SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University baseball team will look to claim its fourth-straight Northeast Conference Regular-Season title as it heads to Staten Island, N.Y., this weekend to take on second-place Wagner. The series begins Thursday, May 14 at 3:00 p.m.
The Bulldogs (24-21, 15-5) and the Seahawks (25-19-1, 13-7) enter this weekend's four-game series separated by two games in the league standings. Bryant needs two wins to clinch their fourth-straight title, while Wagner needs to win at least three games.
If history tells us anything, this series will be another tight and exciting one. The two teams have met 21 times over the last five years and all but one has been decided by four runs or less. Bryant holds a 16-5 lead in the series after taking three of the five games last year. The Bulldogs and Seahawks split the regular-season series but the Black and Gold were able to defeat Wagner in the opening round of the NEC tournament.
After a bump in the road against Hartford on Wednesday, the Bulldogs hope their offense returns this weekend on Staten Island. Bryant was held to just three hits against the Hawks but features one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. The Black and Gold have scored 83 runs over the last two weekends and collected 26 extra-base hits last weekend against FDU.
Wagner also boasts a strong offense and is second in the NEC in batting average to the Bulldogs. The Seahawks feature six regulars that are hitting over .300, including senior utility man Nick Dini. The veteran is Wagner's all-time leader in hits and is the active NCAA leader in consecutive games played.
This series will feature two of the top candidates for NEC Player of the Year honors in junior Robby Rinn (Warwick, R.I.) and Dini. Rinn is hitting .335 and leads the league with 18 doubles, seven home runs, 41 RBI and is second with 42 runs scored. Dini leads the league with a .388 average, 62 hits and has struck out just seven times in 160 at-bats.
Thursday's series opener will also highlight two of the league's top pro prospects in junior Kyle Wilcox (Sandy Hook, Conn.) and Wagner's Nolan Long. Both hard-throwing right handers, Wilcox and Long locked horns last year, each throwing five innings. Long didn't allow a run on two hits, walked seven and struck out five, while Wilcox surrendered a run on five hits, walked four and struck out six.