May 7, 2010
The Bryant Bulldogs take a bite
out of the NEC
By Bart Remington
Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com
just their second full season of Division I ball, and the first
to include a full slate of Northeast Conference games, the
Bryant Bulldogs have already started marking their territory.
After sweeping a four-game set against conference foe Wagner,
the Bulldogs enter the upcoming series against Long Island
University with a three-game lead in the Northeast Conference.
Bryant also earned a #4 ranking in the latest New England
Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA) Poll. As was the
case in Division II, winning is nothing new to Bryant. The
program compiled six conference titles and a trip to the 2004
Division II College World Series, and all indications point to
the Bulldogs having the same level of success in D-I play.
order to gain an understanding of just how Bryant has made such
a smooth transition into Division I play, one need look no
further than the series against the Wagner Seahawks this past
weekend. The four-game series featured timely hitting, strong
performances from the mound and some late-game heroics, all
qualities that define the Bryant Bulldogs.
Game 1, starting pitcher Brent Almeida picked up his third win,
going six innings and allowing just four runs on six hits.
Clinging to a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the
eighth, Bryant put the game out of reach, adding two runs on
singles from catcher Jeff Vigurs and second baseman Dylan Stone.
The four-run lead was more than enough for junior pitcher Mark
Andrews, who earned his ninth save, striking out two allowing
just one hit in 1.1 innings.
would be hard-pressed to find a team that responds as well as
Bryant when the score is tight and the game is on the line. In
speaking with Bryant head coach James Pinzino, the mental
toughness and focus required to secure victory during close
contests is something he values and works to instill in every
player on his roster.
proud of the way our guys played and competed,” Pinzino said.
According to Pinzino, this was “…the biggest weekend in a while.
Both teams were tied for first place in the conference. I’m
proud of how our players responded this weekend.”
asked about the stingy defense and strong fundamentals displayed
by his team this season, Pinzino explained that much of this
philosophy was instilled in the days of playing Division II
baseball, where teams use wooden bats instead of the D-I
Pinzino commented “It (wooden bats) forced
us to learn how to play defensive and hit situationally. If you
want to win games, you can’t give away runs.”
saw Bryant jump out to a two-run lead in the bottom of the
first, but Wagner tacked on four runs in the third, capped off
by a two-run homer from Wagner right fielder Kevin McDonnell.
Bryant responded in the fourth, as first baseman Jamie
Skagerlind singled to open the inning. Skagerlind advanced to
second after left fielder Kevin Brown was hit by a pitch from
Wagner starting pitcher Matt Watson. Right fielder Jordan
English followed with a single to center field, allowing
Skagerlind to score from second.
the fifth, Skagerlind tied the game at 4 on a double to center
field, scoring center fielder Nick Campbell (left) from third.
Wagner regained the lead in the seventh when catcher Hayden
Hunter led off with a home run to left, but Campbell matched
Hunter’s shot with a dinger of his own over the left field fence
in the bottom of the seventh.
entered the bottom of the eighth with the score deadlocked at
five. With a runner on first and two outs, Campbell singled to
shortstop. Wagner relief pitcher Ian Karlsson walked the next
batter, loading the bases. Shortstop Zakary Cianciolo followed
with a grounder to Wagner shortstop Brian Martutartus that
should have ended the inning, but a throwing error allowed Brown
to score from third. The game ended after the eighth, giving
Bryant starter Eric Polvani the win in a complete-game
performance. Polvani faced 34 hitters, striking out eight and
giving up five earned runs on six hits.
third game of the series, Bryant recorded a 6-3 victory in seven
innings. Bryant again struck first, putting up two runs in the
bottom of the first, but Wagner answered with two in the second
to tie the game. The game was still tied at two as Bryant
entered the bottom of the fourth. Dylan Stone led off
with a single and advanced to third when Cianciolo ripped a
double down the left field line. Skagerlind drove in Stone, and
a single by third baseman Tim Norton scored Cianciolo from
third. Brown then hit a triple to right center, scoring Norton
from first. Bryant capped off the rally when English singled to
right field, driving in Brown for Bryant’s fourth run of the
inning. Wagner would add a run in the fifth to close the gap to
three, but Andrews entered in the sixth and gave up just two
hits on his way to his 10th save.
the first three games against Wagner, Bryant displayed the grit
and determination that has led them to the top of the NEC this
season. In the fourth and final game, Bryant was forced to tap
into that seemingly endless reservoir of determination once
started out much like the first three, with Bryant jumping out
to a quick 3-0 lead through two innings. As expected, Wagner
battled back with a solo homer from first baseman Vin Avella to
lead off the top of the fourth. The Wagner bats came alive again
in the fifth as the Seahawks struck for an additional three runs
to take a 4-3 lead.
would respond in the bottom of the fifth, as designated hitter
Connor Carignan walked to lead off the inning. A single by Brown
(right) allowed Carignan to reach third. After two quick outs
failed to move the runners, Campbell stepped up with a single to
center field that drove in Carignan from third.
Bulldogs would recapture the lead in the bottom of the sixth
after Norton doubled down the left field line. Carignan would
come up big once again, singling to center to score Norton from
second, giving Bryant a 5-4 lead.
lead wouldn’t last though, as Wagner responded in the seventh
with three runs on three hits, including a huge two-out single
from Brian Martutartus with the bases loaded that drove in two
runs. Wagner would add a run in the top of the ninth to extend
its lead to 8-5.
bottom of the ninth, the Bryant bats came alive once again.
Carignan opened the inning with a single up the middle, and
again advanced to third on a single from Brown down the right
field line. English singled to score Carignan from third, and
the Wagner lead was cut to 8-6. Vigurs then doubled to right,
scoring Brown from second and advancing English to third.
Campbell followed with a sac fly to deep left field, bringing in
English from third to tie the game. The inning ended at an 8-8
top of the tenth, Andrews made his third appearance of the
weekend, and promptly struck Martutartus. Matt Logan then
grounded out to short. Andrews hit Wagner catcher Hayden Hunter
with a pitch on the next at-bat, and Nick Alfano made Andrews
pay for the mistake with a two-run shot to right center, giving
Wagner a 10-8 lead. Andrews would get out of the inning after
retiring the following batter, but the damage had been done and
the game seemed all but out of reach to everyone, except the
never-say-die Bryant Bulldogs.
Carignan drew a walk to open the bottom of
the 10th, and an error by Wagner second baseman Seth Boyd
allowed both Carignan and Brown to reach safely. English then
laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners, putting Brown,
who represented the tying run, on second and Carignan on third.
Vigurs singled on the next at-bat and advanced to second on an
errant throw. Both Brown and Carignan scored, tying the game at
10 with one out. Vigurs advanced to third on a wild pitch, and
Wagner intentionally walked hot-hitting Campbell. A strikeout
of Stone gave Wagner the second out, bringing Cianciolo to the
Hitless in the game, Cianciolo said that he had been “…hoping
and praying that it would come down to me. I wanted a chance to
redeem myself since I was having an off day.”
a first pitch fastball just missed the corner, Cianciolo (left)
readied himself for the second pitch. He got the pitch he
wanted too, another fastball up the middle.
just sat on it and drove it up the middle,” Cianciolo said. The
single drove in Vigurs and ended the game with Bryant taking a
thrilling 11-10 win.
was something special” commented Cianciolo. “When I got to
first, I just turned around and saw my team running toward me.”
Cianciolo went on to explain the moment as
the biggest thus far in his baseball career, and the moment may
stand as a spark to light was seems to be a great conference
rivalry in the making.
Campbell may have put it best when asked about the series when
he said “Wagner is a good team. They have a lot of great
players. I think this is going to be a great rivalry.”
around the NEC, as well as around the nation, would be wise to
keep a close eye on the NEC race.
will be fully eligible for post-season play in 2013. The
Bulldogs hold a three-game lead in the NEC over Sacred Heart,
and will play four-game series with Long Island University and
Quinnipiac before hosting Sacred Heart in the season finale.
find the Bryant Bulldogs on your team’s schedule in the future,
remind your athletic department to break out the “Beware of Dog”
sign, because this dog can hunt.
(Bryant won three of four
at Long Island this past weekend to keep its hold on first
(photos courtesy of Bryant Media