SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The top-seeded Bryant University baseball team begins its quest for a third-straight Northeast Conference Tournament title on Thursday, May 21 at 12:00 p.m. against fourth-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson in the first game of the NEC tournament at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Conn.
The Bulldogs (26-23) became the first team in NEC history to claim four-straight NEC Regular-Season titles last weekend and enter the tournament as the top seed for the third-straight year. Second-seeded Wagner and third-seeded Sacred Heart play the second game on Thursday at 4:00 p.m.
Bryant has won the last two NEC tournament titles and is looking to become the first team since Central Connecticut (02-04) to win three-straight. The Bulldogs are 7-1 in the NEC tournament over the last two years and are 8-5 combined in the postseason.
Wagner is back in the postseason for the second-straight year and won its only title in 2000. Sacred Heart qualified for the NEC tournament for the seventh-consecutive year and has advanced to the championship round every year since 2009. FDU is back in the tournament for the first time since 2012.
The Black and Gold come into the tournament looking to peak at the right time. Bryant is 24-12 since a 2-11 start to the year and possess the top offense in the league. The Bulldogs led the league in average (.298), runs (349), hits (493), doubles (113), triples (24), home runs (43), slugging percentage (.473) and OBP (.387). Remarkably, the Bulldogs carried similar numbers into last year's championship but hit just .192 with 14 runs scored and two extra-base hits in three games.
Senior Jordan Mountford (Guelph, Ont.), junior Robby Rinn (Warwick, R.I.) and sophomore Cole Fabio (Mahwah, N.J.) have been the three key members of Bryant's offense this year. Mountford is hitting .305 with 17 doubles, four triples, seven home runs, 40 RBI and league-high 45 runs scored. Rinn produced 18 doubles, seven home runs, 41 RBI and 42 runs scored, while Fabio hit a team-high .350 with 11 doubles, 28 RBI, 43 runs scored and a .450 OBP.
A major reason the Bulldogs found success last year was their pitching staff. They allowed just four runs in the tournament but only one pitcher that threw last year, senior Trevor Lacosse (Watervliet, N.Y.), returns this season. Lacosse pitched the final 4.1 innings of the championship game, allowing no runs on just two hits.
This year, the Black and Gold will look to a new cast of characters led by junior Kyle Wilcox (Sandy Hook, Conn.) and freshman James Karinchak (Walden, N.Y.). The two right-handers have been the best 1-2 punch in the league all season, combing to 14-6 on the year. Wilcox is 7-1 with a 2.77 ERA and a .199 opponent batting average in 74.2 innings, while Karinchak is 7-5 with a league-leading 73 strikeouts in 71.2 innings. Karinchak has also thrown a Bryant Division I record six complete games and three shutouts.
Bryant will also need contributions from Lacosse, junior James Davitt (Wallingford, Conn.) and sophomore Brandon Bingel (Peabody, Mass.). Lacosse is 1-3 with a 4.62 ERA this year, Davitt is 4-1 with two saves and a 3.89 ERA in a staff-high 19 appearances and Bingel has turned into a solid third starter. He is 4-2 with a 3.89 ERA in 39.1 innings.
The Bulldogs' first round opponent, FDU, comes into the tournament with all the momentum. After being swept by the Black and Gold, the Knight responded by winning three-of-four against Mount St. Mary's last weekend to grab the final tournament spot.
Bryant and FDU's four-game series could have ended many ways but the Black and Gold were able to find a way to win all four. The Knights scored first in three of the four games, including 6-0 and 4-0 leads in two of the games. Bryant, however, was able to rally and win two of the games in walk-off fashion, while earning convincing victories in the others.
The Knights are led by Matt McCann, Dylan Sprague and Riley Moonan. McCann is hitting .315 with 29 runs scored, Sprague has three home runs, 21 RBI and 26 runs scored and Moonan has 11 doubles and 24 RBI. Patrick McClure and Joel Roman have hit four and five home runs, respectively. Bobby Romano had a big weekend against the Bulldogs going 5-for-8, while Roman drove in five runs.
On the mound, the Knights have posted a 6.22 team ERA. Joe Flack has been FDU's Friday starter the last two weekends and could get the ball in the opener on Thursday. He is 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 50.2 innings. Flack has walked 24 and struck out 19. Against the Bulldogs, Flack allowed four runs, walked four and struck out five over seven innings in a no decision.
Tickets to the 2014 NEC Baseball Championships may be purchased at Dodd Stadium on the day of the event.
Ticket prices will be on a "per day" basis. Ticket prices will cost $10 for General Admission and $5 for Seniors and children 12 years of age and under. NEC students with a valid ID will be admitted free.
Directions To Dodd Stadium
14 Stott Avenue
Norwich, CT 06360