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BOSTON, Mass. – Starting Wednesday baseball will once again have their eyes set on hoisting another Little East Conference title. This time the Beacons will be traveling to the University of Southern Maine to compete in this year's conference tournament. UMass, who is seeded fifth, will face the second seeded Owls of Keene State College in game two on Wednesday from the USM Baseball Stadium.
Going into this year's tournament, the Beacons carry an 18-20-1 record overall, 6-8 mark in the conference. Also earning a spot in this year's tournament was regular season champion Huskies of Southern Maine who earned the No. 1 seed. After Keene it is Eastern Connecticut State University who is seeded third, followed by Rhode Island College who is seeded fourth. Plymouth State University rounded out this year's tournament with the sixth seed.
The tournament appearance marks the eighth straight (2005-2012) for head coach Brendan Eygabroat. Combined UMass has appeared in 11 LEC tournaments having qualified the tournament back in 2001, 1999, and 1998. To date UMass carries a 9-13 record overall in tournament play and hoisted the tournament title in 2010.
As a team, UMass Boston closed out the regular season ranked second in the conference in team pitching with a combined 4.65 earned run average, and were ranked fourth in team field percentage with a .949 mark. At the dish, the Beacons rank third in total triples with 15; while on the base paths dominate the conference in stolen bases with 106.
After securing a spot in this year's tournament with Friday's conference split with Rhode Island College, the Beacons will look to build off of the late season momentum and repeat the same way they did in 2010.
Individually the Beacons will look to their "Big-3" at the plate in senior Mark McCormack (Shelton, Conn.), junior Matt Consiglio (Southbury, Conn.), and sophomore Jamill Moquette (Boston, Mass.). During the 2012 season, all three hitters finished with a .300+ average with Moquette having a standout first season with UMass with his .387 average. In 137 at-bats, the Boston native posted 53 hits, 12 doubles, four triples, four home runs, 30 RBI, 36 runs scored, reached base a total of 85 times, and stole a league-leading 27 bases.
In the LEC, Moquette ranked second on the team behind Consiglio's monstrous .471 average. Against conference opponents, the junior first baseman was just clutch all season long for the Beacons as he went 24-for-51 with six doubles, one home run, 14 RBI and 10 runs scored. He posted .647 slugging percentage and a .557 on-base percentage to help the Beacons earn wins over Southern Maine, Western Connecticut, Rhode Island, and UMass Dartmouth.
For McCormack he enters this year's tournament with a .304 average having totaled 45 hits in 148 at-bats. Of those 45 hits, 12 were for extra-bases including a team-best four triples. The Connecticut native drove in 20 runs this season and reached home plate a combined 30 times. To date, McCormack is just four runs away from tying the all-time program record of 187 set by Ryan Walsh '11.
On the hill, UMass will look to junior ace Daniel Heefner (Tracy, Calif.) to start things off in Wednesday's match-up with the Owls. This season, the righty has led the Beacons bullpen with a 2.95 ERA, total strikeouts with 31, innings pitched with 55.0, games started with nine, and total wins with four. Two of his four victories this season came against conference opponents, with 21 of his 31 strikeouts also coming against LEC hitters. The Beacons bullpen could also feature Michael Boughton (New Britain, Conn.), Will Barrack (Lancaster, Va.), and Lucas Ilges (Gloucester, Mass.) as possible starters as the tournament goes on. In relief the Beacons have a variety of pitchers at their disposal with 10 different players stepping on the hill this season to face conference batters.
Keene State enters Wednesday's contest with eight hitters all hitting above the .300 mark, and two hitting well over .400. Kyle Morrill has been the Owls go-to hitter with his 63 hits and six triples. Erik Bergstrom is also in that mix with his 54 hits and is currently one of three players to have recorded a team-best 14 doubles this season. Greg Bates, Peter Burgio, and Morrill have also shown they are just as dangerous when they reach base having tallied a combined 31 stolen bases respectively.
The winner of this year's tournament will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III regional tournament, which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, May 16.