Skipjacks, Monroe battled their way to showdown
Both teams overcame obstacles to reach district series
WYE MILLS, May 20 The Skipjacks and Tribunes have one defining characteristic in common perseverance.
Chesapeake College´s baseball team lost seven of its last 11 regular-season games, but the Skipjacks responded by going undefeated in the Region XX tournament. Monroe Community College was pounded by Mercyhurst Northeast College in the winners´ bracket finals of the Region III tournament, but came back to beat Mercyhurst twice in the finals.
As a result, these two tenacious teams will meet each other in the NJCAA Division II Northeast District championship series, starting today at noon here at J. Marion Bryan Field. The winner advances to the NJCAA Division II World Series, with a first-round date a week from Saturday against the Northwest District champion.
The make-up of these two teams should make for an interesting weekend, said Chesapeake College head coach Frank Szymanski.
"It sounds like they´re not going to give up and we´re not, either, so it should make for some great baseball," said Szymanski.
Chesapeake (37-15) and Monroe (35-12) will play the first two games of the best-of-three series this afternoon, with Game 2 starting 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 1. The third game, if necessary, will be played at noon Saturday.
Monroe was 5-2 against a trio of Maryland teams Baltimore City Community College, CCBC-Dundalk, and Johns Hopkins University´s junior varsity. Chesapeake was 2-5 against the same three teams, but Szymanski said those records won´t mean much once the games start.
"Common opponents is always something you want to look at and evaluate, but the bottom line is the games will be won between the lines starting Friday," said Szymanski.
Monroe head coach Skip Bailey, meanwhile, saw enough of the Skipjacks at the Region XX tournament to be impressed.
"That´s a pretty good team right there," Bailey said after watching the Skipjacks rout state champion Allegany College of Maryland in the region finals. "Those kids can play. They hit the ball very well and they played outstanding defense (in the regional tournament). You had two kids (Bryan Brainer and Nick Lemmer) throw complete games and the other guy (Matt Fitzgerald) who threw against Allegany went eight. They flat-out mashed the ball Allegany didn´t stand a chance."
The Skipjacks are hitting .341 this season and have five players Clarke Rollins (.385 average, five homers, 53 RBI), Justin Armiger (.383, eight homers, 50 RBI, 59 runs), Will Delawter (.375, seven homers, 42 RBI), Brett Ireland (.388, three homers, 40 RBI), and Mike Kelch (.326, eight homers, 40 RBI) who have driven in at least 40 runs. And that doesn´t even take into account the team´s top hitter Jimmy Carroll, who is batting .393 and has scored 44 runs.
Monroe, which is averaging 7.78 runs per game this season, also has a productive offense.
The Tribunes are led offensively by designated hitter Ryan Jablonski, whose eighth-inning single drove in the tying run as Monroe beat Mercyhurst, 6-5, in the first game of the Region III finals. Jablonski then went 5-for-5 with a three-run homer as Monroe routed Mercyhurst, 16-5, in the tournament´s "if" game.
Jablonski, pitcher Steve Derouin, outfielder Tim Nanry, shortstop Nelson Santos, and third baseman Rob Meng all made the Region III all-tournament team. Nanry drove in the winning run in Game 1 of the Region III finals.
Chesapeake, however, has pitching that could pose some problems for the Tribunes. If Szymanski uses the same pitching rotation he used in the regional tournament Brainer (6-2 record), Fitzgerald (6-0), and Lemmer (4-2) the Skipjacks can throw three pitchers who have combined for a 16-4 record. All have earned-run averages of 3.65 or lower, led by Brainer´s 2.48.
Other options include Rollins (5-1, 1.80 ERA), Justin Armiger (3-0, 4.70), and Ryan Morse (4-1, 5.79). All told, the Skipjacks have eight pitchers who have won at least two games while posting winning records. In addition, the entire pitching staff is well-rested.
"The four days off we had after regionals really helped our pitchers and gave them some extra rest," said Szymanski. "We´re hoping to get the same type of performance from our pitching staff this weekend that we received from them last weekend."
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