BULLDOGS AND BLUE DEVILS SQUARE OFF IN NEW BRITAIN
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Winners of three-straight, the Bryant University baseball team travels to New Britain, Conn., this weekend for a key four-game Northeast Conference series with Central Connecticut.
The Bulldogs (29-14-1, 16-4 NEC) are currently in first place in the league standings, a game and a half ahead of second place Monmouth who visits Smithfield next weekend. The Blue Devils (21-19, 10-10) are currently in sixth place, two games behind Wagner for the fourth and final playoff spot.
This weekend's set in the Nutmeg State will be the fourth meeting between the two budding NEC rivals. They first met in Smithfield in 2010 with the Bulldogs taking three-of-four behind some late-inning heroics from then-sophomore Jamie Skagerlind. He hit walk-off home runs in both ends of a doubleheader to give Bryant the series victory. In 2011, the Blue Devils flipped the script, dominating the Black and Gold and winning three-of-four in New Britain. Last year, three dominant pitching performances and a clutch eighth-inning double from then-freshman John Mullen (Walpole, Mass.) propelled the Bulldogs to a series sweep at Conaty Park.
Central Connecticut comes into the weekend on the heels of three-straight victories. Taking a break from league play last weekend, they beat Iona twice and then defeated Albany on Tuesday. One of the top hitting teams in the conference at the beginning of the season, the Blue Devils has slipped a bit, hitting .268 as a team. They do feature three of the top hitters in the league, however, in Tyler McIntyre, Dylan Delacruz and J.P. Sportman. McIntyre started the year strong and is now hitting .365 with 14 doubles, four home runs and 35 RBI. Delacruz is hitting .342 with 12 doubles and five triples and Sportman is hitting .316 with 13 doubles, four triples and 25 RBI.
On the mound, CCSU has missed the left arm of senior Jake Greenhouse. Off to a 4-1 start to the season, Greenhouse has not pitched since March 30. In his place, sophomore twins Cody and Casey Brown and junior Nick Neumann have taken over. Cody Brown, Friday's starter, is 4-5 with a 3.45 ERA in a team-leading 62.2 innings and Neumann is 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA. The right-hander has allowed just three runs over his last 14 innings. Dominic Severino is scheduled to start game two on Saturday and is currently 3-0 in league starts. Casey Brown will start Sunday and is 1-4 with a 3.76 ERA on the year. As a team, the Blue Devils have posted 194 strikeouts, the second-fewest in the league. If the Blue Devils can take a lead into the final inning, however, they feature one of the best closers in the league in Josh Ingham. He's earned eight saves and has yet to allow a run in 10 innings this season.
In the middle of one of the greatest seasons in program history, senior Kevin Brown (Northborough, Mass.) leads a Bulldogs team that has posted the second-highest average in league play at .299. He's hitting .455 with a .632 on-base percentage against league opponents, with 19 RBI and 17 runs scored. Sophomore Carl Anderson (Sudbury, Mass.) is also hitting well in league play, posting a .388 average with 16 RBI and 16 runs scored.
Bryant's pitching staff will look to continue its tremendous season this weekend. The Bulldogs have posted a 2.85 team ERA overall and an even better 1.87 ERA in league play. They are allowing just over two runs per game this season against conference opponents and posted two shutouts last weekend. Senior Peter Kelich (Jackson, N.J.) will start Friday's series opener in search of his 30th career victory. He's 6-3 with a 2.06 ERA on the year. Graduate student John Healy (Cranston, R.I.), sophomore Kevin McAvoy (Syracuse, N.Y.) and junior Craig Schlitter (Guilford, Conn.) wrap up the series for the Black and Gold. Healy suffered his first loss of the season last weekend, McAvoy has allowed just four earned runs over his last 18.1 innings and Schlitter has tossed 13-straight scoreless frames.
First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. The series continues on Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at 1:00 p.m. The series concludes on Sunday with a 1:00 p.m. start.