BASEBALL LOOKS TO WRAP UP REGULAR-SEASON CROWN
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University baseball team wraps up its regular season this weekend when it travels to Staten Island, N.Y., to face Wagner in a four-game series at Richmond County Bank Ballpark. The series begins on Thursday, May 16 with a 3:00 p.m. first pitch.
The Bulldogs (36-15-1, 23-5 NEC) enter the weekend needing one win to clinch their second-straight regular-season title and third in the last four years. The Seahawks' (24-27, 16-12) playoff hopes are also on the line as they need to win more games than LIU Brooklyn in order to make the postseason.
Bryant holds a 9-3 advantage in the all-time series with Wagner after taking three-of-four to wrap up the 2012 season. The Bulldogs also swept the Seahawks in Smithfield in 2010 but the two teams split four games on Staten Island in 2011. In the last two seasons, pitching has dominated, with the teams combining for just 15 runs last year and 16 in 2011.
Wagner is led by one of the fastest players in Northeast Conference history in centerfielder Ian Miller. The speedy leadoff man has set an NEC record with 45 stolen bases this year and is currently tied for the national lead. He's also hitting .344 with 75 hits, 30 RBI and 44 runs scored. Nick Dini has put together a strong sophomore campaign, hitting .320 with 13 doubles, four home runs, 43 RBI and 38 runs scored. Chris Smith is tied with Dini for the team lead in home runs and has also driven in 32 runs.
On the mound, the Seahawks have posted a team ERA of 5.97. Ryan Casey has been a reliable Friday starter, posting a 5-5 record and a 4.65 ERA in a team-leading 81.1 innings. Freshman Paul Mammino has been fantastic this year, posting a 6-1 record with a 3.22 ERA. Wagner's struggles, however, have come from control problems as the pitching staff has walked 219 and struck out just 245.
For the Bulldogs, freshman Robby Rinn (Warwick, R.I.) has found his groove of late, hitting .438 with 10 RBI over his current 10-game hitting streak. The two-time reigning NEC Rookie of the Week has raised his average to a season-high .294 and is hitting .371 against league opponents. Senior Kevin Brown (Northborough, Mass.) also reached a heady accomplishment last weekend against Monmouth as he became the only player in the conference this season to accumulate 40 RBI and 40 runs scored.
Bryant's pitching staff will look to wrap up one of the most dominating seasons in conference history this weekend as well. Peter Kelich (Jackson, N.J.) will look for his second-straight eight wins season on Friday and junior Craig Schlitter (Guilford, Conn.) will take his perfect 6-0 league record to the hill on Saturday. Schlitter has also posted an astonishing 0.71 ERA in six conference starts and posted a complete game shutout over Monmouth last weekend. John Healy (Cranston, R.I.) also goes for his eighth win and sophomore Kevin McAvoy (Syracuse, N.Y.) will look for his career-best sixth win on Sunday. The Bulldogs currently boast a 1.91 ERA in league games and have struck out an NEC record 391 batters on the year.
Following this weekend, the Bulldogs will begin preparations for their first-ever appearance in the NEC tournament that begins on Thursday, May 23 in Lakewood, N.J.