’s primary ball carrier, the veteran pieced together a breakout 2018 campaign that featured the fourth-highest rushing average (126.9 ypg) in the FCS and 11 touchdowns in 11 games.


Da’Jon Lee, LB (Saint Francis) – Third Team

The edge-rushing linebacker led the FCS with six forced fumbles and logged at least 1.0 TFL in 10 of 11 games, including a combined 6.0 TFL over two games against CAA teams (Richmond, Albany).

#NECPride Plentiful at #NECFB Social Media Day


Media days usually signify one thing: football season is upon us.  For one day, rivalries are set aside, hand shakes are extended, and players and coaches share a mutual love for the game. 

On Wednesday, July 24th, the Northeast Conference (NEC) held their fifth annual Social Media Day at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. For some players, who had never been to New Jersey, let alone an NFL stadium, this was a chance for them to take a moment and see first hand what they’ve been dreaming about probably since they were young boys in their pee-wee leagues.  In true form, social media accounts for each school were alive and well for all the action.

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