DWC baseball seeks for return to glory

NASHUA – Can they return to glory?

Well, May and the New England Collegiate Conference playoffs are a long way off, but after a week in sunny Florida, the Daniel Webster College baseball team is off to a mixed start (4-7 overall, 1-3 conference) in the Louie Bernadini Era.

The Eagles split their first eight games of the season, including a conference-opening twin bill with Becker, down south. However, they dropped a doubleheader to conference foe Elms, 8-5 and 4-0 earlier in the week, so there’s some catching up to do. They’d love to recapture the New England Collegiate Conference crown that was theirs for two straight seasons (2012-13).

"Our goal is to win the conference championship," Bernadini, hired to run the program in November, said before the Eagles headed south. "I can only compare this team to teams I’ve faced. I know we have what it takes."

The prep work for the season’s start was a key, he said.

"I think we’re in a good place," Bernadinni said. "I can honestly say the guys have made themselves better baseball players with the process we put in front of them."

One of the things that helped the Eagles was the mild weather prior to the snow early this week that cleared Harvey Woods Field of snow and allowed them to practice outside before heading south. "We didn’t want to have the first time we played being our first time outside," Bernadini said.

The Eagles certainly hit in Florida. In three straight wins they scored a total of 37 runs, and are currently at a team .295 clip, led by freshman and former Nashua North outfielder Colby Gunter’s .458. Gunter went 5-for-5 in one game on the trip and that helped earn him NECC Rookie of the Week honors.

Sophomore outfielder Mike Pelletier (Pelham) is hitting .345.

There are a few keys to this team. One, Bernadini feels, is junior pitcher Nick Goodin who is 1-2 and has an earned run average of 2.57. He was a reliever last year and now he’s in the starting rotation.

"He’s made some giant strides in his pitching ability," Bernandini said. "He’s gotten confident pitching to both sides of the plate."

Bernadini is looking for good things, including leadership, from senior third baseman-pitcher Costas Hingis. He credits Hingis with helping to keep the team together during the transition to Bernadini as coach. "It’s humbling to come into a new program and have the guys take to you as well as they did," he said. "I think Costas was a big part of that."

A couple of other keys: Last year’s leading hitter, junior first baseman Dakota Williams, the former Alvirne standout, has begun the season hitting .371. Senior infielder-outfielder Devin Decarteret has started the season slowly, but as Bernadini said, "He’s a guy we’ll need in our lineup every day. One of those guys who thinks like a coach."

Another key local would be former Nashua South pitcher Jared Maloney, now a junior, who has started out 1-1 but given up 17 hits in 10 innings. That should improve as the pitchers should have an advantage in the colder weather of mid to late March. Also watch junior outfielder Kelvin Rodriguez (Nashua North), who has a triple and three RBIs to start the year.

The Eagles don’t have time to settle in. Unlike last year, when they returned north to a deep snow cover and didn’t play again for nearly two weeks, they should be able to get back into their schedule immediately. Three of the next four games are against NECC foe Elms.

"One of our strengths is our attitude," Bernadini said. "We’ve got a tough schedule. But these guys pay attention to detail, they do a lot defensive work, extra hitting."

And hopefully that gets them extra wins.

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The Rivier University and Daniel Webster women’s lacrosse seasons intersected last week, and as expected, it was all Riv.

The Raider program is far more advanced as the Eagles went 1-11 last year with a resurrected program that had no season in 2014. Thus the final score of 16-1 in favor of the Raiders wasn’t too surprising.

Riv won its season opener 17-12 over Becker at Raider Field before dropping a pair of games in Florida. Senior Paxton Larocque leads the Raiders in scoring with 18 goals, while junior Amanda Wickens out of nearby Tyngsborough, Mass.has 16 goals, including three in the opener and four in the win over DWC.

She should get untracked even further as she had 43 goals for the Raiders a year ago. Nashua sophomore Catherine Connolly hopes to improve on her seven goals and four assists as a freshman.

Riv, in just its seventh season and second under coach Ellen Maruszewski, was ranked eighth in the GNAC preseason poll.

The Eagles, in their second year under coach Bill Davidson, are led by sophomore Amanda Dargie,who had 23 goals last year and junior Madeline Roulier (12 goals, eight assists). Junior McKenzie Stone, who played in all 12 games last year, will anchor the defense. She got the only goal vs. Riv.

It’s a young team, with seven freshmen, so the Eagles will have some growing pains early.

"With the experience gained during our five non-conference games to start off the season and with the addition of an athletic freshmen class, we’re confident we can compete for conference wins this season," Davidson said.

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Nashua’s Ray Farmer has earned All-NECC honors for DWC after the stellar junior basketball season he had, making the Third Team. Farmer averaged 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists this past season, while also having 29 steals and 10 blocks.

The Eagles did have a First Teamer in junior forward Rondell Best (Brockton, Mass.), who was third in the NECC in scoring at 20.0 points a game, and had 9.9 boards a game. He recorded 18 double-doubles during the course of the Eagles’ 11-15 season. In total he also had 45 assists, 15 blocks and 18 steals had surpassed the 30-point mark three times. No doubt he and Farmer will be key building blocks for next season, which will be the team’s third under head coach Donald Morris, Jr.

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While waiting for their field to take shape for the spring, the DWC women’s softball team for the second straight year played a regular season game indoors at the Hampshire Dome in Milford. Unfortunately the Eagles dropped a doubleheader to Maine-Presque Isle, 13-0 and 10-1 in its recent opener. Ashley England, Skylar Evans and Stephanie Evans all had hits for the Eagles while Taylor Dill scored the lone Eagle run…

Rivier softball hasn’t faired much better. The Raiders went 0-4 on their season-opening Florida trip and don’t play again until they host Fisher for two on Wednesday…

Keep an eye on the DWC men’s volleyball team. The Eagles at last look are 5-1, good for second in the NECC, and 11-9 overall, having won seven of nine. Senior Ryan Howdeshell had 21 kills, 16 digs and nine aces in a recent pair of 3-0 conference wins over Lesley…

DWC lacrosse standout Anthony Cotoni recently repeated as NECC Player of the Week after a two-game stretch with nine goals while Tre Mason earned conference Rookie of the Week honors (three goals and an assist). It was the second time in a three-week span that the Eagles swept the weekly men’s lacrosse awards…

Back to baseball: DWC’s home game slated for this past Tuesday was postponed due to the melting snow and rescheduled for Apr. 18 at 3:30 p.m….

Rivier’s Jeremy Ball homered last weekend to help give the Raiders a 4-3 win over Emerson, Riv’s second in a row after a tough 0-11 start, all non-conference.