CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton baseball team will chase its fifth consecutive North Atlantic Conference title when it hosts the league's top four teams for the double-elimination postseason tournament May 5-7 at Spartan Field.
Castleton opens the tournament as the top seed for the seventh straight year and will take on fourth-seeded UMaine-Farmington in game one Saturday at 9:30 a.m. The second game of the day features No. 2 seed Lyndon and No. 3 seed New England College at 12:30 p.m., while the losers of the first two matchups will square off in an elimination game at 3:30 p.m. in the final contest of the day.
Tournament action will continue throughout the weekend, as two games are slated for Sunday, May 6, before concluding with the tournament championship scheduled for Monday, May 7 with an automatic berth to the 2018 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship on the line.
No. 1 Castleton (27-10, 21-3 NAC)
Castleton has been the top team in the conference this season and one of the top clubs in the region, collecting a 27-10 overall record and 21-3 mark in the conference. The Spartans have gone a combined 9-3 against tournament foes, winning three out of four in each series against Lyndon, New England College, and UMaine-Farmington.
At the plate, Castleton ranks third in the conference in batting average (.262), second in on-base percentage (.389), and third in slugging percentage (.357). Davis Mikell leads the team with a .350 batting average and four home runs. Mitchell Caron is second on the squad with a .349 clip and 11 doubles, while Jonathan Lindau and Dillon Benham are tied for the team lead with 31 RBI.
The Spartans' pitching staff ranks second in the NAC with a 4.12 ERA and 7.73 strikeouts per game average. Garrett Moran has been the ace, posting a 4-0 mark and sitting second in the NAC with a 1.89 ERA in 38 innings. Joe Gratton (7-2) is second in the league in wins and has a 3.19 ERA in 42.1 innings, while Aaron Smith has made 19 appearances and owns a 5-2 record with four saves.
Player to Watch – #15 Mitchell Caron – INF
Mitchell Caron is in the midst of his best season in a Spartan uniform. He has reached base safely in 23 straight games on his way to a .460 on-base percentage. In 24 conference contests, he is batting .365 with a team-best 22 RBI and has played especially well at home. In 10 games at Spartan Field, Caron is slashing .500 (12-for-24) with three doubles and 12 runs driven in. Watch for Caron to play a key role in Castleton's mission for a fifth straight conference title.
No. 2 Lyndon (19-18, 15-7 NAC)
Lyndon won five of its final seven league contests to close out the regular season with a 19-18 overall record and 15-7 spot in the conference. The Hornets posted an even 6-6 mark against tournament competition this year. Lyndon took three out four from UMF, split with NEC, and came away with one win in four games against Castleton.
With six players batting over .300 on the season, Lyndon leads the conference with a .297 average as a team. Andre Eason Jr. has turned in an impressive senior campaign, batting .406 with nine doubles and 31 runs scored. Codi Smith has paced the squad with 32 RBI and is batting .377 with seven triples, while Jason Doris has posted a .326/.407/.380 slash line in 32 games.
The Hornets' pitching staff has posted a team ERA of 4.67 with 136 earned runs allowed in 262.1 innings of work. James Mundy has tossed a team-high 50.1 innings so far with a 5-4 mark and an impressive 2.86 ERA. Jake Jourdain is 3-3 overall with a 3.35 ERA and two complete games, while Andrew Whalen has notched six saves with a 1.59 ERA in 16 appearances out of the bullpen.
Player to Watch – #9 Codi Smith – OF/P
Codi Smith has put together a solid sophomore season for the Hornets. In 36 games, he has notched a .377 average with nine doubles, seven triples, 25 runs scored and a team-leading 32 RBI. He posted his best game of the season against Castleton with three doubles and five RBI. Look for Smith and the Hornets' strong offense to carry the team towards a deep tournament run.
No. 3 New England College (24-13, 13-8 NAC)
New England College finished the regular season at 24-13 overall and 13-8 in the conference after closing out with three victories over UMF last weekend. The Pilgrims registered a respectable 6-5 mark against tournament competition this year, sweeping the Beavers, splitting with Lyndon, and taking one of four games from Castleton.
The Pilgrims lead the NAC in on-base percentage (.407) and slugging percentage (.449), and rank second in batting average (.293). Xavier Nunez is batting .391 with 15 extra base hits, 23 runs scored, and a NAC-leading 39 RBI. Evan Delaney is hitting .349 with a .516 on-base percentage, while Justin Carey has tallied a .323 average with 35 runs scored and a NAC-leading six home runs.
NEC's pitching staff has collected a team ERA of 3.58, allowing 108 earned runs in 271.1 innings pitched. Nick Powers and Shayne Audet have anchored the staff. Powers is 8-0 overall with a 0.91 ERA, whereas Audet (5-3) has posted a 2.64 ERA with a team-leading 76 strikeouts in 47.2 innings of work.
Player to Watch – #33 Nick Powers – P/OF
Nick Powers has been impressive in his first season with NEC, pitching his way to an unbeaten record with eight wins in eight starts. He has tossed five complete games, held opponents to a .184 batting average, and ranks fourth in the nation in ERA (0.91). He has also shown power at the plate, batting .286 with three doubles and three home runs. If Powers continues to perform both ways, watch for the Pilgrims to make a push as the third seed in this year's tournament.
#4 UMaine-Farmington (13-19, 10-13 NAC)
UMaine-Farmington stands at 13-19 overall and clinched the fourth seed in the tournament with a 10-13 mark in conference action after blanking Lyndon, 2-0, in its regular-season finale on Monday. The Beavers have struggled against tournament foes, dropping all three games to NEC and going 1-3 against Castleton and Lyndon for a 2-9 overall mark.
Offensively, the Beavers sport a .260 average with 134 runs scored in 32 games. Chase Malloy has spearheaded the attack with a .316 mark, seven doubles, two home runs, and 23 RBI. Nick Attaliades-Ryan is hitting .314, while Jimmy Parks leads the squad in hits (35), runs (26), and stolen bases (8) on his way to a .304 average.
The UMF pitching staff has notched a 5.20 ERA in 218 innings of work, while averaging 5.82 strikeouts per game. Gavin Arsenault has recorded a team-leading four wins with 34 strikeouts in 43.1 innings, while Nate Pushard is 3-4 and ranks fifth in the NAC with a 2.68 ERA in 40.1 innings.
Player to Watch – #10 - Jimmy Parks - INF
Jimmy Parks has been a steady performer for the Beavers all season long. In 23 conference contests, he's posted a .333 average and leads the offense with 27 hits and 18 runs scored while striking out just six times in 81 at-bats. If the senior infielder can deliver similar performances in the tournament, watch out for the Beavers to make some noise as the fourth seed.