We have a local athlete once again earning All-American status, and a contingent of Newtown baseball players making noise deep into the NCAA baseball championships this week.
Track & Field
Southern Connecticut State junior leaper Oghenefejiro Onakpoma (Naugatuck/Coginchaug) placed seventh in the triple jump finals (15.47 meters) to claim a seventh place and All-America honors at the NCAA Division II Track & Field Championships in Kingsville, Texas, at Texas A&M/Kingsville.
He had qualified for the NCAA field with a leap of 15.44 meters at the UConn Northeast Challenge in April, and bested that distance by .03 meters.
This was Oghenefejiro’s second-straight visit to the outdoor NCAA championships (he’d already made two trips to the indoor championships, where he also collected All-America honors). The week before he left for Texas, Oghenefejiro was named the 2019 East Region Field Athlete of the Year by the US Track & Field and Cross-country Coaches Association, while also earning All-Region honors.
The NCAA Division III College Baseball World Series games were in full swing over the weekend, and two guys from Newtown – Babson College junior center fielder Jake Oliger, and UMass/Boston senior shortstop Charlie Huegi – were on the Veterans Memorial field in Cedar Rapids, IA, going for the national championship.
Meanwhile, in Division I baseball, another Newtown guy, Central Connecticut State junior right fielder Dave Matthews, was helping the Blue Devils pick up their first NCAA win.
Let’s trace how the teams got there first…
To reach to the College World Series, an eight-team field, UMass/Boston, ranked 22nd in the country, and seventh-ranked Babson had to win their Super Regionals, a best-of-three set.
UMass/Boston took on unranked New England College, which had yet another Newtown player, freshman pitcher Dylan Champagne, on its roster.
Babson College had to work its way past 19th-ranked Cortland State.
To add a little home cooking to the mix, Babson and UMass/Boston hosted their Super Regional games.
UMass/Boston opened its series with the New England College Pilgrims on May 24, working a come-from-behind 5-4 win by scoring twice in the bottom of the eighth inning. Charlie batted 1-for-3 in that game, smacking a two-run double down the left-field line in the second inning, when the Beacons broke into a 3-2 lead.
In the second game of the series, it was the Pilgrims who scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to grab a win in a 6-4 contest. Charlie again had the hot bat for the Beacons, going 1-for-4 in the batter’s box, but nailing a two-run double into left field in the sixth inning to tie the game at that point, 4-4.
The rubber match of the series was played later in the day that Saturday, with Dylan taking the mound for the Pilgrims. The freshman got roughed up in his five innings of work, allowing eight hits, five runs (four earned), and absorbing the eventual loss.
Charlie hit 2-for-2 with a run scored and two more RBIs with a second-inning single and a fourth-inning sacrifice fly to center field. The Beacons triumphed, 6-2.
New England College completes its season with a 29018 record; Dylan had a 2-2 record with two saves in 38.2 innings pitched in 11 mound appearances (four starts). He struck out 33 batters and walked 18; opposition hitters batted .261 against him. Those are great stats for a freshman working his way into an important part of the lineup.
As a result of his field performance in the Super Regional, Charlie was named Most Outstanding Player of the two-day tournament. He finished by batting 4-for-9, scoring one run, hitting two doubles and driving in six runs. In the field, he had six assists, five-putouts and worked one double play.
Looking at his stats, you’d have to figure Charlie bats high in the lineup. Nope – he’s the number nine hitter.
That second-game loss to the Pilgrims was the first time since the playoffs began at the conference level that the Beacons had lost a game. “I like being the second lead-off on the team,” Huegi said after the game. Asked how he brought a senior approach to the game, he said, “I tone everything out and lock in.” He commended his teammates, there are eight seniors on this team, for never giving up. “It shows a lot about the pride and the family we have built here. Just coming together as a team is what we’ve learned from our losses and that’s carried us to where we are now.”
Coach Brendan Eygabroat noted that his team, although ranked as one of the Top 10 teams in the country at the beginning of the season, didn’t play that way in the beginning. On April 6, after a 4-2 loss to Plymouth State, the Beacons had a 10-8 record.
“We lost some games then we stopped having fun,” the coach explained. “We play our best when we’re loose and don’t make the moment too big.”
The Super Regional win put UMass/Boston in the College World Series in Iowa. The Beacons are making their second trip in three years to the Olympus of Division III ball. In 2017, the Beacons lost their opening game to North Central College. The next day, in an elimination game, they beat Wheaton College, 3-2. Later that day. North Central College showed up again and sent the Beacons home, 5-4.
Charlie’s team was ready to fly to Iowa last Wednesday, but he and seven of his teammates had a problem: they were supposed to graduate on Friday, the first day of games at the College World Series.
UMass/Boston Chancellor Katherine Newman stepped in, and the college administration and athletics department staff set up a special commencement exercise for the eight senior Beacon baseball players, complete with parents and friends, teammates, and staff members. Chancellor Newman started the ceremony (it’s on video on the college’s website) by describing what a good idea it was to have graduation inside (it was pouring). She made a short speech, and the guys were called up to shake hands and get their diplomas.
The next day, they were in Iowa…kind of like Field of Dreams.
UMass/Boston opened against Webster College on Friday and got a miracle in the bottom of the eighth inning on a throwing error – the catcher tried to catch runner Ryan Leung after a two-out sacrifice bunt by Eddie Riley, but ended up throwing the ball into foul territory. Leung scored, and the Beacons had a 4-3 win.
Charlie had tied the game in the seventh inning with an RBI single to right field. He batted 1-for-3 with the RBI.
The win put UMass/Boston into the second round against sixth-ranked Chapman University, where the Beacons piled up nine runs in the first three innings to put the Cougars on their heels. Charlie batted 0-for-2 but scored twice and picked up an RBI on a fielding error in the second inning, where two runs came across as part of a five-run outburst.
Now UMass/Boston was in unchartered territory. They were the only unbeaten team in the four squads in Pool A, and were one win away from the final three-game series that determines the national champion. The Beacons had never gone that far in the national championships.
Waiting in the wings was either Chapman or Washington & Lee, who played the morning game on Sunday. Whoever won that game would take on the Beacons – after our deadline. We’ll catch up with everything next week.
When we left the seventh-ranked Beavers last week, they had qualified for the Super Regional and were set to meet 19th-ranked Cortland State in a best-of-three series at home on May 24. Babson jump-started the game with five runs in the bottom of the first inning on the way to a 7-6 win, but the Beavers needed to bring the winning run across in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Jake Oliger batted 1-for-3, scoring once, and momentarily putting Babson ahead again in the seventh inning with an RBI single that made the game 6-5 at that point.
The win gave Babson the chance to close out Cortland the next day: a win would earn Babson the series and send the Beavers to the College World Series; a loss would force a final, winner-take-all game.
Cortland made the Beavers earn the win, a 2-1 affair where all the scoring was completed by the top of the fifth inning, followed by four tense stanzas. Jake was 0-for-4 at the plate.
Now the Beavers were on their way to Iowa, where they were set to meet 21st-ranked Johns Hopkins on Friday afternoon. The game was tied 4-all into the 10th inning, where Nick Browne hit a two-run homer and Babson looked like the winners…until the Jays put three runs across in the bottom of the 10th to escape with a 7-6 win.
Jake hit 2-for-5 with a third-inning RBI single to left field. The loss was the first one-run defeat all season for Babson.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Beavers played an elimination game against the Heidelberg College Student Princes: the loser would be looking for a flight back home the next morning.
Heidelberg scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning, making the lead 5-1, and Babson needed a miracle. The Princes brought in closer Joey Wenning to finish the Beaver season, but Babson gnawed on the young man, starting with a lead-off triple, then an RBI single, then a walk, then a wild pitch, then another walk and suddenly, the second Beaver out, on a sacrifice fly, but the score was now 5-3.
Babson got a single, an RBI walk, and with the score now 5-4…the miracle.
Jake came to bat with two outs and the bases loaded, the ninth Babson batter in the bottom of the ninth inning, which started with Heidelberg holding a 5-1 lead.
Behind 1-2 in the count, he smashed a dying pea into left field, a walk-off two-run double, and the Beavers lived to fight another day.
In the post-game news conference, Babson senior Mike Genaro said, “We lost a teammate a couple of years ago and ever since then, we’ve won a lot of games that we shouldn’t have won…I feel like we have 10 guys on the field at all times.” An angel in the outfield?
On Sunday, after our deadline, Babson met Johns Hopkins for the chance to move on. We’ll have the results next week.
Central Connecticut State
Central Connecticut State has battled its way through the Northeast Conference playoffs and into the NCAA Division I Big Dance…making history on the journey.
Everything started on May 23 in the first round of the NEC playoffs at Dodd Stadium in Norwich. The Blue Devils welcomed Wagner College with a 5-0 win. Dave Matthews batted 0-for-3 in the win.
The next day, the Devils took on top-seeded Bryant University and got beaten, 3-1. Dave was 1-for-4 at the plate. The loss put Central into the elimination bracket, where the Devils met Wagner on May 25 and again got a win, 7-3, sending the Seahawks home. Dave did a little better, batting 1-for-4 with a run scored and RBIs on a fifth-inning double and a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning.
In the second game on May 25, the Devils again ran into Bryant, but this time claimed a 3-1 win, sending the conference title into a winner-take-all game on May 26, against Bryant again – a game that ended with a 3-2 Central Connecticut win and a trip to the NCAA playoffs.
Dave was 1-for-4 in the first Bryant elimination game, scoring a win. In the second, championship game, he poked a home run over the left field wall in the seventh inning, tying the score at 2-2 at that point. He ended up 1-for-3 with the run scored and RBI.
Central was now on its way to Fayetteville, Ark. to take on fifth-ranked Arkansas in the first game of the regional, on Friday. The Razorbacks built a 6-1 lead and won, 11-5. Dave batted 0-for-4.
On Saturday, in an elimination game with 24th-ranked California, the Devils got a three-run homer from Dave in the fifth inning and used that springboard for a 7-4 win – the momentous first NCAA victory for Central Connecticut baseball in six regional appearances. Dave was 3-for-4 with four RBIs – the first on a fourth-inning single, then the three-run dinger in the fifth.
Central moved on for another round of play on Sunday, with Texas Christian University as the opponent – past our deadline. We’ll pick up the coverage next week.
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Southern New Hampshire University needed some late-game rallies against 25th-ranked LIU/Post to make it to a Division II Super Regional, which the 22nd-ranked Penmen hosted, welcoming New York Institute of Technology.
The first game was played on Friday, May 24, with Penmen ace and grad student Jake Walkinshaw (Seymour) taking the mound. He threw for seven innings, allowing 10 hits (one home run) and seven runs (four earned), striking out six and walking two. Southern New Hampshire lost the game, despite scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, 9-8, and Jake was credited with the defeat.
With the loss, the Penmen were looking at a quick exit from the Super Regional. On the next day, that’s what happened. NYIT scored four runs in the first inning and had a 5-0 lead going into the fifth inning and Southern could never catch up, dropping a 6-3 decision.
Southern New Hampshire’s season draws to a close with a super 40-15 record; Jake had a 7-0 record going into the post season, where he lost two starts. He ended up with a team-best 2.01 ERA, led the Penmen in innings pitched (98.2) and strikeouts (102).
The Brown University women’s rowing team got all three of its boats through the first day of the NCAA Division I Rowing Championships. Junior Tessa Mackey (Gunnery) pulls an oar from the seven seat in the second varsity 8 for the Bears.
Browns 2V8 was second in its first heat on Friday at the Indianapolis Rowing Center, six seconds behind Washington and 3.565 seconds ahead of Princeton. That finish placed the Bears in the A/B semifinals.
On Saturday, the 2V8 placed fourth in the semifinals, just 1.2 seconds away from qualifying for the grand final. On Sunday, the Bears faced Yale, Princeton, Iowa, Rutgers and Virginia in the petite final. The results of that race were not available by deadline.
At the Anna Maria College annual athletic night, graduating senior center Shannon Hofmiller (Oxford/Bunnell) was honored with a Leadership Award and a Four-Year Commitment Award.
She played in at least 22 games in each of her four varsity years, starting at least 22 games in her last three years with the AmCats. She had 113 rebounds in her junior year, when she also made 32 assists and had 17 steals, plus 21 blocked shots.
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Babson College junior right fielder Jake Oliger (Newtown) has earned All-Region accolades from D3baseball.com and the American Baseball Coaches Association. He got Honorable Mention notice from D3baseball.com and was third team ABCA. A Second Team All-NEWMAC Conference selection, Jake earned his first all-region honors after putting together the best season of his career.
He has set new career highs in every statistical category and is batting .333 with 11 doubles, eight home runs, 35 walks, 15 stolen bases and a single-season program record 53 runs batted in. Jake leads the Green and White with 12 multi-RBI games and entered the College World Series having reached base safely in a season-best 25 straight outings.
The U.S. Women’s soccer team won its last match of the send-off series on May 26, beating Mexico, 3-0, with Alyssa Naeher (Seymour/Christian Heritage/Penn State) in goal. This was her 25th career shutout and she earned her 46th international soccer cap.
The USA is in Group F for the World Cup, with Sweden, China and Thailand. Alyssa is the starting goalie for the USA and the first game is on June 11 versus Thailand, at 3 p.m. on Fox sports.
Check out the USWNT website for a personal profile, including a hammer, straight from Alyssa that will touch folks in Seymour. You’ll also note this is a woman athlete who has put in her time in the weights room.
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