Two weeks into the America East conference schedule and the defending postseason champs are making a move toward repeating. NJIT is showing that last season’s run was, by no means, a fluke. As we began the month of April, it looks like a tight race for spots in the postseason tournament that will be held in Maine in late May. Let’s take a look at how things stand.
NJIT is off to a 5-1 start in league play. Overall, they are 10-9. They are one of two teams in the conference that has an above .500 record. Last weekend they met the other team that is above .500 in Albany (11-9, 2-4), and took care of business by sweeping them on the road. On Friday, the Highlanders took advantage of three errors and two hit batsmen to take game two of a DH, 8-6. They handed Albany starting pitcher Anthony Germinero his first loss of the season. One of the strengths of NJIT last season was their bullpen. It appears that the pen has not missed a beat. Starter, Grant Vurpillat, was charged with what turned out to be all six of the Great Danes’ runs. His relievers shut the door on any further damage. Evan Gegechas went 3.2 scoreless innings. Then, arguably the league’s best closer, Jake Rappaport, picked up save number two with a perfect ninth inning.
In Game 1 of that doubleheader, Ryan Fischer went the distance for his first complete game of the season. He received offensive help from Julio Marcano and Andrew Elcock who both went deep, part of a 3-for-3, 4 RBI game for Elcock. The Highlanders won 9-1. On Saturday, a wild game took place between the two teams. The Highlanders made five errors in the field that led to a close game throughout. An eight-run third inning erased a 5-0 Albany lead and helped NJIT take game three 12-10. The top five members of the NJIT lineup went a combined 9-for-22 with three extra-base hits, and six runs batted in. After a mid-week with Rutgers, the Highlanders welcome the UMass Lowell River Hawks into New Jersey for the weekend.
Those River Hawks (7-14, 2-4) won their first series of the season over the weekend at home vs Binghamton. Some outside-the-box thinking by head coach Ken Harring helped to get the series win. After being shut out in the opener 4-0, Lowell needed something to get them going. Ryan Towle gave them something on the mound by going seven innings of five-hit, 2 ER baseball. Though it was a no-decision, Towle’s performance kept his team in the game and allowed for an interesting decision to be made later on. That decision came after Jimmy Sullivan knocked in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eight with a seeing-eye single to right field. It gave his team a 4-3 lead heading to the ninth. It was there that the interesting part took place. Sunday’s starting pitcher Joshua Becker was called upon to pitch the ninth on Saturday in a save situation. Becker came through when his team needed it most by pitching a clean ninth to get the save. Then on Sunday, Becker returned to the mound. This time as the starter and threw six shutout innings of four-hit baseball. Matt Draper came out of the River Hawks bullpen and took care of the final three with six-hit, one-run ball as Lowell took the series finale 4-1.
Another team that had a big weekend was UMBC. The Retrievers bashed around the Hartford Hawks pitching staff to the tune of 41 runs, and 39 hits and 15 of those hits went for extra bases. On Friday, UMBC had 13 hits with four of them being doubles in a 17-5 win. On Saturday, 17 more hits with eight going for extra bases as they went on to win 16-9. On Sunday, it was more of the same with nine more hits, three for extra-bases, in an 8-3 victory. Christian Easley hit two home runs in the series. Every Hartford pitcher had issues in this series staying away from giving up runs. Hartford’s team ERA after the series stands at 8.71.
The AE Player of the Week is Shane Paradine of Stony Brook. In the series win over the Maine Black Bears last week, Shane had a slash line of .500/.550/.813 in four total games played. He drove in five runs and scored four more times in the series. For the season, Paradine is hitting .319 with a home run and 13 RBI. He has started all 22 games for the Seawolves to date. This is his first career weekly award.
The America East Pitcher of the Week is Thomas Babalis of Binghamton. In Friday’s series opener vs Lowell, Babalis was terrific. He threw seven shutout innings vs the River Hawks, giving up just one hit and two walks. He struck out seven while throwing 91 pitches. This was his best outing of the season. This is the second time this season and the fourth time in his career that he has been honored by the league as the weekly pitcher of the week.
The America East Rookie of the Week is Jacob Humphrey of UMass Lowell. In the same series, Humphrey had himself a solid final two-game vs the Bearcats. On Saturday, he went 3-for-3 with an RBI, helping the team get win number one in the league. On Sunday, out of the leadoff spot, Humphrey went 1-for-3 with a run scored, and a stolen base his 11th of the year in the 4-1 River Hawks win. He has also played a solid RF for the team. This is his first career weekly award.
That’s all for this week. We will be back next week with more from America East baseball.
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