SETTING THE STAGE
Coming off a 29-win season and near appearance in the NCAA East Regional under head coach Nick Barese, the Merrimack College baseball team entered the 2017 hungry to return to the diamond and fight for a playoff berth. Merrimack named seniors Matt DiNello, Cam DiSarcina and Ricky Smith as captains before the season, joining fifth-year shortstop Mike Forgione as the team leaders. DiSarcina began the season as a Preseason All-East Region selection, as the Warriors brought back three other all-conference selections to form a formidable squad. The Warriors were selected to finish third in the Northeast Division of the NE10, behind nationally ranked programs Franklin Pierce and Southern New Hampshire.
The Navy and Gold began the season playing 13 of their first 15 games away from the region as the Warriors played five games in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and eight games in the Sunshine State as the program went to Florida over Spring Break.
The Warriors ended up facing four programs that advanced to the NCAA Tournament down south, facing off against LIU Post, Felician, #1 Nova Southeastern - the defending national champions - and Southern Connecticut State.
Merrimack's offense got off to a blazing start, scoring at least 10 runs in four of its first six games. The Warriors averaged 7.5 runs per game through the completion of their first 15 games, scoring at least 10 runs in every one of their wins.
Individually, freshman Thomas Joyce went 8-for-17 with two home runs, nine RBI, seven runs scored and three doubles in Myrtle Beach to receive NE10 Rookie of the Week. Sophomore Matthew Ronai - coming off an All-Rookie campaign - went hitless in his game before ending the team's Southern swing on a 15-game hitting streak, collecting eight multi-hit efforts.
On fire in april
Merrimack compiled an 8-10 record through February and March, as the Warriors sought to establish consistency in their game. Playing the majority of their divisional games in April, the Warriors won their first four games of the month, went on a seven-game winning streak two weeks later - the longest unblemished run for the program in four years - and won 15 of 21 games in April overall.
The Warriors completed four divisional sweeps in April, going a perfect 12-0 against the likes of Stonehill, Assumption, Saint Michael's and Saint Anselm. Merrimack outscored the quartet of divisional rivals by over 50 runs, 89-32.
One other single-game highlight included a wild 11-8 win over Franklin Pierce University, a contest that saw Merrimack erased an 8-0 deficit and score 11 unanswered to win. It marked the program's first home win over the reigning regional champions in four years.
inside the numbers
From the middle of the order, to the starting rotation, and the back-end of the bullpen, the Warriors' April featured some top-notch numbers and performances. As a team, Merrimack hit .295 with seven individuals posting averages of .300 or better. On the mound, the Navy and Gold saw five hurlers make at least three starts in the month, and all five posted at ERA of 3.42 or lower and combined to notch a 10-4 record. In the bullpen, the trio of Nate Spielvogel, DiNello and Joe Westerman combined to throw 32 innings over 15 appearances, allowing just three earned runs. Other individual notes include:
- Ricky Smith (JR): Team-leading .397 average, 23 hits, 11 RBI, 9 runs, 3 2B, 1 HR
- Matthew Ronai (SO): .360/.392/.533, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 27 hits, 7 2B, 13 runs
- Michael Mercuri (FR): .333 average, 8-for-24, 4 SB
- Joey Porricelli (FR): .322/.384/.356, team-leading 29 hits, 10 RBI, 14 runs, 3 2B
- Mike Hoalcraft (JR): .318/.375/.409, 14-for-44, 4 2B
- Paul Buckley (R-SR.): .308 average, 20-for-65, five runs
- Cam DiSarcina (SR.): .301/.389/.521, team-best 11 extra-base hits, 8 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 16 runs
- Nate Spielvogel (SR. - RP): 11.1 IP, 1-0, 4 SV, 0.00 ERA, 22 strikeouts, .103 opponent's batting average
- PJ Browne (JR. - SP): 23.0 IP, 3-0, 1 CG, 0.39 ERA, 23 strikeouts, .125 opponent's batting average
- Matt DiNello (SR. - RP): 11.2 IP, 2-0, 0.77 ERA, .114 opponent's batting average
- Cam Monagle (SO. - RP): 18.2 IP, 1-0, 1.45 ERA, 16 strikeouts
- Joe Velozo (SR. - SP): 19.0 IP, 1.89 ERA, .233 opponent's batting average
- Joe Westerman (JR. - RP): 9.0 IP, 1-0, 1 SV, nine strikeouts
- Anthony Lupi (JR. - SP): 23.2 IP, 2-1, 2.66 ERA, 18 strikeouts
- Tucker Lord (R-FR. - SP): 28.0 IP, 2-1, 2.89 ERA, 28 strikeouts
- Garrett Hudson (R-SO. - SP): 23.2 IP, 3-0, 3.42 ERA, 20 strikeouts
thank you seniors
The Warriors honored their 10-member Senior Class against Saint Michael's on Sunday, April 23, marking the final weekend home tilt of the season for the Navy and Gold. Merrimack honored Paul Buckley, Chris Cimmino, Matt DiNello, Cam DiSarcina, Tyler Lyne, Michael Nocera, Aidan O'Leary, Ryan Petrone, Nate Spielvogel and Joe Velozo as part of the pregame ceremony. The group totaled 90 wins over the last four years, becoming the fifth class ever to record at least 90 wins over a four-year span.
season winds down
By winning five of six divisional series and adding in four sweeps, the Warriors entered the final weekend of the regular season with a 15-3 divisional record and traveled to No. 4 Southern New Hampshire with a chance to claim their first divisional crown. Even though Merrimack left Manchester without the title, the Warriors still posted their most divisional wins (15) since the NE10 moved to the divisional format in 2012.
By finishing third in the division, the Navy and Gold qualified for the NE10 Championship for the fourth consecutive season and for the third time in four years, Merrimack traveled to Franklin Pierce for an opening-round matchup. The Warriors saw their season end there in the playoffs, but that did not stop the program from raking in a multitude of postseason accolades.
awards & honors
Starting with all-conference selections, Merrimack received five honors, including a trio of first-time selections. DiSarcina made it a clean sweep of all-conference selections with his fourth overall and first-ever first-team nod at first base. The next three selections all landed on the second team, with a second-straight all-league distinction for Ronai, the Warriors' leading hitting (.356) on the season. Buckley enjoyed a breakout season at second base, breaking his previous highs in most offensive categories for his first all-league selection, while Spielvogel also put forth arguably the best season ever for a Merrimack reliever to join his teammates on the second team. Finally, freshman Joey Porricelli earned all-rookie honors after multiple Rookie of the Week selections and posting a .326 average in his first season playing college ball.
Award season did not end there. DiSarcina and Spielvogel earned all-region distinction, with the former sweeping the accolades from the three outlets - the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA), Division II Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCCA) and the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) - and the latter earning a pair of accolades from the NCBWA and the D2CCA.
rewrite the record book
The 2017 season saw more than a few program records fall, many coming off the left-handed bat of DiSarcina and the right-handed arm of Spielvogel. Beginning with the former, Merrimack's all-region first baseman tied Merrimack's single-season record for doubles (21), while shattering the program's career mark for two-baggers (60). On the road against Saint Anselm, DiSarcina registered his 200th career base knock, and finished with the third-most hits in school annals (212). He also graduated with the program record for plate appearances (655), while ranking second in both RBI (130) and total bases (300).
Spielvogel entering his final season already holding the saves record, and added five more to graduate with a program-best 16. His phenomenal senior campaign - that featured nearly 16.00 strikeouts-per-nine innings and a sub-1.00 ERA - added his name to other areas in the pitching records. He holds the career records in lowest opponent's average against (.200), strikeouts-per-nine innings (12.84) and appearances (52), while ranking third in career ERA (3.01).