CASTLETON, Vt. – Following the program's third consecutive North Atlantic Conference championship, the Spartans have been placed in the NCAA Tournament New York Regional hosted by Cortland State at Falcon Park in Auburn, N.Y. as announced by the NCAA on early Monday morning.
Castleton is the No. 6 seed in the six-team region and will face top seed Cortland on May 18, who is currently ranked first in the nation. The Red Dragons are 37-5 on the year and have won nine straight games. Ramapo earned the No. 2 seed and will face No. 5 Union, while third seed Frostburg State will square off with No. 4 Susquehanna.
It is the third time in the past five years Castleton has been placed in the New York Regional, after going to the New England Regional a season ago. Last year the Spartans earned the No. 6 spot in the bracket. The Spartans lost their opening game by a 4-3 margin in 11 innings to eventual Regional Champion Ramapo and then fell to No. 2 Wesleyan, concluding their season.
Two years ago Castleton fell to Cortland by a 6-1 margin in the NCAA Tournament, though they team trailed just 2-1 through six innings. Back in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the Spartans fell 7-6 to the second-ranked Red Dragons and had the tying run on second base with one out, but couldn't drive home the run.
Castleton: Last Time Out
The Spartans enter this year's NCAA Tournament at 32-10 overall with wins in 26 of the team's past 28 games. The team won its third consecutive NAC Championship by sweeping the NAC Tournament in three games and finished a perfect 17-0 at home. The Spartans opened the Tournament with a 5-3 victory over Thomas and then fought back from a three-run deficit to take down Husson 7-5 in 12 innings. They clinched the NAC Championship by outscoring the Eagles 6-1 over the final five innings to earn a 6-5 victory. Junior Michael LaBeau was named Tournament MVP after earning two saves and victory over the three games.
Cortland: Last Time Out
The Red Dragons have won 16 straight games to push their record to 35-7 overall on the year. They captured their sixth straight SUNYAC Championship with victories over Fredonia (8-1), Brockport (4-3) and then Oswego State (3-1) in the title game. Jeff Cook was named Tournament MVP after going 8.1 innings with just five hits allowed and five strikeouts in the final.
This season Castleton is batting .309 overall with a .406 on-base percentage while averaging 7.2 runs per game and 9.6 hits per game. NAC Player of the Year Nick Swim has anchored this potent offense, leading the team in average (.419), on-base percentage (.480), slugging (.606), hits (65), runs (51), RBI (45) and doubles (16). Freshman Dillon Benham is second on the team with a .372 average and 32 hits with 18 RBI, while Jim Buckley and Dan Errico have provided power in the middle of the lineup. Buckley is batting .340 with 49 hits, 26 runs, 35 RBI and 11 extra base hits, while Errico is hitting .330 with nine doubles, four triples, four home runs and 43 RBI with 30 walks.
The Spartan pitching staff has been impressive this year and ranks tenth nationally with a 3.03 team ERA. Three different starters own an ERA under 3.00, led by NAC Pitcher of the Year Sam Spencer. He has a 7-2 record in nine starts and 64.0 innings with a 2.81 ERA, 53 strikeouts and just 11 walks. Junior Luke Salerno has been solid as well, posting a perfect 5-0 record with a 2.63 ERA, 24 strikeouts and just 11 walks in 41.0 innings. Freshman Charlie Stapleford also has a 2.63 ERA while posting a 6-1 record in 48.0 innings with 43 strikeouts and 28 walks.
Equally impressive for Castleton this year has been its bullpen, which hasn't surrendered a run in over 30 innings and a month of baseball. Tournament MVP Michael LaBeau hasn't allowed a run in his last 13.0 innings over seven appearances, and for the year is 4-0 with two saves and a 3.04 ERA in 23.2 innings. He has 24 strikeouts with just nine walks. Sophomore Aaron Smith has yet to yield a run, earned or unearned, in 15.1 innings of work while giving up just ten hits with 13 strikeouts and six walks. Classmate Zach Harrington, meanwhile, owns a 0.96 ERA with eight strikeouts and nine hits in 9.1 innings.
This season the Red Dragons are batting .320 as a team, led by Fabio Ricci. He is hitting .410 with 55 hits, 33 runs, 14 extra base hits and 28 RBI. Austin Clock (.346), Justin Teague (.345), Nick Hart (.343) and Steven Figueroa (.343) are all hitting over .340 and provide some offense in the middle of the lineup. Hart leads the team with 40 runs and 25 walks, to go with 47 hits and 11 extra base hits, while Figueroa has 47 hits, 32 runs and 12 doubles.
Red Dragon Pitching
Cortland owns a 3.06 team ERA this year, led by the starting trio of Seth Lamando, Tanner Whiteman and Jeff Cooke. Lamando is a perfect 8-0 on the year with an impressive 0.89 ERA in 70.2 innings. He has allowed seven earned runs all season while striking out 67 batters and holding opponents to a .198 average. Whiteman is 7-0 with a 2.14 ERA in 63.0 innings and 49 strikeouts. Cooke, meanwhile, is 6-1 in 51.0 innings of action with 37 strikeouts. The entire staff has just 113 walks on the year while recording 311 strikeouts.
Cortland Relief Efforts
Turner Parry has been the Red Dragons' closer this year, making 17 appearances and tossing 33.1 innings with a 1.35 ERA. He is 5-2 with five saves and has 54 strikeouts while allowing just 17 hits and five earned runs. Kashaun Curry, meanwhile, is 4-0 in 18.1 innings with a 2.45 ERA and 16 strikeouts.
Freshman Dillon Benham has come on strong for the Spartans this year to finish second on the team with a .372 average. He started his Castleton career 0-for-18 and hitless in his first seven games, but over the past his past 23 games is batting .464 for the Spartans with 19 runs and 18 RBI.
Senior second baseman Taylor Vile and freshman Deagan Poland rank in the top-20 nationally with 11 and 13 sacrifice bunts apiece. The duo are also both batting over .300 while Vile is second on the team with 48 runs and leads the Spartans with 14 steals.
Walk This Way
Castleton has walked 190 times this year, averaging 4.5 walks per game. Six players have at least 16 walks, led by Dan Errico with 30. The left fielder has 30 walks to just 15 strikeouts, while Vile (21/19) and Swim (17/10) also have more walks than strikeouts this season.