Pitching wins NEC Championships.
Sacred Heart’s starters proved that for a second straight season in Norwich, posting a trio of complete game victories at the NEC Tournament and claiming the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Championship field.
Now, the Pioneers (25-30, 19-13 NEC) will attempt to ride that same pitching to success at the NCAA Regional in Raleigh. The back-to-back NEC champions will try their luck against regional site host North Carolina State (39-17, 19-11 ACC).
It will presumably either be NEC Tournament MVP Troy Scribner (7-5, 4.04 ERA) (Overtime! Did You Know Moment? Scribner’s older brother Evan starred at Central Connecticut and is now with the Sacramento River Cats, the Triple A affiliate of Oakland A’s) or lefty Nick Leiningen (6-5, 4.12 ERA), who was also an All-Tournament Team selection, will take the ball for SHU in Game 1. Scribner pitched the Pioneers’ NEC Tournament opener with Leiningen following on Day 2.
Regardless of who takes the ball, he will face a vaunted NC State lineup that is hitting .290 this year. Four of NC State’s everyday players boast batting averages no lower than .330, one of whom is first team all-ACC outfielder Ryan Mathews. The WolfPack’s big bopper has gone deep 14 times in 191 at-bats and is slugging .628.
If NC State skipper Elliott Avent opts to throw his ace against Sacred Heart, then the Pioneers will face the only freshman in ACC History to nab the league’s Pitcher of the Year honor. Southpaw Carlos Rodon has not lost this season and sports a 1.59 ERA.
With a shocker against NC State, Sacred Heart will become the first NEC team to win a NCAA Regional contest. The Pioneers went a combined 0-4 in their previous two NCAA visits (2006, 2011), but had Jacksonville on the ropes in 2006 before dropping a 4-3 decision.
Should Sacred Heart not succeed against the WolfPack, the Pioneers will have another shot against either Vanderbilt (33-26) or UNC Wilmington (38-21). The Commodores, who were the SEC runner-up, and CAA champion Seahawks will face each other on Friday, June 1 prior to the Sacred Heart-NC State game. The first pitch of Game 1 will be at 2:00 pm with the Pioneers and WolfPack following at 7:00 pm.
Sacred Heart to open NCAAs against NC State – Connecticut Post (Bill Paxton)
Seymour Duo has Sacred Heart back in NCAA Tournament – New Haven Register (Chris Hunn)
Sacred Heart repeats as NEC Baseball champion – Connecticut Post (Bill Paxton)
Overtime!’s Take on NC State
Considering the fact they play in arguably the nation’s top baseball league, the WolfPack are no stranger to stiff competition and pressure situations. NC State is one of five NCAA Regional site hosts who call the ACC home. Elliott Avent’s team topped Miami in its opening game of the 2012 ACC Tournament before bowing out with back-to-back losses to Wake Forest and rival UNC. It was only the fourth time this season that the WolfPack suffered two losses in a row and they have yet to lose three straight.
In addition to the ACC’s top hurler (Carlos Rodon – 9-0, 1.59 ERA), NC State features a heavily-productive left side of the infield. All-ACC first team SS Chris Diaz leads all Wolkpackers with a .364 average and 23 two-baggers, while third baseman Trea Turner, a second team all-ACC pick, is hitting .345 with 64 runs in 56 games. Turner is also one of the top base-stealers in America, having swiped 55 bags in 59 tries.
Then there’s Ryan Mathews and his 54 RBI in 52 contests.
Pitching, power, and speed – NC State seems to have it all.
Here’s SHU play-by-play man Randy Brochu with the Pioneers’ seniors following the NCAA Selection Show on Memorial Day…
Official 2012 NCAA Baseball Bracket (PDF)…
Graphic courtesy GoPack.com
– May 29, 2012 –