The academic year may be coming to a close, but Wheaton baseball shows no signs of slowing down as the season winds down.
With a 15-2 record in conference play and 27 total wins, the team seems ready to pounce on their playoff opportunity. And with final scores featuring double-digit leads in runs for the Lyons club, things seem to be working out upon first glance.
All of this has accumulated towards the team reaching an NCAA Division III rank as high as 11. As of April 28, the Lyons’ 27-8 record trails only perennial rival Babson College with three fewer losses.
This has all come together to provide the Lyons with their eighteenth NEWMAC Regular Championship in program history and the top seed in the playoffs.
Even with this seemingly sterling record, head coach Eric Podbelski has tempered expectations. “It is still a bit early to get overly excited about what’s happened to this point in the season,” said Podbelski. “Our most important games are still ahead of us.”
However, these tests will come on home turf, as Wheaton will host their game with the victor of fourth-ranked MIT and fifth-ranked Springfield this Friday, May 3. Babson and Worcester Polytechnic Institute will play later that day.
If Wheaton can hang on, they’ll maintain their home field advantage. The alternative is watching their season-long competitors play on their field.
The Lyons have given themselves little reason to doubt their ability. On route to clinching the first seed, they split their doubleheader against MIT, taking the second game 6-0 after a 19-2 blowout loss.
While the first game’s final line is ugly, it should be noted that the bulk of the damage came out of one nightmare inning, in which the Lyons made two errors and gave up 13 runs on just five hits.
Blips in the radar regardless, the team has been impressive top to bottom. Perhaps leading the way is outfielder Jared Sharkey ‘19, whose 11 home runs and 46 RBI lead the team.
Lyons players have accumulated some eye-popping statistics along the way to their success, and it is translated into their win-loss record.
Consider first-year outfielder Jacob Studley ‘22, who has shown some impressive ability to drive the ball with eight doubles and four home runs. Or junior catcher Nick Raposo ‘20, who has demonstrated a keen eye for the ball with an 18:4 walk-to-strikeout ratio, an elite rate at any level.
Pitching has been equally dominant throughout the team. Of the nine players who have pitched in at least 15 innings this season, six have an ERA of three or better, with most hovering around two.
To this success, Podbelski said: “Everyone that has pitched for us this year has played an important part in the team’s success so far. And our bullpen has been every bit as important as the rotation. Both groups need each other to ultimately be successful.”
The Lyons should take this vote of confidence and run this postseason, as their hard work is close to paying off. The team will begin their postseason bid this Friday.