WALTHAM, Mass. – Bob DeFelice's 50th season as the only head baseball coach in Bentley University history will continue Tuesday night when the Falcons travel to Manchester, N.H. to take on Southern New Hampshire University in the first round of the Northeast-10 Conference Championships. Game time at Penmen Field is 6 pm.
The winner of Tuesday's single elimination game will advance to the double-elimination portion of the championships, which will start Thursday with the highest remaining seed from the Northeast Division hosting.
Bentley, 20-20 overall after improving on last season's record by nine game, qualified as the number four seed out of the Northeast Division by closing out the regular season with a three-game sweep of Saint Anselm. After comfortably taking the first game, 16-4, the Falcons used a five-run eighth to take the second game, 10-5, and a walk-off double by senior infielder Mike Samko (Arlington/ BB&N) to complete the sweep, 12-11.
Southern New Hampshire, the Northeast Division champion, enters the postseason at 33-13 overall after winning six straight, 13 of 14 and 20 of 23. All four of the team's losses during its last 26 games have been decided by a single run.
The likely starting pitcher for Bentley is junior right-hander Luke Dawson (Stamford, Conn./ Westhill HS), whose 90 strikeouts leads the Northeast-10 and is tied for the Bentley single season record, set by Bill Sullivan a year ago. Dawson has two shutouts, a 6-3 record and a 3.27 ERA in 77 innings this season.
When the two teams met in late March, Dawson pitched the second of the three-game series, which was won by the Falcons 4-3 in 12 innings. He went nine innings, struck out eight without a walk and gave up eight hits and three runs.
Bentley finished the regular season ranking third in the Northeast-10 in scoring (7.1 runs) as well as fourth in batting average (.291) and fifth in slugging (.408). DeFelice's team was also second in both double plays (42) and runners caught stealing (30 percent).
Samko, who has reached base in 34 consecutive games, owns the NE10's best batting average at .383. Two hits shy of 150 for his career, he has 67 this season, the most by a Falcon since 2010. Samko leads the Falcons with 40 runs scored and has 36 RBI, sharing team-high honors with junior right fielder Brandon Grover (Rocky Hill, Conn./Rocky Hill HS) and sophomore first baseman Ryan Berardino (Sudbury/Lincoln-Sudbury Reg. HS).
Sophomore center fielder Max Troiani (Pittsford, N.Y./Pittsford Mendon HS) and Grover are the team's other .300 hitters, at .360 and .331 respectively. Just shy of that plateau are Berardino at .297 and graduate catcher Nathan Littman (Abington/Abington HS) at .289.
Grover and sophomore outfielder Luke Figueira (Taunton/Taunton HS) both have homered six times, and Berardino is next on the list with five. Three of Figueira's came during the Saint Anselm series Thursday and Friday.
Southern New Hampshire, number 19 in the Collegiate Baseball rankings, is among the top NE10's top three in runs (7.7), hitting (.292), ERA (3.02) and fielding (.970) while averaging 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
SNHU senior righty Mitchell Powers, who pitched a perfect game against St. Michael's last Tuesday, could be on the mound against the Falcons. He didn't pitch against the Falcons in the regular season but authored a one-hit masterpiece against Bentley in the 2017 NE10 tourney. He struck out 13 and pitched all 10 innings in that one, a 2-1 Penmen victory.
The Penmen offense includes sophomore shortstop Tom Blandini, who has 10 triples and senior outfielder Caleb Porter, with nine home runs.
In the other first-round games, Merrimack will visit Franklin Pierce, New Haven is at home against Adelphi and Pace will be in Syracuse to take on Le Moyne.