New England College finished a historic 2018 baseball season with 26 wins that included a program record 13 game winning streak. However, for the second straight season they fell short of reaching the NCAA Tournament following a loss in the NAC Championship game to Castleton University. This season the Pilgrims bring back a more experienced team, with a new coach, in a new conference and are ready to make a run at a championship.
The Pilgrims are led by captains Evan Delaney and Jamie Carey, both integral parts of last year’s team. In addition, former assistant, Terry Doyle, is taking over as head coach this season, replacing Chris Shank who had led the team for the previous two years.
“Coach Doyle brings a laid back, communicative, and mutual trust approach each and every day, and receives that same energy back from our guys,” said Carey. “We’re just playing the game [how] it’s meant to be played, and having some fun while we’re at it.”
The Pilgrims are entering their first season in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC). Despite being new to the conference, the Pilgrims were picked by opposing coaches to finish second in the preseason poll, only nine points behind Mitchell College. The NECC, which consists of nine teams, will provide the Pilgrims with their opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament.
“We are definitely excited to join a new conference,” said Delaney. “We are going to approach it as if we didn’t change conferences. Keep attacking.”
“Our opponents only have on us what they’ve heard about us, which puts us in attack mode from the jump. We feel as if we have an edge, as well as a chip on our shoulder coming in, with no fear of upcoming challenges,” added Carey.
In addition to Delaney, who is a preseason All-American, the Pilgrims bring back an experienced team lead by several award winners from last season. Xavier Nunez won NAC Player of the Year last season when he hit .403 to go along with 43 RBI’s. Christian Aybar hit .292 in 2018 and contributed 4 home runs and 22 RBI’s out of the leadoff spot. In total, NEC will return seven players who had at least 20 hits last year.
The Pilgrims also sport two preseason All-American pitchers in Shayne Audet and Nick Powers. Audet posted a 2.38 ERA with a team leading 85 strikeouts in 2018, in a season that saw him named New England Region’s Rookie of the Year. Powers had an outstanding 8-0 record to go along with a 0.99 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 63 ⅔ innings.
While NEC may be lead by some outstanding players, Carey said, “our biggest key to success this year is going to be our group’s willingness to do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to win games, whatever it takes to be there for the person next to you, whatever it takes to get that degree, and whatever it takes to win a championship.”
Delaney added, “the biggest key to success this year will be handling what is in front of us. Not thinking about the games a week from now, two weeks from now, but thinking about the game we are about to play. Everyone needs to be present.”
The Pilgrims open the 2019 season on February 23rd, when they take on Framingham State University in a doubleheader. They follow that up with a trip to Myrtle Beach over spring break, where they play a total of eight games over seven days. They will open up NECC play with a doubleheader on the road against Becker College on March 31st, before finally playing their first game in Henniker on Tuesday April 2nd, against Colby-Sawyer College.