SPORTS

College Notes: Local duo ready for DIII tourney

Posted 5/17/22

By BRENDEN SOARES

The bracket for the Division III edition of the NCAA baseball tournament dropped Sunday night, with a trio of New England schools selected for the 60-team field boasting the …

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SPORTS

College Notes: Local duo ready for DIII tourney

Posted

By BRENDEN SOARES

The bracket for the Division III edition of the NCAA baseball tournament dropped Sunday night, with a trio of New England schools selected for the 60-team field boasting the services of at least one Cranston West product.

Two of the three former Falcons will be locking horns in the opening round of play, with Drew Spirito’s Wheaton team taking on Nicolas Fortes’ Johnson & Wales squad Friday morning to kick off the Brockport, N.Y. regional.

Thomas Barbieri and his Endicott teammates will also be traveling to the Empire State, as the Gulls will descend on Cortland to make their first tournament appearance since 2014 and will lock horns with St. John Fisher in their regional opener.

Spirito will be competing in the tournament for the third time in his career and will be hoping to return to the College World Series, a destination that the Lyons reached last spring after coming out on top in the Hartford regional.

Wheaton earned their berth after successfully defending their New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference championship, defeating MIT via a 7-2 decision on May 8 to chalk up their 17th consecutive victory.

Despite missing a chunk of the season, Spirito established himself as the Lyons’ starting first baseman, hitting at a .229 clip with five doubles and 22 runs driven in, the latter good for sixth on the team.

Lining up on the opposite side will be Fortes, who played 21 games for a Johnson & Wales team that clinched their spot in the tournament on the strength of a 21-6 rout of Saint Joseph’s of Maine on May 8 to win the Great Northeast Athletic Conference title.

It was the third time this spring that the Wildcats scored at least 20 runs, following on from a 21-0 blanking of Colby-Sawyer on April 3 and a 21-9 triumph over Dean 13 days later.

While he did not see the field during Johnson & Wales’s run to the GNAC crown, Fortes made his presence felt at other points in the season, drilling three home runs and racking up 13 runs batted in on his way to posting a .250 average at the plate.

Rounding out the trio is Barbieri, who looked on as Endicott sewed up its place with a 4-1 victory over Western New England on Saturday to win their fourth game in as many days to emerge as the champions of the Commonwealth Coast Conference.

In 15 games as a backup catcher, the junior hit .229 at the plate with a home run and six runs driven in, four of which came in his first appearance of the season, a 14-0 shutout of Salem State on March 5 that saw the Gulls bat around in the first inning.

Cranston natives Olivia Conti and Brenna Whittaker each earned postseason honors from the Great Northeast Athletic Conference in recognition of their fine seasons as members of the Emmanuel softball team.

Conti was a first-team all-conference selection for the second year running after smashing a program-record 12 home runs, while also leading the Saints in batting average (.442), doubles (17) and runs batted in (32).

Switching gears to the circle, Whittaker punctuated her fine freshman campaign by earning a spot on the all-rookie team after going 9-5 in 17 appearances with 40 strikeouts and seven complete games.

The Emmanuel nine finished the campaign with a 26-12 record but fell one game short of returning to the NCAA tournament, losing 6-2 to Johnson & Wales in the conference championship game on May 8, their second setback to the Wildcats in as many days.

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