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Norwich, CT - Bryant won three of the Northeast Conference’s four major baseball awards, but it was Fairleigh Dickinson’s Ryan Kresky (Freehold, NJ/Freehold Boro) who claimed the league’s highest individual honor. FDU’s senior shortstop received the NEC Player of the Year plaque during an awards dinner on the eve of the four-team 2012 NEC Baseball Tournament.
Celebrating its second regular season championship in three years time, Bryant watched members of its program accept the NEC Pitcher of the Year, the NEC Rookie of the Year, and the NEC Coach of the Year awards. Bulldogs’ staff ace Peter Kelich (Jackson, NJ/Jackson Memorial) earned the league’s highest pitching honor, while first-year starting right-hander Kevin McAvoy (Syracuse, NY/Westhill) claimed top billing amongst the conference’s rookies. Three days after completing his second season as Bryant, Steve Owens was deemed the league’s top skipper through a vote of his peers.
Two 13-member All-Northeast Conference Teams were also unveiled during Wednesday evening’s ceremony in the Dodd Stadium Picnic Area. First-place Bryant garnered a league-high five all-NEC nods and all nine teams received at least two all-league selections.
Not since 1994 has a FDU Knight achieved what Kresky has done by claiming the highest individual honor in NEC baseball. The veteran shortstop was more than just a senior leader on a young FDU team that featured 16 freshmen. The left-handed hitting Kresky combined tremendous offensive production with a good glove to spearhead the Knights’ return to the postseason. Helping FDU end a NEC Tournament drought that dates back to 1999, Kresky ranked atop the NEC individual leader board in batting average (.377), on-base percentage (.495) and slugging percentage (.577). His .960 fielding percentage places the 6-foot-1 Kresky second amongst the conference’s shortstops. Batting third in a rookie-laden lineup, the Garden State product posted a league-high 1.072 OPS (on-base plus slugging) while ranking amongst the NEC’s top-5 leaders in runs scored (39) and RBI (38) during the regular season.
Kresky, who was an all-NEC second team selection as a junior, enters FDU’s NEC Tournament opener against Monmouth with 219 career hits to his credit. With 66 hits, 24 of which went for extra bases, in 51 games, the fourth-year Knight became the third player in program history to join the 200-hit Club. Kresky’s multitude of skills also includes a prowess on the basepaths as the NEC Player of the Year was successful in six of his seven stolen base attempts.
Matching former Bulldog Brent Almeida’s accomplishments from 2010, Kelich claimed the NEC Pitcher of the Year award after leading the circuit in earned run average (ERA). The lone NEC starter with a sub-2.00 mark, the junior righty limited opponents to 1.81 runs per 9.0 innings. He struck out nearly thrice as many batters as he walked, fanning 74 and issuing 26 bases on balls. In conference play, Kelich held opposing batters to a .194 aevrage and posted a 0.94 WHIP (walks-hit per IP) to go along with a 1.57 ERA. Kelich, who posted an 8-3 overall record in 2012, has made a habit of stockpiling wins since breaking into Bryant’s starting rotation as a freshman. He has 23 victories, including 17 against NEC foes, in three seasons. His 6-1 record in NEC play this season matches the 6-1 league mark he accounted for in 2010 when The Bulldogs snagged their first regular season conference crown.
For the second straight year, the NEC Rookie of the Year award went to a starting pitcher. One year after Sacred Heart southpaw Nick Leiningen took home the honor, McAvoy added his name to the list. While Kelich had the lowest overall ERA in the NEC, McAvoy was the league leader in ERA during conference play. The right-handed rookie hurler pitched to a 1.54 ERA and won all four of his decisions against league opponents. Displaying good control, a trait not always synonymous with freshmen, the 6-foot-2 New York native allowed only 11 free passes and nine earned runs over 52.2 innings against NEC hitters. Overall, his 5-1 record was tops amongst the league’s rookie pitchers and his 2.94 ERA was the sixth-lowest amongst all NEC hurlers.
Since arriving in Smithfield, Owens has kept an already-successful program on track. Taking the reins for the 2011 campaign, the veteran skipper has steered Bryant to back-to-back 30-win seasons and now has a regular season conference crown to celebrate. He presided over the conference’s top pitching staff, which accounted for a league-low 3.05 ERA and allowed fewer than one hit per inning of work. The NEC Coach of the Year award is Owens’ first, but the former head coach at Le Moyne is no stranger to postseason accolades. Owens won the MAAC Coach of the Year honor in 2004 and 2006.
Both spots on the all-NEC first starting pitching staff belong to student-athletes who played their high school ball in New Jersey’s Shore Conference. Monmouth’s Pat Light (Colts Neck, NJ/CBA) , who once starred at Christian Brothers Academy, joins Kelich, a Jackson Memorial product, as a first team starter.
Light has been rising up MLB draft boards over the past few months and a quick glance at his junior year numbers will explain why. The 6-foot-6, 200-pound right-handed hurler, whose fastball lives in the mid-90s, struck out 97 batters and walked only 14 over 92.1 innings. Light went the distance in three of his 13 starts and posted a 7-3 record as the Hawks’ ace. His 2.63 overall ERA was the league’s third-lowest and the Garden State product allowed only 1.62 runs per 9.0 innings pitched against NEC opponents.
When Kelich, who threw four complete games in 2012, did not go the distance he would hand the ball to a Bryant bullpen that features all-NEC first team reliever Sal Lisanti (Bronx, NY/Fordham Prep). The sophomore righty, who spent his high school career at Fordham Prep in The Bronx, pitched to a 1.54 ERA over 25 appearances, all of which came out of the bullpen. Stepping in for former all-NEC closer Mark Andrews, who graduated last May, Lisanti saved nine games and allowed only six earned runs in 35.0 innings. He earned the save in six of Bryant’s 24 conference victories and posted 2-1 record to go along with an 0.92 ERA against NEC opponents.
Tyler Jones (Stewartsville, NJ/Phillipsburg) makes his second straight appearance as the first team catcher. LIU Brooklyn’s veteran backstop produced 62 hits, 20 of which went for extra bases, in 55 games. Having produced a tough act to follow by winning the NEC batting title with a .425 average in 2011, Jones hit .312, a mark that ranked him 13th amongst league leaders, during his senior season. Although he was second on the team in hitting, the 6-foot-1 catcher led the Blackbirds in RBI (34), on-base percentage (.423), and slugging percentage (.492).
Junior Tyler McIntyre (Bristol, CT/Avery Point) becomes the second Central Connecticut first baseman in the last three years to claim a spot on the All-NEC First Team (Tommy Meade, 2010). The 6-foot-4, 225-pound power hitter batted .287 overall and sported a .530 slugging percentage that was a by-product of his league-leading 10 home runs. McIntyre was especially tough on NEC pitching. Nine of his 10 long balls came during league play and he slugged .627 over the 32-game conference schedule.
Monmouth has had a history of producing all-NEC middle infielders and 2012 will do nothing to damage that reputation. With Garden State rival FDU home to the all-NEC first team shortstop, the Hawks have the all-NEC first team second baseman for the fifth year in a row. Second-year Hawk Jake Gronsky (Danville, PA/Danville) follows two-time recipients Ryan Terry (2011, 2010) and Chris Collazo (2009, 2008). The 6-foot-1 right-handed hitter batted .308 to help lessen the impact of 2011 NEC Player of the Year Ryan Terry’s graduation. Gronsky, who saw his average rise to .330 against conference competition, tied for second amongst league leaders in doubles (18). He had 65 hits, 34 runs, and 31 RBI in 55 games.
The man who manned the hot corner for Quinnipiac was the NEC’s hottest hitter during conference play. Sophomore third baseman Zak Palmer (Mahwah, NJ/Mahwah) hit .417 with 21 runs and 20 RBI in 32 contests against NEC pitching. Overall, Palmer produced a .342 batting average that ranked third amongst league leaders. Becoming better as the season wore on, 20 of his 22 RBI and 45 of his 54 hits came after March 15.
The runner-up finisher in the race for the NEC batting title earned a place in the first team outfield. Central Connecticut sophomore JP Sportman (Schenectady, NY/LaSalle Institute) hit .357 overall, a mark that jumped to .375 when facing NEC pitching. The 5-foot-8 outfielder also brought plenty of power to the No. 3 spot in CCSU’s lineup. Sportman went deep seven times and connected on 13 doubles during the regular season campaign. His .566 slugging percentage ranked second only to Kresky on the NEC leader board. Sportman, who was an all-NEC second team selection at utility as a rookie, has produced 65 hits, 36 runs, and 32 RBI in 48 games as a sophomore.
Sophomore outfielder Pete Leonello (Commack, NY/Commack) gives LIU Brooklyn a second all-NEC first team honoree. The left-handed swinging Blackbird led the NEC in hits (71) and tied for first in runs scored (41). Leonello, who started all 55 of LIU’s games in centerfield, posted a .327 batting average after hitting .328 as a rookie. LIU’s centerfielder connected on a team-high 13 two-baggers and reached base at a .405 clip.
Bryant junior Kevin Brown (Northborough, MA/Algonquin) completes a senior-less all-NEC first team outfield. Although he is no stranger to all-league accolades, the left-handed slugging Brown is a first teamer for the first time. The former NEC Rookie of the Year (2010) garnered second team all-conference recognition as a freshman and sophomore. Brown, who batted .281 as a junior, continued to provide power. He hit nine home runs to finish one shy of the NEC lead and his 16 doubles tied him for fourth amongst the conference’s best. In three collegiate seasons, Brown has hit 55 doubles, 13 triples, and 20 round-trippers. In addition to piling up extra-base hits, the 6-foot, 190-pound rightfielder has been an “Ironman” of sorts. Brown has started 163 consecutive games for Bryant, meaning he has not missed a single contest in his three years as a Bulldog.
Designated hitter Dan Perez (Seymour, CT/Seymour) gives Sacred Heart representation on the All-NEC First Team. The 5-foot-11 sophomore batted .311 and reached base during 44.1 percent of his plate appearances. Perez’s 30 bases on balls ranked second only to FDU’s Ryan Kresky. The second-year Pioneer enjoyed a power surge once league play rolled around. Eleven of his 14 extra-base hits came against NEC hurlers.
A former NEC Rookie of the Year (2009) rounds out the All-NEC First Team at the utility position. FDU senior Matt Holsman (Coral Springs, FL/Stoneman Douglas) has been a key cog in the Knights’ lineup and is one of the reasons why Gary Puccio’s team was able to end its playoff drought. Holsman, who made 44 starts, batted .284 with 31 runs scored. The native Floridian connected on two home runs, one of which came in dramatic fashion during the season’s stretch run. After FDU dropped the first two games, and fell behind early in the third, of its series with Mount St. Mary’s on the next-to-last weekend of conference play, Holsman delivered a game-winning grand slam that capped the Knights’ comeback and put them back on track for the NEC Tournament.
The all-NEC second team infield consists of Bryant first baseman Jamie Skagerlind (Holden, MA/Wachusett), LIU Brooklyn second baseman Brad Greve (Newbury Park, CA/Oxnard CC), Central Connecticut third baseman Mitch Wells (East Haddam, CT/Xavier), and Sacred Heart shortstop John Murphy (Seymour, CT/Seymour).
Wells is the lone multiple-time honoree of the group. Central’s senior third baseman earned a spot a the First Team in 2010 and 2011. Wells, who hit .299 as a freshman, batted in excess of .300 for the third season in a row. His .313 average was third on the team and 11th overall in the NEC. One of only three Blue Devils to start all 50 of the team’s games, Wells connected on 60 hits, including 14 two-baggers, and drove in 31 runs. Meanwhile, across the diamond from Wells, Skagerlind claims his first all-league honor after hitting .298 and playing a near-flawless first base. Skagerlind, who logged 16 doubles and five home runs, posted a .996 fielding percentage.
Greve hit .299 in his senior season with the Blackbirds and was even more impressive with his glove. The native Californian turned more double plays (39) than anyone in the league and his .970 fielding percentage was tops amongst starting NEC second basemen. Murphy, a junior shortstop, completes the second team middle infield. The third-year Pioneer hit.338 overall and .353 in conference play. In 32 league games, Murphy recorded 41 hits and scored 25 runs.
Wagner’s Ian Miller (Downington, PA/Bishop Shanahan), Monmouth’s Jamie Rosenkranz (Oakhurst, NJ/Ocean), and Central Connecticut’s Dylan DelaCruz (East Lyme, CT/St. Bernard) comprise the all-NEC second team outfield. Miller batted .312 overall, stole a NEC-high 34 bases, and scored the fourth-most runs (39) in the conference. Rosenkranz started all 55 of Monmouth’s games in the regular season, hitting .307 during the team’s third 30-win season of the outfielder’s tenure. DelaCruz was the league’s sixth-leading hitter, posting a .330 average and 60 hits over a 48-game sample.
Mount St. Mary’s junior Mark Quaranta (Virginia Beach, VA/Loyola Blakefield) claimed all-NEC honors behind the plate after posting a team-high .333 batting average that ranked him fifth amongst league leaders. The third-year Mountaineer drove in 34 runs while posting a .401 OBP.
Wagner senior right Ryan Van Spronsen (Ontario, Canada/Assumption College) and the aforementioned McAvoy occupy the two starting pitcher spots on the All-NEC Second Team. Van Spronsen was a workhorse for the Seahawks, throwing more innings than any NEC pitcher since 2001. The Canadian-born Van Spronsen posted a 2.07 ERA, the second-lowest in the league, over the course of 100.0 innings and won eight of his nine decisions.
The all-NEC second team relief pitcher posted a league-high 12 saves. Freshman Eric Snyder (Slatington, PA/Northern Lehigh) closed the door on nine of Fairliegh Dickinson’s 18 league victories.
Mount St. Mary’s junior Mo Moriarty (Dumfries, VA/Potomac) and Quinnipiac freshman Vincent Guglietti (East Haven, CT/East Haven) round out the All-NEC Second Team at utility and designated hitter, respectively. Moriarty hit .302 overall and .312 against league foes. Guglietti, who broke into the lineup as a rookie, hit .310 during Northeast Conference play.