PREVIEW: Baseball Opens Pursuit of Sixth NE10 Title with First-Round Tilt vs. Merrimack

PREVIEW: Baseball Opens Pursuit of Sixth NE10 Title with First-Round Tilt vs. Merrimack

Northeast-10 Baseball Championship seeding announcement

RINDGE, N.H. (May 7, 2018) – For the 18th straight season, the Franklin Pierce University baseball team will make an appearance in the Northeast-10 Conference Championship. The Ravens, who are the Northeast Division's second seed, will open pursuit of their Conference-record sixth NE10 title on Tuesday night, when they host third-seeded Merrimack in the first round. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Dr. Arthur and Martha Pappas Field.

Franklin Pierce (32-12-1, 21-6 NE10, 16-5 NE Div.) has been the cream of the crop in the NE10 Championship over nearly the last two decades. The Ravens are set to establish a new Conference record with their 18th appearance in the NE10 Championship, and have done so in 18 consecutive years. Franklin Pierce has made 10 appearances in the championship round of the tournament, which is more than any other school in NE10 history. The Ravens' five titles (2015, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005) are the most among active NE10 schools and tie former league members Springfield and Massachusetts Lowell for the most in Conference annals. Franklin Pierce's last trip to the title round came a year ago, when they were defeated by New Haven.

Meanwhile, Merrimack (26-18, 18-11 NE10, 13-8 NE Div.) will match Franklin Pierce, with its 18th all-time appearance in the NE10 Championship as well, though the Warriors have not done so 18 years in a row. Merrimack does make its fourth straight appearance in the league's postseason tournament, but has been eliminated in the first round in each of the last three seasons, as the Warriors fell at Southern New Hampshire in 2016 and at Franklin Pierce in both 2015 and 2017. Merrimack last advanced to the double-elimination, weekend portion of the Championship in 2013, when they scored a 4-1, upset victory at Franklin Pierce in the first round and went on to finish as the tournament's runner-up. All-time, Merrimack is second only to Franklin Pierce with seven appearances in the final round of the NE10 Championship, and the Warriors have taken home the title on three occasions (1996, 1995, 1990).

Scouting the Ravens

Franklin Pierce heads into the postseason hoping to be dangerous at the right time. The Ravens won nine in a row to close the regular season and have gone 16-4 since the start of April, after a somewhat uneven start to the campaign. Franklin Pierce has won at least 30 games for the 17th straight season.

Franklin Pierce was ranked fifth in the East Region a week ago, in what is a rapidly-tightening race for NCAA Championship berths. Seven teams will qualify for the East Regional, with each of the region's three conferences -- the NE10, the East Coast Conference and the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference -- guaranteed an automatic bid for their tournament champion. In theory, the top five spots in the rankings are relatively safe. The CACC champion will take the seventh seed regardless, as the CACC does not currently have a team ranked in the top seven spots. Meanwhile, St. Thomas Aquinas is currently ranked third and is the top seed in this week's ECC Championship. Even if the Spartans fail to take home the ECC title, the ECC champion would then be slotted into the sixth seed. There is, however, no guarantee the East Region rankings will not shuffle before the selection show on Sunday. An already tight field likely tightened even further over the last week, as second-ranked New Haven went 2-2 and third-ranked STAC went 1-2, while third-ranked Southern New Hampshire went 4-0 and Franklin Pierce went 5-0. Updated East Region rankings will be released on Wednesday.

On the field, the Ravens have a quartet of hitters who get on base more than 40% of the time. Graduate student first baseman Mike Coggeshall (Shrewsbury, Mass.) leads the way with a .368/.471/.503 slash line through 155 at-bats (57-for-155) and is currently third in the NE10 in both on-base percentage and batting average. Out of the three-hole, senior third baseman John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) follows at .367/.470/.567 through 150 at-bats (55-for-150) and is fourth in the NE10 in both on-base percentage and slugging. Senior center fielder Adam Chase (Bridgewater, Mass.) checks in at .328/.431/.506 through 174 at-bats (57-for-174) with 20 extra-base hits, which is tied for third in the league. Meanwhile, batting largely out of the two-hole, junior left fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) has slashed .358/.430/.466 over 193 at-bats (69-for-193) and is ninth in the NE10 in batting average.

Scouting the Warriors

On the other side of the ledger, Merrimack took two of three on the road at Stonehill in its final regular-season series and is 6-4 in its last 10 games. The Warriors were swept in their three-game Northeast Division series by Franklin Pierce and dropped two out of three to SNHU, but won each of its other five three-game divisional series. It marks the second straight season Merrimack lost its series to the Ravens and Penmen, but won the five remaining series.

The Warriors were ranked ninth in last week's East Region rankings. With a number of teams left to jump and limited time to do so, the only truly safe path into the NCAA Championship for Merrimack is to win the NE10 Championship and the automatic berth which comes with it. Such an accomplishment could significantly harm Franklin Pierce's NCAA prospects in the process. Otherwise, with so many teams tightly bunched, the Warriors could make a case for inclusion in the NCAA field with a deep run this week, coupled with some things breaking in their favor around the rest of the region.

Merrimack has three regulars of its own who have eclipsed the .400 mark in on-base percentage thus far this spring. Junior infielder Matthew Ronai leads the way with a .358/.423/.479 slash line over 165 at-bats (59-for-165) and ranks eighth in the NE10 in batting average. Senior outfielder Matt Nicholson follows with a team-best six home runs and a .364/.417/.545 mark over 176 at-bats (64-for-176), with his slugging percentage ranking fifth in the league. Sophomore infielder Thomas Joyce checks in at .331/.407/.479 over 142 at-bats (47-for-142).

On the Mound

Franklin Pierce is expected to give the ball to senior right-hander John Amendola (Wallingford, Conn.) to open up the postseason on Tuesday night. It will be his fifth career postseason start for the Ravens, as well as his third in the NE10 Championship. Most recently, he fired seven innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts in a 14-1 win over Pace in last season's tournament. His other previous NE10 Championship start came in 2016, when he allowed two runs on seven hits over 6.1 innings, with four strikeouts and did not factor in the decision of a 6-4 loss to Saint Rose.

On the season, Amendola has made 12 appearances, including 11 starts, and logged 78.1 innings. He has allowed 28 runs (25 earned) on 74 hits, walked eight and struck out 64 (7.35 per nine innings) to put together a 2.87 ERA and a 6-1 record with one save.

Amendola faced Merrimack twice earlier this spring. At home on March 30, in an NE10 contest, he surrendered three runs on seven hits and struck out eight without factoring in the decision of what was eventually a 5-4 Franklin Pierce win in 10 innings. In a non-conference game on the road on March 16, Amendola fired eight innings of one-run ball, allowed six hits, walked two and struck out six on the way to a 2-1 win.

Merrimack is expected to counter with senior left-hander PJ Browne on the hill. It will be his first career postseason appearance.

On the season, Browne has made 11 appearances, including nine starts, to total 61.1 innings. He has surrendered 20 runs (14 earned) on 48 hits, walked 17 and struck out 56 (8.22 per nine innings) on the way to a 2.05 ERA and a 3-2 record.

Browne started against Franklin Pierce -- and matched up with Amendola -- on March 16 at Saint John's Prep in Danvers, Mass., when he allowed just one unearned run on eight hits over 7.1 innings, walked two and struck out two, but did not factor in the decision. It was by far the most successful start for Browne in his career against the Ravens, as he previously surrendered nine runs over 4.1 innings as a sophomore and 10 runs (six earned) over five innings as a freshman against Franklin Pierce.

Earlier this Season

The two teams met for a three-game weekend series on March 30-31 at Pappas Field, with the Ravens taking all three games. On Friday afternoon, the Ravens erased deficits of 3-0 and 4-3 before Friday brought home Roberto with a game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th (game story). On Saturday, Franklin Pierce racked up 21 hits and 16 runs across two games, as the Ravens swept a doubleheader (game story) by scores of 11-7 and 5-4.

The two clubs also met for a pair of non-conference games on March 16-17, which were hosted by Merrimack at Saint John's Prep in Danvers, Mass., with the Ravens winning both of those as well. On Friday, Amendola fired eight innings of six-hit ball and allowed just one run, before Roberto cashed in sophomore infielder J.R. DiSarcina (Barnstable, Mass.) with the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth in a 2-1 Ravens win (game story). On Saturday, Franklin Pierce built a 4-0 lead, let it all get away, and then chalked up a pair of runs in the top of the ninth to come away with a 6-4 victory (game story).

Previously in the Postseason

The Ravens and the Warriors have previously met four times in the postseason, with all four meetings occurring in the NE10 Championship and Franklin Pierce taking three of the four showdowns. Tuesday night will mark the second straight season, as well as the third time in four years, the two teams have met at Pappas Field in an NE10 first round contest.

A year ago in the first round at Pappas Field, a four-run fourth inning keyed an eight-run outburst through the middle innings of an 8-0 Ravens win (game story). Cody McPartland provided 7.2 scoreless innings on the hill as part of a seven-hit shutout by Franklin Pierce pitching.

Three years ago, in 2015, the two met at Pappas Field in the first round, and the Ravens used nine strikeouts over 7.1 innings from Mike Lundin to roll to an 11-4 victory (game story).

Two years prior to that, in 2013, it was another first round meeting at Pappas Field, and Merrimack got a complete-game, five-hit effort from Alek Morency to deal the Ravens a 4-1 defeat (game story).

The two sides also met in what was effectively a semifinal contest at Pappas Field on the final day of the 2010 NE10 Championship. Eric Pearson went 2-for-2, scored once and drove in two runs to lead the Ravens in a 5-2 victory (game story).

Headed to the Game?

If you plan on making the trip to Rindge on Tuesday night, directions to Franklin Pierce and maps of the Rindge campus can be found here: http://www.franklinpierce.edu/directions.htm

Ticket prices are set as follows:

Adults - $6
Children/Seniors - $4
Students (with valid ID from NE10 institutions) - $1
Franklin Pierce students (with valid ID) will be admitted free of charge, courtesy of the Department of Athletics.

Per Conference policy, no additional complimentary admissions will be issued.

Please be advised, the lower DiGregorio lot beyond left field will be closed on Tuesday night, due to setup for this weekend's commencement. Fans are invited to park in the upper DiGregorio lot, with access via Mountain Road; in the Ravencroft lot (located across University Drive from the DiGregorio building); or in any other available lot on the upper campus. Parking is permitted in lined spaces only.

How to Follow Along

If you prefer to follow the action from home, from work or from elsewhere, both live video and live stats will be available.

Live stats || Video (pay-per-view)

Up Next

The winner of Tuesday's first-round contest will advance to the weekend, double-elimination portion of the NE10 Championship, currently scheduled for Thursday through Saturday. The top advancing seed from the Northeast Division will host the weekend portion of the tournament. Should rain necessitate the postponement of any of Tuesday's scheduled first-round games, the weekend portion of the Championship will be held Friday through Sunday.

Southwest Division first-round games are as follows: top seed Le Moyne will host fourth-seeded Pace at 2 p.m. and second-seeded New Haven will host third-seeded Adelphi, at 3 p.m. The Franklin Pierce/Merrimack winner will open the weekend against the Le Moyne/Pace winner.

The Northeast Division's other first-round contest features fourth-seeded Bentley visiting top seed Southern New Hampshire at 6 p.m.

For more information on Franklin Pierce Athletics, please visit the official website of Franklin Pierce Athletics (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu). Also be sure to follow the Ravens through the Department of Athletics' official Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/FranklinPierceRavens), its YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/franklinpiercesports) and its Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/FPUathletics). Fans wishing to purchase Franklin Pierce baseball apparel can do so at the Department of Athletics' online store (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu/store).