HOOKSETT — When it comes to college sports in the Granite State, you would have a hard time finding a more consistent program than Southern New Hampshire University baseball.
The Penmen are in their eighth straight NCAA tournament and are coming off an appearance in last year’s Division II College World Series. SNHU is hosting a regional for fifth time since 2012 and started the tournament with a bang Thursday with a 4-3 walkoff win over Assumption College.
The winning hit came off the bat of sophomore Sam Henrie, who singled home Marcus Chavez with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
“We know we have last chance at home no matter, so you just have to know what you’re looking for and take advantage of it,” Henrie said. “Luckily I got a first-pitch fastball, which I love to swing at.”
The Penmen flexed their muscles throughout the contest. Senior Kevin Alexy smashed a massive home run in the bottom of the eighth to give SNHU a 3-2 lead before the Greyhounds tied it in the top of the ninth.
Defensively, the Penmen held firm when their backs were against the wall, leaving a dozen Greyhounds stranded on base over the course of the game.
“I think that’s just a testament to how we work,” Alexy said. “I think it shows when we win a ton of games late because we’re working hard all game.”
The Penmen have found consistent success thanks to a deep team, especially on the mound. Graduate student and captain Jake Walkinshaw struck out five over six innings of work to keep Assumption quiet early.
Sophomore Jeff Praml came out of the bullpen and locked it down. Praml pitched the final 1 1/3 innings, giving up one hit, to pick up his fifth win of the season.
“I think when you’re putting your team together year to year you’re hoping you’re going to play in a tournament like this, and in the end it always comes down to pitching,” SNHU coach Scott Loiseau said. “If you can fill your team in a way that creates some depth, you have a chance when games get stacked up. That’s a big win. If we lost that one, we’ve got to win four in a row.”
The win improved SNHU’s record to 37-12. Since the start of the 2012 season the Penmen are 321-109. They haven’t won fewer than 31 games a season during that stretch.
Loiseau, in his 11th year at the helm of the program, said that the school’s investment in athletics has allowed him to build consistent winning programs.
“That starts at the top with our President (Paul) LeBlanc to our athletic director (Anthony) Fallacaro,” Loiseau said. “They give us the resources we need to put teams on the field that have a chance to do this. Winning’s not easy; it’s a hard thing to do. All the guys work hard all year for it. We’re lucky that we have the setup here that we do.”
The win puts SNHU in great position in the regional. The Penman have to win just two more games to advance to the super regionals next weekend. By contrast, Assumption will have to win four games between today and tomorrow to make it to the next round. The regional field is rounded out by Felician University and LIU-Post.
The Penmen play Friday at noon. A win in that game will put SNHU in position to win the regional Saturday at noon.
Franklin Pierce wins, 4-3
Franklin Pierce University’s baseball team sure has a flair for the dramatic. After winning four straight elimination games in the NE-10 Tournament, the eighth-seeded Ravens hung on to beat top-seeded and host Adelphi University, 4-3, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament East Regional on Thursday.
Leading 4-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, FPU pitcher Evan Glew allowed two runs before inducing a fly ball off the bat of Panthers’ catcher Jack Ryan that was caught for the final out with the tying run stranded on third.
Jonel Ozuna got the scoring started for the Ravens in the second inning with a two-run double that scored John Mead and Ural Forbes. FPU tacked on a run apiece in the fifth and seventh innings, and it was Joel Lara who scored both. The first was the result of an error and the second was on a wild pitch.
The Ravens advanced to the winners’ bracket and will play the winner of No. 4 Wilminton (Del.) and No. 5 NYIT at 9 a.m. on Friday.