The defending Northeast Conference champion Sacred Heart baseball team begins its title defense with an eighth consecutive postseason appearance when the 2016 NEC Baseball Tournament hosted at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Conn. commences on Thursday. The eight straight appearances for the Pioneers are double the next longest active streak in the league, with Bryant having appeared in the previous four tournaments.
The second seed, Sacred Heart (29-26, 18-13 NEC) will open play against third seed Fairleigh Dickinson (26-26, 18-13) at 4 p.m. SHU took five of the seven meetings from FDU in the regular season, helping the Pioneers hold off the Knights by two games in the conference standings. All seven of those games were decided by three runs or fewer.
The opening game of the Tournament will feature first seed Bryant (44-10, 26-4 NEC) and fourth seed Central Connecticut State (23-32, 15-17 NEC) at 12 p.m.
Play continues on Friday with the losers' bracket game at 12 p.m. and the winners' bracket game at 4 p.m. The winner of the first game and loser of the second game will then meet on Saturday at 12 p.m. for a spot in the 4 p.m. championship game. If necessary, the winner-take-all seventh game would take place on Sunday at 12 p.m.
Stay tuned to SacredHeartPioneers.com and follow @SHUBigRed on Twitter for daily coverage of the 2016 NEC Baseball Tournament.
Champions Again... Sacred Heart won its fourth Northeast Conference Championship in 2015, rallying from a 4-3 deficit in the ninth inning to come back and defeat two-time defending champion Bryant 5-4.
-The program's first title came ten years ago as a four seed in 2006 before back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
Championship Game... In each of its last eight tournament appearances, Sacred Heart has reached the title game. After winning the title in the 2006, the Pioneers missed the 2007 and 2008 tournament, and have since appeared in the championship round seven years in a row.
-The only appearance that SHU did not reach the title game was its first ever appearance in 2005.
Good For Two... In reaching the eight consecutive title games, the Pioneers have won at least two games in each of those tournaments:
2005: 1-2 (WLL) 2012: 3-0 (WWW)
2006: 3-0 (WWW) 2013: 2-2 (WWLL)
2009: 2-2 (WLWL) 2014: 2-2 (LWWL)
2010: 2-2 (WWLL) 2015: 3-1 (WWLW)
2011: 3-0 (WWW)
Second Seed Yet Again... Appearing in its tenth tournament, this will be the sixth time that Sacred Heart has been the second seed:
1 Seed (Once): 2-2 3 Seed (Twice): 5-3
2 Seed (Five Times): 11-6 4 Seed (Once): 2-2
Familiar Opponents... Two of the top three opponents that Sacred Heart has played the most in the tournament are in the 2016 field, while this will be just the second ever meeting with Fairleigh Dickinson, whom the Pioneers defeated 10-0 a year ago to reach their seventh consecutive championship game:
Monmouth - 7-3 LIU Brooklyn - 2-0
Central Connecticut - 6-3 Fairleigh Dickinson - 1-0
Bryant - 1-4 Quinnipiac - 0-1
Wagner - 4-0 Mount St. Mary's - 0-0
Opening Game Success... Sacred Heart improved to 8-1 in the opening game of the NEC Tournament with its come from behind 3-1 victory over Wagner in 2015.
- Sacred Heart is 7-2 in the second game of the tournament, 5-4 in the third game, and 1-4 in the fourth game after the comeback over Bryant last season.
- SHU has never played a winner take all fifth game after coming out of the loser's bracket at the NEC tournament.
30-Win Season... Currently standing at 29-26 overall, one win will give Sacred Heart its fourth 30-win season in the last seven years, and first since a school record 34 victories in 2013.
-SHU did not have a 30-win season in its first ten seasons as a Division I program.
-The Pioneers also won 34 games in 2011, as well as 31 in 2010.
Top Five in the NCAA in Shutouts... Sacred Heart ranks fourth in the NCAA with nine shutouts from the pitching staff this season, just three behind leaders Navy and Tulane, who have 12.
-SHU put together a stretch of four consecutive shutouts from March 25 at LIU Brooklyn to March 29 at Yale.
-The Pioneers' last shutout came on May 8 against Mount St. Mary's.
School Record... With one stolen base against LIU Brooklyn on Sunday, Sacred Heart set a school record with its 84th swiped bag of the season. The previous record of 83 was set in 2011.
-The Pioneers are 24th in the NCAA in stolen bases and their 44 stolen bases in league play are atop the conference.
Three Baggers... With an NEC-leading 17 triples this season, SHU is also approaching another school record, needing just two to tie the mark of 19 set in 2013.
-The Pioneers are also leading the league with 13 three-baggers in conference play.
League Leaders... In addition to triples, Sacred Heart leads the league in the following categories:
-18 runners picked off
-Five triples allowed, including one in NEC play
-38 doubles allowed in NEC play
-51 double plays, including 31 in NEC play
-36 runners caught stealing, including 20 in NEC play
-Six passed balls