By Bob Behre
Spring Fever was ratcheted up several degrees yesterday when a winter nor’easter dropped up to a foot or more of snow on parts of New Jersey, including the Diamond Nation Baseball/Softball Complex in Flemington.
The storm also knocked out “The Nation’s” appropriately named Spring Fever Tournament, which, historically, is the season-opening event of the spring. Old Man Winter has, indeed, delivered a big hit to the Diamond Nation schedule this weekend, but optimism reigns with the Spring Fling Tournament on tap for next weekend and an improved forecast propping up those good thoughts.
As usual, Diamond Nation.com fastidiously peruses every possible information source to find timely and fascinating baseball and softball tidbits to bring your way as you wait for spring to break out.
We noticed Cumberland Community College, a Division 3 JUCO in South Jersey, has received the No. 1 ranking in the nation. The Dukes, who reached the Division III JUCO World Series last spring, are off to an 8-2 start that includes prodigious offensive production from several players.
Freshman Ryan McIsaac (Millville), one of a large contingent of New Jersey players on the roster, leads the team with a .486 average and is second on the team with 10 RBI. Freshman outfielder Nicholas Mihan (Egg Harbor Twp.) and freshman catcher Brian Gallante (Highland) share the team lead with 11 RBI.
Hofstra’s Seamus Brazill, a 6-9, 260-pound righty from Barnegat pitched a seven-inning no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over Lamar on Feb. 24. Brazill struck out five and walked four in his no-hitter. Brazill was named the Colonial Athletic Association Pitcher of the Week for his performance. He boasts a 2.45 ERA on the season, through 11 innings, and has permitted three earned runs on six hits to go with six strikeouts and six walks. He has limited opponents to a .162 batting average.
Brazill, a redshirt sophomore, went 4-4 with a 1.40 ERA his senior year at Barnegat in 2015. He struck out 73 and in 53 innings that season. Hofstra has opened at 5-2.
Sophomore center fielder Mike Maguire, an Immaculata grad and a former Diamond Jack, is 12-40 (.300) with a pair of doubles and eight RBI for 4-6 Lehigh University.
As Rutgers (5-6) heads into a three-game weekend series against Army in Fort Myers, Florida, we look at a trio of players -- Kyle Walker, Carmen Sclafani and Eric Heatter -- who have truly stepped to the fore for the Scarlet Knights.
Senior infielder Kyle Walker, a Pingry grad and a member of NJ Super 17 out of Diamond Nation, is off to a red hot start, batting .455 start with 10 hits, including a triple and four RBI. He’s reaching base at a .536 pace and is slugging at a .545 clip. Sclafani, a 5-11, 200-pound junior shortstop and Brick grad, is batting .333 with two doubles, a triple and four RBI. Freshman lefthander Eric Heatter has been dominant, posting a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings while striking out 16 and walking three.
On the softball side, in Providence, Rhode Island, former Finch’s Aces player Tiffani Semanchik is picking up where she left off from an outstanding 2017 season.
Semanchik, a Hunterdon Central grad, is batting .333 in the early going for Johnson & Wales (1-6). The first baseman/outfielder batted .508 (31-for-61) in 2017 with four doubles, a triple and a home run. She scored 18 runs and drove home 20 runs. She also boasted a .522 on-base percentage and a .656 slugging percentage.