Maybe it’s not quite a dynasty, but the Northern Essex Community College baseball team is building quite the tradition.
The Knights are coming off their third straight trip to the College World Series and second-year coach Jeff Mejia is developing the kind of program that will be strong year after year.
“I don’t think the players coming back, or the new players, want to be the ones to not go (to the World Series),” said Mejia.
Nothing is certain in baseball, of course, but it certainly looks like the Knights have the potential to return to the World Series again next year.
Six starters return from this year’s 21-14 squad that rallied together after some tough early-season injuries as well as three of five starting pitchers, including emerging ace Ryan McAuliffe of North Reading.
Returning with those six starters are three players who would have started if they hadn’t been injured — first baseman Jake Rainer, who was an all-region first baseman in 2013, outfielder Chris Andella from Tewksbury and lefty pitcher/outfielder Ray Arocho.
Among the newcomers joining the team is athletic Colby Ingraham of Georgetown as well as pitcher Scott Leslie and catcher Keith Linnane from Division 3 North champion North Reading.
Mejia is also confident that as many as seven or eight other talented newcomers will join the program, including several local Merrimack Valley performers.
“We’re looking to solidify a few positions but I’m very optimistic,” said Mejia. “I think the group coming in will be at least comparable to last year. We’ll definitely be stronger (hitting) at the plate.
“I think this year was a great success and next year can be the same.”
Softball team upgrades
With recruiting going well, it appears certain that the Northern Essex softball team will enjoy complete varsity rather than club status. Head coach Robert Gillespie anticipates 10-11 newcomers will join the returnees from this year’s club team.
Among the newcomers will be Georgetown’s Maddy Crateau and North Reading’s Tarah Reilly, who were two of the top players in the Cape Ann League, and Nodine Webster, a promising pitcher from Wells, Maine.
Also joining the ranks will be, among others, Lawrence’s Karisha Jimenez, who hit .391 for the Lancers this spring.
Merrimack finishes4th in standings
After a season that included three conference titles, four team NCAA Tournament appearances and a national runner-up runner in track and field, the Merrimack College Athletic Department placed fourth in the 2013-14 Northeast-10 Conference Presidents’ Cup standings.
Merrimack finished with a total of 159.0 points to place fourth, marking the college’s best finish in nine years. The Warriors boast one first-place finish (1999-00) and two second-place finishes (1998-99, 2000-01).
The Presidents’ Cup is presented annually to signify overall athletic excellence in the Northeast-10. Adelphi won the title this year.
Crinella honored again
Merrimack College sophomore third baseman Frank Crinella can lay claim to another postseason honor, this time by the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC), which last week named him the 2014 Division 2 ECAC Player of the Year.
His latest major honor joins a pile of others which include the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) East Region Player of the Year, as well as the Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Year. Crinella was also recognized at the national level with three All-America honors by the ABCA (Second Team), Daktronics (Second Team) and NCBWA (Third Team).
Crinella was one of the top third basemen in the country as a sophomore, batting .401 with six home runs and 40 RBI, ranking first, fifth and tied for first in the NE-10 in those categories, respectively.
BU women’s teams shine
Fresh on the heels of their first season in the Patriot League, the BU women Terriers have made history. They brought home a league record seven conference championships, surpassing the previous record by two.
Their accomplishment has earned BU the Patriot League Women’s Presidents’ Cup, awarded annually to the member school with the best overall performance. Army won the Men’s Presidents’ Cup, and Navy took the overall Presidents’ Cup.
During the 2013-14 academic year, BU women’s varsity soccer, tennis, rowing, cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, and softball claimed titles while the women’s lacrosse and hockey teams made it to their conference title games, but lost.