PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. (May 19, 2018) – If the stakes were not already high enough, things get even more serious on Saturday afternoon, as the fifth-seeded Franklin Pierce University baseball team will take to Peter X. Finnerty Field with its backs to the wall on the third day of the NCAA Championship East Regional, hosted by University of New Haven, on the campus of Pace University. The Ravens will match up with third-seeded Le Moyne in an elimination game.
***UPDATE (1 p.m. Saturday) -- Due to wet weather in the area, the start time for Franklin Pierce and Le Moyne has been delayed multiple times. Saturday's first game, featuring Wilmington (Del.) and New Haven, is currently scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Franklin Pierce and Le Moyne will follow, with first pitch slated for 7 p.m. If further substantial updates are made available, they will be added here. Be sure to follow @FPUathletics on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information.
Franklin Pierce (32-14-1) has been among the best the East Region has to offer over the last decade-and-a-half. The Ravens did not make their first NCAA Championship appearance until 2003, but have now qualified for 14 national tournaments over a span of 16 years. With their seven regional titles (2016, 2013, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2003), the Ravens have captured just shy of half of the regional crowns since they made their NCAA Championship debut. Franklin Pierce missed out on the East Regional a year ago, but won the tournament in its previous appearance in 2016. To reclaim the crown and take home their eighth regional title, the Ravens will now have to win five consecutive games.
Meanwhile, Le Moyne (34-16-1) returned to the East Regional for the first time since 2012 this spring. It is the 14th overall appearance in the Division II Championship for the Dolphins, who qualified for 12 of 13 national tournaments from 1975 through 1987. Le Moyne then competed at the Division I level in baseball from 1988 through 2011, before returning to Division II and the Northeast-10 Conference in 2012. In their previous appearance in 2012, the Dolphins eliminated Franklin Pierce on the final day of the East Regional, on their way to a runner-up finish.
Scouting the Ravens
The Ravens find themselves facing elimination on Saturday after a disappointing outing in their East Regional opener against fourth-seeded Southern New Hampshire on Thursday night. Franklin Pierce committed four errors and managed just five hits in a 7-2 loss, while Jake Walkinshaw went the distance on the mound for the Penmen.
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 .360/.470/.491 slash line through 161 at-bats (58-for-161) and is currently third in the NE10 on-base percentage and fourth in batting average. Out of the three-hole, senior third baseman John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) follows at .358/.458/.553 through 159 at-bats (57-for-159) and is fifth in the NE10 in slugging and eighth in on-base percentage. Senior center fielder Adam Chase (Bridgewater, Mass.) checks in at .324/.427/.505 through 182 at-bats (59-for-182) with 21 extra-base hits. Meanwhile, batting largely out of the two-hole, junior left fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) has slashed .345/.416/.463 over 203 at-bats (70-for-203) and is 11th in the NE10 in batting average.
Scouting the Dolphins
On the other side of the ledger, Le Moyne will play its third game of the East Regional on Saturday afternoon. The Dolphins won their opener on Thursday morning, as they clipped sixth-seeded Merrimack, 3-2, behind a complete-game, three-hit, nine-strikeout effort from their ace, junior right-hander Josiah Gray. On Friday night, Le Moyne suffered a 5-1 loss to second-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas, which sent the Dolphins into Saturday's elimination contest. The Dolphins were held to just two hits on Friday by STAC's Chris Cepeda, who went the distance on just 96 pitches and struck out eight without issuing a walk.
Le Moyne currently boasts the NE10's top on-base percentage mark, at .394, and ranks second in the league in batting average, at .291. Junior first baseman Andrew Taft leads the way for the Dolphins and is a true terror at the plate, with a .339/.464/.701 slugging percentage, which is good for a monstrous, 1.165 OPS. He has slugged 17 home runs, which leads the NE10 by six and is good enough to tie for 17th in the country. Taft is the NE10 leader in slugging percentage by nearly 100 points and ranks fourth in the league in on-base percentage. Not to be overlooked is junior shortstop Ben Walsh, who sports a .365/.456/.615 slash line of his own, with 25 extra-base hits, including 10 home runs.
On the Mound
Franklin Pierce is expected to give the ball to junior right-hander Zach Hart (Wallingford, Conn.) on Saturday afternoon. It will be just his second career postseason appearance for the Ravens, as well as his first career postseason start.
Hart's only previous postseason appearance came as a freshman, in relief, at the 2016 East Regional. He retired the only two batters he faced to finish off an 18-0 rout of Felician in Franklin Pierce's tournament opener.
On the season, Hart has made 11 starts, and logged 75.1 innings. He has allowed 19 runs (17 earned) on 56 hits, walked 12 and struck out 80 (9.56 per nine innings) to put together a 2.03 ERA and a 7-1 record with one shutout.
Hart's only previous appearance against Le Moyne was a 2016 relief stint in the second game of a March 26 doubleheader at Pappas Field. He threw shutout ball over the final three innings, allowed two hits, did not issue a walk and struck out five, in what would be a 5-2 Le Moyne win.
Junior right-hander Sam Walsh is a possible counter on the mound for Le Moyne. Last week, he started for the Dolphins in an elimination game against SNHU at the NE10 Championship. Over 4.2 innings at Penmen Field, he allowed six runs on six hits, walked seven and struck out six while taking the loss. Last week's start is Walsh's only previous career postseason appearance.
On the season, Walsh has made 13 starts, to total 67 innings. He has surrendered 37 runs (32 earned) on 62 hits, walked 53 and struck out 89 (11.96 per nine innings) on the way to a 4.30 ERA and a 4-2 record.
If he does take the ball on Saturday, it will mark Walsh's first career outing against Franklin Pierce.
Earlier this Season
Saturday marks the first meeting in 2018 between Franklin Pierce and Le Moyne.
Previously in the East Regional
The Ravens and Dolphins have met only once previously in the East Regional, on the final day of the 2012 tournament, which was hosted by Southern New Hampshire. The two locked horns in an elimination game, which amounted to a regional semifinal. Derek Zielinski went the distance to throw a six-hitter and struck out 12, as Le Moyne chalked up a 6-2 win to end Franklin Pierce's season. James Roche went 1-for-4 for the Ravens with a double, which was the game's only extra-base hit.
Headed to the Game?
If you plan on making the trip to Pleasantville on Saturday afternoon, full tournament information, including links to campus maps and directions, can be found here: https://newhavenchargers.com/sports/2018/5/10/2018-ncaa-Baseball-east-region-championship-central.aspx
Ticket prices are set as follows:
Adults - $8
Children (12 and under) - $5
Seniors (55 and over) - $5
Per NCAA policy, no complimentary admissions will be issued.
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.
The winner of Saturday's contest will be just beginning their road back through the loser's bracket, as they will also have to win twice on Sunday and twice on Monday to claim the title. Next up would be an elimination game at 3 p.m. on Sunday, against the winner of Saturday's first elimination game, which features seventh-seeded Wilmington and top seed and host New Haven.
The loser of Saturday's Franklin Pierce/Le Moyne contest will see its season draw to a close.
Saturday's remaining game has been pushed to 11 a.m. Sunday due to the wet weather, and is a winner's bracket tilt between second-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas and fourth-seeded Southern New Hampshire. The winner will punch its ticket through to Monday's championship round and will be just one win from the title.
The East Regional will continue through Monday.
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).