Pioneers Open NCAA Tournament Facing NC State Friday Night
NCAA TOURNAMENT - RALEIGH REGIONAL
NC STATE VS. SACRED HEART - 7 pm - Doak Field at Dale Park
Setting the Scene... The Sacred Heart Pioneers return to the NCAA Baseball Tournament for the second straight year and third time overall, earning an automatic berth as Northeast Conference Champions.
Twice is Nice... The Pioneers repeated as NEC Champions in 2012, sweeping the NEC Tournament in strikingly similar fashion as they did in 2011. Troy Scribner, Nick Leiningen, and Kody Kerski threw complete game victories, just as they did in the same order last year. Also, for the second straight year, SHU closed out the tournament with consecutive victories against Monmouth University at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, CT.
Tough Start, Strong Finish... The Pioneers closed their season 11-4 behind a three-game sweep of the NEC Tournament and by taking three of four from Monmouth in the finale regular season series of the year. SHU fought back in the last game of the regular season, coming back from deficits of 3-0, 7-4, and 9-7 to win 11-9 against MU. This bookended a 2012 season in which SHU started 1-10.
Phillips Joins 200 Hit Club… Senior infielder Hunter Phillips became just the fourth player in program history to get 200 hits, reaching the mark with a single against Quinnipiac on 4/28. Phillips now has 214 hits, one behind Jeff Hanson (2006-09) for third place all-time.
Murphy Mashing... Shortstop John Murphy is leading the Pioneers offensively this season, a year after winning the NEC Tournament MVP. He is currently in the top in the NEC in six offensive categories, leading the team in batting average (.347), slugging % (.476), triples (4), and stolen bases (24).
Perez No Sophomore Slumper... Sophomore DH Dan Perez has improved greatly from a solid freshman campaign, settling into the clean-up spot when senior All-NEC first baseman Rob Griffith went down with an injury. Perez finished the regular season at .311, a climb of 32 points from his .279 average in 2011. He leads the team this year in RBI (34), doubles (12), walks (30), and OBP (.441), and is second in the NEC in OBP and walks.
Horn Making Noise… Derick Horn has hit .355 (11-31) with 5 RBI and 5 runs over the last three weeks (ten games, eight starts). He has seen his average climb 60 points in that time, from .172 to .232. The sophomore catcher made the NEC All-Tournament Team last year, going 5-11 with 2 runs and 5 RBI.
Peaking When It Matters Most... Derick Horn isn't the only Pioneer swinging a hot bat of late. In the last three weeks, John Murphy (.380), Dan Perez (.343), Hunter Phillips (.333), and Conor McEvoy (.325) are all hitting .353 or better.
Flint Setting the Tone at the Top... Freshman centerfielder Keaton Flint is doing the job as SHU's leadoff hitter. He is tied with John Murphy for the team lead with 36 runs. He is second behind Murphy with 16 stolen bases. Most impressively, he is hitting .479 (35-73) leading off an inning.
Pitching In... SHU returns its three starting pitchers from last year's rotation, Troy Scribner is 7th in innings (75.2) and 9th in strikeouts in the NEC. Nick Leiningen has thrown eight complete games this year and 15 in his first two seasons. Kody Kerski ...Robbie Maguire joined them in the rotation this season, and is 4th in the NEC in fewest hits allowed (55).
SHU Post Season Notes
All-Time in the NCAA Tournament... Sacred Heart is 0-4 all time in the NCAA Tournament. After falling 11-0 against Georgia in the 2006 Athens Regional, the Pioneers fell just short to Jacksonville 4-3 to close out the program's first ever NCAA Baseball Tournament appearance. Last season, SHU lost to Clemson 11-1 and UConn 13-3 in the Clemson Regional.
Dodd Delight... Sacred Heart is a perfect 7-0 all-time at Dodd Stadium, with four wins coming last year. The Pioneers went 3-0 in the NEC Tournament in both 2011 and 2012, the first two years in which Dodd Stadium served as the conference tournament site. SHU also beat UConn 5-4 on 3/15/11 at Dodd Stadium.
All-NEC Tournament Team... Troy Scribner, Nick Leiningen, Kody Kerski, and John Murphy all were named to this season's All-NEC Tournament Team. Scribner, Leiningen, and Kerski all threw complete game victories, with Leiningen pitching a shutout in his team-leading eighth complete game of the year. Scribner was named Tournament MVP, playing first base for the final two games and driving in a key run in the championship after setting the tone on the mound in game one. Murphy went 5-10 with four RBI and two runs. Scribner, Leiningen, and Murphy all made the team for the second straight year, with Murhpy taking home last season's tournament MVP honors.
Horn Turns it on Come Tournament Time... Catcher Derick Horn seems to save his best performances for when it matters most. Last season as a freshman, he was named to the Clemson Regional All-Tournament Team, going 2-3 in both games to finish 4-6 through two games in the regional. He also was named to last year's All-NEC Tournament Team, going 5-11 with five RBI and two runs to close the season 9-17 with five RBI and three runs in five game of post-season play. This season, although he did not make the NEC All-Tournament Team, he still went a solid 4-12 with three RBI and one run. However, he delivered what proved to be the game-winning RBI with a two-run double in the second inning of SHU's 5-1 victory over Monmouth in the NEC Championship game.