Heading into this week of Northeast Conference Baseball, which marks the end of the nine-week long regular season league schedule, three teams had already secured a spot in the NEC’s four-team postseason tournament.
Defending NEC champion Central Connecticut was not one of the three postseason-bound programs. At 15-13 in league play, Charlie Hickey’s Blue Devils entered the week 3.0 games ahead of Wagner, the lone other team still alive in the race, with four games to play.
The Blue Devils do not open their final regular season weekend series until today, but their cross-state rival took care of business for them.
Sacred Heart (20-9) won its series opener over Wagner (12-17) on Thursday, eliminating the Seahawks from playoff contention and making room for the defending champions.
Sacred Heart’s “good-will” gesture toward the Blue Devils came only four days after the Pioneers completed a four-game NEC sweep of Central.
It’s doubtful that the thought of helping the rival Blue Devils even crossed the minds of Nick Giaquinto and his Pioneers. Instead, Sacred Heart took the field on Thursday with an outside shot at stealing the NEC regular season title and the No. 1 seed in next weekend’s tournament, which will unfold May 19-21 at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, CT.
The Pioneers’ hopes of claiming the top seed for a second consecutive season were dashed when the news came across that Monmouth (23-6) had handled Mount St. Mary’s in its series opener.
As a result, Dean Ehehalt and the Hawks are NEC regular season champions for the third time in 10 years.
As the No. 1 seed, Monmouth will look to become the first team since 2005 (Quinnipiac) to win both the NEC regular season and tournament titles.
Monmouth has won two NEC Tournament titles in the past four years, but neither came with Dean Ehehalt’s club holding the top seed.
The Hawks last won the NEC Tournament in 2009, doing so as the No. 4 seed only 12 months after then fourth-seeded Mount St. Mary’s claimed the conference crown.
While Monmouth is locked into the top spot, Central, Long Island (18-9), and Sacred Heart will jockey for the other three positions on the final weekend of the NEC schedule.
Regardless of where they wind up in the field, they’ll all have a chance to play for NEC supremacy when the league’s 19th annual postseason tournament opens on Thursday, May 19 in Norwich.
All games can be seen live on NortheastConference.TV.
Breaking the Law! – Oh, and, I almost forgot! There is a new Home Run King at Monmouth. Tied atop the Hawks’ all-time home run list with former two-time All-American Jay Law heading into yesterday’s game, New Jersey native Nick Pulsonetti (Old Tappan, NJ) blasted a pair of long balls in the Hawks’ 9-2 win over the Mount. Having hit 36 round-trippers, Pulsonetti stands alone in Monmouth history.