Although the doom and gloom of the early-week weather forecasts suggested otherwise, the 2011 Northeast Conference Baseball Championship went on uninterrupted. With the league’s 19th annual championship tournament in the books, it’s time to run down the most notable nuggets that came out of the three-day event, which was hosted at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, CT.
Having been the runner-up in 2009 and 2010, Sacred Heart came away the winner in 2011. Nick Giaquinto’s club went a perfect 3-0 to earn the program’s second NEC crown, and first since 2006.
“It was a great year guys started in the fall and came out on a mission after falling short the last two years,” said SHU’s long-time skipper. “It was just one of the most focused groups I’ve ever had and they really earned it.”
More than One MVP – Sacred Heart shortstop John Murphy was named the NEC Tournament MVP for his on-field play, but the unsung MVPs were the Connecticut Tigers management and Dodd Stadium grounds crew. Rain hit the area hard for nearly eight straight days, but GM Andrew Weber and Co. had the playing field in prime condition for the championship event.
Fireworks! – Nick Giaquinto’s boys had the bats working, to say the least.
The final numbers were somewhat astonishing compared to the rest of the field. Northeast Conference champion Sacred Heart batted .321 and totaled 25 runs over its three victories at the 2011 NEC Tournament. The next highest team batting average over the three-day championship event was .240, a mark that belonged to runner-up Monmouth.
While the champion Pioneers were plating 8.33 runs per contest, Monmouth managed 2.75 runs per game and the Hawks were the best of the rest. Defending champion Central Connecticut scored six runs in three games and No. 3 seed Long Island has two runs to show for two games.
Sacred Heart pounded out 16 runs and 24 hits in its first two NEC Tournament games, far more than any of the other three teams contesting the 2011 championship event. Central Connecticut and Monmouth each totaled three runs on 13 hits over their first two appearances. Long Island, the first team to suffer elimination with losses to Sacred Heart and CCSU, managed to plate two runs on 12 hits in two games.
Team Batting Averages
Sacred Heart, .321
Central Connecticut, .234
Long Island, .194
Sacred Heart, 1.00
Central Connecticut, 2.77
Long Island, 5.62
Epps Right at Home in Norwich – Hailing from near-by Waterford, CT, Pat Epps contested his final NEC Tournament at Dodd Stadium. While his son was busy belting hits, Epps’ father was working the turnstiles at the 2011 conference championship. Epps Sr. has been a ticket-taker at Dodd Stadium since the park opened in 1995 to house the Norwich Navigators who were the Double A affiliate of the New York Yankees up until 2001. After the NEC Tournament, Epps will begin his 17th season at the ballpark, which is now home for the New York-Penn League’s Connecticut Tigers (Single A affiliate of Detroit).
Closing out a remarkable career, Epps went 4-for-11 with two runs and a RBI over CCSU’s three games. As a junior, he set the program’s single-season records for home runs (18) and RBI (73). He will graduate as the Blue Devils’ all-time Home Run King, having hit 29 round-trippers.
Going the distance – Sacred Heart starters Troy Scribner and Nick Leiningen each notched complete-game victories in lifting the Pioneers to a 2-0 start at the 2011 NEC Tournament. The two second team all-NEC hurlers allowed a combined two runs, 12 hits, and one walk as SHU out-scored LIU and Monmouth by a combined 16-2 margin.
Taking the ball in the championship round, SHU freshman Kody Kerski finished what Scribner and Leiningen started. The rookie righty shut out Monmouth over the first 8.0 innings and went onto to complete all nine frames of the Pioneers’ title-clinching 9-2 win.
“It was tremendous,” said Giaquinto of SHU’s starting staff. “They pitched well all year, but when we needed it in the championship that’s when they pitched their best.”
Monmouth starters Nick Meyers and Pat Light, who were responsible for the Hawks’ two wins at the tourney, each went the distance in their respective starts.
Power shortage – Sacred Heart’s John Murphy hit the first home run of the 2011 NEC Tournament in the Pioneers’ 10-1 victory over Long Island in Game 2. It was the first of two total long balls launched during the three-day event. Drastically different from the 2010 installment, the 2011 NEC Tournament statistical summary lists a total of 13 extra-base hits. During the 2010 tourney, there were a total of 35 extra-base hits over seven games.
Teams combined for 10 home runs over seven games at the 2010 installment of the league’s double-elimination tournament.
Murphy was the lone player to triple in the 2011 postseason event after four three-base hits one year ago.
Fifteen different players connected on a double during the 2010 NEC Tournament with six of them doubling twice.
Power Numbers Comparison
2010 vs. 2011
21 doubles vs. 10 doubles
10 home runs vs. 2 home runs
4 triples vs. 1 triple
The Bottom Line – Sacred Heart starting pitchers threw all 27.0 innings, allowing 4 runs (only 3 ER) on 18 hits and ONLY 2 WALKS!
Look for some of the aforementioned names and accomplishments when Overtime! Unveils Its “Best of the Best” for the 2010-11 academic year… Installment No. 1 “Five Impactful Newcomers” will be unveiled on Tuesday, May 31.