PREVIEW: Baseball Opens Pursuit of Eighth NCAA Regional Title Against Rival SNHU

PREVIEW: Baseball Opens Pursuit of Eighth NCAA Regional Title Against Rival SNHU

NCAA East Regional Championship Central

RINDGE, N.H. (May 16, 2018) – For the 14th time in school history, the Franklin Pierce University baseball team will make an appearance in the NCAA Championship. The Ravens, who are the East Region's fifth seed, will open pursuit of their eighth NCAA Regional title on Thursday night, when they face fourth-seeded Southern New Hampshire. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. at Peter X. Finnerty Field, on the campus of Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y.

Franklin Pierce (32-13-1) 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.

Meanwhile, SNHU (35-15) is one of the newest kids on the block in the East Region. The Penmen made their first trip to the NCAA Championship in 2012, have qualified in every season since and will make their seventh straight appearance in the East Regional in 2018. SNHU has gone beyond merely qualifying, and has risen towards the top of the region, as the Penmen have hosted four of the seven regional tournaments they have participated in. SNHU captured its lone East Regional title in 2012, in its NCAA debut.

Scouting the Ravens

Franklin Pierce heads into the East Regional after bowing out in the first round of last week's Northeast-10 Conference Championship. The Ravens, who were the second seed in the Northeast Division, fell on their home field to third-seeded Merrimack, 5-3, in 11 innings on May 8. Franklin Pierce returns to the East Regional on Thursday after a one-year hiatus, as the team's 12-year stretch of NCAA Championship berths was snapped last season.

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 .361/.469/.494 slash line through 158 at-bats (57-for-158) and is currently fourth in the NE10 on-base percentage and sixth in batting average. Out of the three-hole, senior third baseman John Friday (Southborough, Mass.) follows at .368/.468/.568 through 155 at-bats (57-for-155) and is fourth in the NE10 in slugging and fifth in on-base percentage. Senior center fielder Adam Chase (Bridgewater, Mass.) checks in at .320/.425/.494 through 178 at-bats (57-for-178) with 20 extra-base hits. Meanwhile, batting largely out of the two-hole, junior left fielder Brad Roberto (San Diego, Calif.) has slashed .347/.419/.452 over 199 at-bats (69-for-199) and is 12th in the NE10 in batting average.

Scouting the Penmen

On the other side of the ledger, SNHU split four games in the NE10 Championship, ultimately falling in what served as a semifinal contest on Friday afternoon. The Penmen defeated Bentley at home, 3-2, in come-from-behind fashion on Tuesday and then hosted the weekend portion of the tournament as well. After opening the double-elimination portion of the tournament with a 5-3 loss to New Haven on Thursday, SNHU eliminated Le Moyne on Friday, 8-5, before falling to Merrimack, 9-2, in an elimination contest later on Friday.

SNHU boasts an impressive, .395 on-base percentage as a team, and features five regulars with OBPs above the .400 mark. Sophomore Joshua Goldstein only firmly took hold of the job at second base at the end of March, but has chalked up a .355/.489/.495 slash line over 107 at-bats (38-for-107) since, and leads the NE10 in on-base percentage. The biggest power threat for the Penmen is senior outfielder Caleb Potter, who has clubbed 11 home runs, which ranks second in the NE10, and has piled up 23 extra-base hits as part of a .309/.396/.573 slash line over 178 at-bats (55-for-178). Potter ranks third in the NE10 in slugging.

On the Mound

Franklin Pierce is expected to give the ball to senior right-hander John Amendola (Wallingford, Conn.) to open up the East Regional on Thursday night. It will be his sixth career postseason start for the Ravens, as well as his second in the East Regional. Last time out, Amendola took the ball in the ill-fated NE10 first round contest against Merrimack on May 8. He was long gone by the time the game was decided, but logged 7.2 innings in the start, allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits, did not issue a walk and struck out 11.

Amendola's only previous East Regional start came against the Penmen in the decisive game of the 2016 tournament at Pappas Field. He fired seven innings, allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits, walked three and struck out 10 to pick up the win as the Ravens claimed the title.

On the season, Amendola has made 13 appearances, including 12 starts, and logged 86 innings. He has allowed 31 runs (27 earned) on 82 hits, walked eight and struck out 75 (7.85 per nine innings) to put together a 2.83 ERA and a 6-1 record with one save.

Amendola faced SNHU earlier this season, at home on April 11. He did not factor in the decision after throwing 6.1 innings, allowing one unearned run on five hits and striking out seven without issuing a walk. The Ravens went on to fall in 11 innings, 3-2.

SNHU is expected to counter with junior right-hander Jake Walkinshaw* on the hill. It will be his 12th career postseason appearance, put his first career postseason start. He threw a total of 3.2 innings over two appearances in last week's NE10 Championship, during which he allowed one run on one hit, walked one and struck out five. Walkinshaw has never started against Franklin Pierce.

Powers also has five previous career appearances in the East Regional, all of which have been in relief. In 2016 at Franklin Pierce, he totaled nine innings over three outings, allowed one run on six hits, walked five and struck out seven. In the 2015 tournament, also at Franklin Pierce, he logged 3.1 innings over two appearances, surrendered four runs (three earned) on six hits, walked two and struck out two. In two career East Regional appearances against the Ravens (one each in 2015 and 2016), Walkinshaw has totaled 6.1 innings, allowed five runs (four earned) on 10 hits, walked four and struck out six.

On the season, Walkinshaw has made 10 appearances, including two starts, to total 25 innings. He has surrendered four runs (three earned) on 13 hits, walked five and struck out 28 (10.08 per nine innings) on the way to a 1.08 ERA and a 5-0 record with three saves.

Walkinshaw appeared in relief in all three games between the Penmen and Ravens this year, all of which were SNHU victories. On March 28 at Pappas Field, he threw a scoreless ninth, allowed one hit and struck out one to finish off a 9-3 win. On April 11, also at Franklin Pierce, he picked up the win as he threw the final 3.1 innings in an 11-inning victory, did not allow a run, surrendered one hit, walked three and struck out six. Finally, on April 24 at Penmen Field, he picked up a low-pressure save by virtue of throwing the final three innings without allowing a run, allowed one hit and struck out two in a 12-4 victory.

*NOTE: An earlier version of this story identified Mitchell Powers as the probable starter for SNHU.

Earlier this Season

The two teams met three times in NE10, Northeast Division play this spring, with the Penmen taking all three and the Ravens looking sloppy at times. On March 28 at Pappas Field, Franklin Pierce committed four errors in the first four innings as the Penmen built a 7-0 lead and went on to a 9-3 victory. On April 11, also at Pappas Field, the Ravens committed five errors, but the pitching staff struck out 15 without issuing a walk, which allowed Franklin Pierce to hang around into extra innings, but the Penmen came away with a 3-2 win in 11 innings. Finally, on April 24 at Penmen Field, SNHU plated six runs in the bottom of the first on the way to a 12-4 win.

Previously in the East Regional

Though SNHU only first qualified for the NCAA Championship in 2012, the Ravens and Penmen have already met five times in East Regional play, with Franklin Pierce taking four of the five contests.

The lone East Regional win for SNHU over Franklin Pierce came in the first meeting in 2012, as the Penmen were on their way to the regional crown. Junior Mendez threw a six-hitter in a 5-1 SNHU victory at Penmen Field.

Since then, it has been all Ravens against the Penmen in NCAA play. The most dramatic game of the bunch came in what amounted to an East Regional semifinal on the way to the 2013 title for Franklin Pierce. The two locked horns on a Saturday night and went 13 innings at Penmen Field, before Marty Dunlap provided what would stand as the game-winning run with an RBI single.

In 2015, this time back home at Pappas Field, the Raven eliminated SNHU with an 8-2 win in a game where the season was on the line for both squads. Matt Walsh hit 2-for-4 and drove in four runs in the victory.

Most recently, in 2016, the two matched up in the final round, with the East Regional title on the line. In the opener, the Ravens stranded 11 runners, while SNHU got 4.1 innings of one-run relief from Jake Walkinshaw on the way to a 4-3 victory to force a decisive final game of the tournament at Pappas Field. In that decisive game, the Ravens got a two-run home run from Maxx Sheehan in the eighth inning to break a 3-3 tie on the way to a 6-3 win and the regional crown.

Headed to the Game?

If you plan on making the trip to Pleasantville on Thursday night, 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. 

Live stats: http://www.sidearmstats.com/newhaven/baseball/
Video: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/newhaven/

Up Next

The winner of Thursday's contest will advance to face top seed and host New Haven, on Friday at 3 p.m. The loser will have Friday off, but will then face elimination on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Two other games will precede Thursday's meeting between the Ravens and the Penmen at Finnerty Field. At 11 a.m., third-seeded Le Moyne will meet sixth-seeded Merrimack. At 3 p.m., second-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas with take on seventh-seeded Wilmington (Del.).

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).