LIU-Brooklyn vs. CCSU tourney preview

Before the Blue Devils take on the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds at 10:30 a.m. lets take a look at the matchup.

Back on March 24, the first weekend of Northeast Conference play, the Blue Devils opened with their New York City trip. Two against Wagner College and two more vs. LIU.

Long Island won the NEC tournament last year and is always a tough opponent.

When I talked to coach Jeff Franquet last week, he told me that even though the Blackbirds are the fourth seed and were swept by Central in the beginning of the season, they are always tough at the end and you can’t compare Friday’s team with the one back in March.

LIU plays probably the toughest non-conference schedule in the league which included three nationally ranked teams and a number of others from big conferences such as the Big East, ACC, Big Ten and SEC. And just as I heard on the NEC Front Row broadcast today, LIU takes a little while to “learn how to win again” once they begin their conference schedule, but the top tier teams prepare them for tournament play.

In the first game of the double-header back on March 24, CCSU used seven runs in the top of the sixth to win the game 9-1 after the mercy rule was applied. The offense was led by Arielle Bruno who had four RBIs including a 3-run home run off of Cassie Vondrak, who currently holds a 13-20 record with a 4.08 ERA. She pitched LIU to their game one victory on Thursday. The Blackbirds have possibly one other pitcher they could use vs. CCSU in Nicole Archer, but it’s unlikely and we will most likely see Vondrak vs. Messina in this winners bracket game.

Archer pitched six innings in the second game a month and a half ago, but came in in the second after Heather White gave up home runs to Bruno and Tessa Brown in the first inning. CCSU went on to win that one 5-0.

In the two games, Messina pitched 13 innings, struck out 12 batters and gave up one run. Look for the sophomore to be ready to go today.

Both teams can hit the ball deep, so I look for at least one home run on the day and Lauren Morizi of LIU has one of the top batting averages in the league (.396), but Messina will come right after her and the rest of the order.

The Blue Devils offense is rolling and conference Player of the Year Kat Malcolm leads the charge. With a home run yesterday and three RBIs, the center fielder will be right in the middle of the Blue Devils scoring opportunities again today, along with Bruno in the lead-off spot.

LIU-Brooklyn defeated Robert Morris University 7-3 in the second game of the opening round on Thursday.

The game begins at 10:30 and is live on NECFrontRow.com, that’s where I am watching and I am tweeting from @DCTViper89 throughout the game.

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#CCSUBaseball Update

What did I get out of CCSU beating Stony Brook in baseball today besides almost frostbite in April?

The Blue Devils have not been hitting well lately and even coach Charlie Hickey mentioned that in a recent interview with The Recorder. They strike out too much and don’t give themselves any opportunities to score. Tuesday they didn’t do much better, but came through with a clutch hit to put them on top late in the game and eventually came away with the victory.

The Blue Devils loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth and pinch hitter Bobby Migliazza singled to right center scoring two. Josh Ingham followed with a bunt single getting Tyler McIntyre home from third.

Maybe that’s what the Blue Devils have to score some runs, play small ball. If they aren’t getting the big hit, they will have to manufacture runs.

With the way the Seawolves were playing today, it wasn’t going to be a big challenge. They threw a freshman who was coming off injury and I even heard that their head coach didn’t even make the trip in one of the three red vans they took from New York.

The wind was blowing in from left field Tuesday which meant nothing was going to fly out of the park, that’s why the small ball technique worked. One more run scored in the seventh when J.P. Sportman singled in Jeff Osak from second. Sportman finished the day with three hits, raising his average to .304.

Stony Brook played in the college world series last season, but lost a bunch of guys from that team and are having a down year. They are 14-27, including a loss to NEC front-runner Bryant last week.

Last weekend CCSU scored 13 runs vs. Wagner College on Staten Island, the first time all season they scored more than 9 runs.

The Blue Devils host Fairfield on Wednesday and Iona this weekend before returning to conference play against Bryant at home on May 3-5.

CCSU Ousted By Wagner

I stepped off the fan bus to a cold and windy Staten Island and from the moment I took my seat reserved for CCSU fans behind the Blue Devils bench, I knew it was going to be a long night.

Central Connecticut had beaten Wagner College back on Jan. 17, 73-66, but three and a half weeks later at the Spiro Sports Center, the Seahawks put up 101, the most the Blue Devils allowed all season. Wagner had figured out the CCSU high-paced offense, or Central was getting tired, they led the Northeast Conference in possessions per game with about 77, I believe. They just didn’t have the energy.

While the Seahawks were warming up with defensive drill and putting on a dunk contest of their own, the Blue Devils hung out at their end of the gym shooting around like they were getting ready to play a pick-up game, the energy wasn’t there. When the two teams came back out for their “official” pregame shoot-around, Kyle Vinales and Matt Hunter sat on the CCSU bench for a few minutes, before joining their teammates. The whole team just looked flat and it showed the entire game.

The first half started incredibly slow, CCSU led 6-4 at the 16:21 mark, but that would be the last lead of the game. Wagner was just too long, too athletic and too fired up in front of their home crowd of a little over 1000 at the Spiro Center. Wagner went on a 9-0 run that lasted almost six minutes and you could tell on the faces of the Blue Devils, especially Vinales and Malcolm McMillan, they had no answer.

Central Connecticut pulled to within three with 4:20 left in the first half when Vinales hit a 3-pointer, but then Marcus Burton got hot. The 6-foot guard from North Carolina made four straight free throws and then hit a big 3 to give Wagner a 10-point lead. After two Terrell Allen free throws, Jonathan Williams started his own personal run. Two layups wrapped around a made free throw gave the Seahawks a 13-point lead at the break.

As the clocked was winding down in the first half, Allen got a steal along the sideline, ran the length of the floor and wound up for a huge statement dunk, but was fouled HARD by Williams as the buzzer sounded. Coach Howie Dickenman made his case for a flagrant foul, but no call was made and the two teams entered the locker room.

I think I tweeted that if CCSU was to get back into the game in the second half, they needed to make a run right out of the break…that didn’t happen. They were just as flat and tired as they ever and were literally getting run over. Burton hit back-to-back three’s 39 seconds apart to give the Seahawks a 20-point lead. That’s when I knew the game was over.

Central had run out of gas, no one got a single good look the entire night, Wagner’s defense was too tight. I hadn’t seen Kenneth Ortiz play very much, but there’s a reason he is the 2-time NEC Defensive Player of the Year, he plays as tight as possible and can shoot a little too. Vinales did end the game with 23 points to lead all scorers, but it wasn’t nearly enough, no one else could make anything drop.

The Detrick Gym has gotten complaints lately about how warm it is in there, but I think they do it on purpose, because the Spiro Center was cold and so were the Blue Devils (15-59 FG). Wagner was 27-71, but they had a much easier time shooting over the smaller CCSU squad. They even had a few dunks that caused the home crowd to explode.

The game got so out of hand that both teams put in their rarely used and walk-on players, for CCSU that was Andrew Hurd (much to the delight of the Wagner student section), Erik Raleigh and Greg Andrade.

Central was outplayed in every facit of the game. Wagner was too tall, too long, too athletic and had too much energy, everything CCSU didn’t have last night. It’s back to the drawing board for Coach D. but until then, I’ll make my way over to the CCSU baseball and softball fields…