We always seem to get one of these northern teams don’t we? A few years ago it was Siena, then there was Sacred Heart, and now Fort Worth welcomes Central Connecticut State. CCSU is located in New Britain, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford, so they’ll only have to travel about 1,700 miles to get here.
Here’s the thing about these teams from up North though, they usually face bad weather at the start of the season, which means that they get a lot of experience early being on the road. Nine of CCSU’s first ten games were played away from their home field. They went 5-5 in those games, including a four game series down in Norman, Oklahoma where they were swept by the Sooners.
The CCSU Blue Devils finished the year 36-20 overall and 21-7 in the Northeastern Conference. They finished one game behind Bryant in the Northeastern Conference regular season standings, but they went 3-0 in the conference tournament to claim the championship and a postseason birth. The actually beat the aforementioned Sacred Heart twice to win the championship and cap off an eight game winning streak.
The game that clinched the tournament championship for the Blue Devils also happened to mark the 500th career win for their coach, Charlie Hickey. Hickey has been at CCSU since 2000, and the team has won more than 30 games in a season seven times under his leadership. This year’s 36 wins are the most since a school-record 41 in 2004. They won the conference that year as well and Hickey earned NEC co-coach of the year honors.
Their best pitcher is probably senior Brendan Smith. He’s 5-7 on the year with a 4.03 ERA and he routinely goes 6+ innings in his starts. Overall their team has a 4.23 ERA and while the stats don’t tell us anything really special about the starting pitching, like the Horned Frogs they have a couple of talented young bullpen guys with ERAs well below 3.00.
The Blue Devils are hitting .281 as a team, averaging 5.9 runs per game. Offensively they are led by junior Dean Lockery, hitting for a team-best .336 and also leading the team in walks and runs scored. The senior Franklin Jennings is right behind Lockery, hitting .333 and leading the team with 13 stolen bases. Lastly, they have their big bat, Ryan Costello. He leads the team with nine home runs and 51 RBIs while batting to a .287 average.
CCSU will see their first action of the Fort Worth Regional in Game 2 against TCU on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 8:00pm CT and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.