The 2018 baseball season at Springfield College has been one of the best in over 15 years. The Pride is headed back to the NEWMAC playoffs for the first time since 2012, and several players have made history on multiple occasions.
Springfield started the season by winning 13 of its first 18 games, marking one of the best starts in program history. By picking up its 22nd win on Tuesday the Pride have won the most games in a season since 2001.
Most recently, sophomore Chad Shade set the new single season record for runs scored on April 21 against WPI. The record was previously held by Tony Vitiello in 1994 when he finished the season with 41 runs scored. Shade currently has 46 runs on the year after scoring three times in Tuesday’s game against Elms.
Additionally, Shade’s 29 stolen bases is the most in Division III program history. With games on Thursday and Saturday, Shade has the opportunity to break 30 stolen bases. He is seven away from tying the single season record held by Joseph Cervino in 1971.
As a team, Springfield has a whopping 74 stolen bases this season, making that the most in Division III program history as well. Brandon Russo’s 16 stolen bases and Jack Cooney’s 10 make round out a trio of double digit base stealers for the Pride this season.
Speaking of Cooney, he has experienced a historic freshman year. He is currently slashing .347/.440/.367 with 34 hits, 24 RBI, and 26 runs. Aside from Shade’s freshman campaign, that is arguably the best stat line from a freshman since Steve Starr in 2012 (.338/.422/.414, 49 H, 21 RBI, 32 R).
The pitching is just as spectacular as the hitting. If everything goes as planned this week, both Brian Johnson and Shawn Babineau will finish the regular season with ERA’s of under two.
Johnson would become just the fifth Springfield starting pitcher since 1987 to finish a season with a sub-two ERA. Babineau already added himself to that list with his freshman season (1.89 ERA).
One player that has yet to be mentioned is Mark Joao. He has quietly been a force and the main source of production at the plate for Springfield this year.
The senior leads the team with 32 RBI while owning a slash line of .339/.435/.547. His best game of the season came against Coast Guard on April 7. In game one of a doubleheader, he went 2-for-4 and set a new career-high with five RBI.
Joao has been a consistent contributor for the past four years, as he became the first player since Starr to record 100 career hits with his performance against Dean College on March 29.
This will be Joao’s first and only playoff appearance. He has seen Springfield baseball at some of its lowest points, having endured a slew of below average seasons leading up to his senior year. There is no doubt that he will relish at the opportunity to compete for a NEWMAC championship.
Looking ahead, Springfield will take on MIT in the quarterfinal round of the NEWMAC playoffs. Home field advantage has yet to be determined because both teams have to finish a game against each other that was halted on March 31. Whoever wins that game will receive home field. Springfield was trailing 6-4 when the game was stopped after the eighth inning.
Nonetheless, Springfield played the Engineers one other time and lost. It was a marathon 17 inning affair in Cambridge where Springfield held a two-run lead in the 17th inning, but MIT stormed back with three runs to walk it off in the bottom half.
Wherever the game is played, it will be a close and entertaining, but Springfield should come out victorious. The Pride is riding high on a four game win streak, whereas the Engineers are struggling with a four game losing streak.
Johnson and Babineau have combined to allow one earned run in 14 innings against MIT. Whoever head coach Mark Simeone chooses to start will continue his success.
Offensively, Springfield has grown immensely since its last meeting with the Engineers. Shade, Cooney, and Joao will continue to produce and Noah Bleakley is on a hot streak. He is 6-for-17 (.353) with five RBI in his last four games.
Additionally, Jake Gleason and Russo are 5-for-13 (.385) in their last four games. Gleason has driven in seven runs in that stretch while Russo has scored five times.
Springfield has the tools and potential to make a championship run. Naturally, it will take a full team effort and Coach Sim has a substantial amount of depth to work with. The journey begins on Thursday, May 3.