Gomez earns second CCC Coach of the Year award
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (May 4, 2018) – The Western New England University baseball team was heavily represented when the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) announced its major award winners and All-CCC selections on Friday morning.
Fifth-year head coach Dan Gomez earned his second CCC Coach of the Year award, while junior shortstop Alex Loparco (Riverside, Conn.) and junior left-handed pitcher Bob Hamel (Southwick, Mass.) were named the CCC Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively.
Additionally, eight other Golden Bears garnered All-CCC accolades. Joining Loparco and Hamel on the first team were senior third baseman Jared Rosenblatt (Avon, Conn.), junior outfielder Erik Lacaire (Worcester, Mass.) and junior designated hitter/outfielder Joe Cassella (Wallingford, Conn.).
Western New England's second team honorees include junior right-handed pitcher Paul Wetmore (Hamden, Conn.), junior outfielder Ben LaCroix (Branford, Conn.), and junior relief pitcher Sean Halligan (North Branford, Conn.).
Rounding out the Golden Bears' ten All-CCC selections are senior right-handed pitcher Jake Kawiecki (Burlington, Conn.) and sophomore first baseman Zac Nussbaum (Bridgewater, Mass.), who both landed on the third team.
Gomez garners CCC Coach of the Year accolades for the second time (2016), sharing the honors this season with Jason Tower of Roger Williams. Under Gomez's leadership, Western New England boasted the most potent offense in the CCC this spring. The Golden Bears led the conference in on base percentage (.421), slugging percentage (.418), runs (310), doubles (77), triples (10), home runs (17), runs batted in (279), and stolen bases (106). They also finished the regular season in the top-30 nationally in OBP (20th), runs (29th), and stolen bases (17th). Western New England's pitching staff posted a 3.77 earned run average and limited opponents to a .250 batting average, which both rank second in the CCC. The Golden Bears, who were ranked eighth in the latest NCAA New England Rankings, also cracked the national rankings earlier this season.
Loparco earns Player of the Year honors following an impressive all-around campaign in which he ranked at or near the top of the CCC in numerous offensive categories. The Greenwich High School product tied for the CCC lead in batting average (.391) while also leading the league in on-base percentage (.531) and runs scored (43). His 30 walks, 17 stolen bases, 30 RBI and eight doubles rank second, sixth, seventh and tenth in the CCC, respectively.
Loparco, who also played stellar defense from his shortstop position, opened the season with a ten-game hitting streak and posted a trio of four-hit performances among his 13 multi-hit efforts. An All-CCC third team selection as a sophomore last spring, Loparco is Western New England's first CCC Player of the Year since Mike Rubino in 2013.
Hamel claims CCC Pitcher of the Year recognition after a dominant junior season on the mound. The Southwick, Mass. native went 4-0 with a 0.94 earned run average (5th in NCAA DIII) and 31 strikeouts in 38.1 innings of work.
Hamel went the distance in all four of his CCC starts (going 4-0), including a seven-strikeout, four-hit shutout at Gordon on April 28th. He also made an impact out of the bullpen early in the season, collecting three of his four saves during Western New England's spring break trip in Florida. A two-time All-CCC second team selection, Hamel earns first team honors after surrendering one earned run or fewer in all nine of his appearances this spring.
Rosenblatt caps his career with a first team selection after garnering second team accolades as a junior last season. The third baseman batted .307 with 11 doubles (T-5th in CCC) and a conference leading 41 RBI. Rosenblatt drove in multiple runs in 12 of 39 games this season and had multiple hits 12 times.
Lacaire and Cassella both earn All-CCC honors for the first time after playing key roles in Western New England's offensive success in 2018. Lacaire hit .313 with 12 doubles (T-3rd in CCC), one triple, two home runs and 37 RBI (2nd in CCC). He also ranked second in the league in stolen bases (22) and runs scored (40). Cassella batted .362 (8th in CCC) with seven doubles, one triple and 30 RBI (T-7th in CCC). The Wallingford, Conn. native, who posted a 15-game hitting streak from March 11th-April 7th, also swiped 18 bases, good for sixth in the CCC.
LaCroix receives his second straight All-CCC nod after hitting .297 with ten doubles (T-7th in CCC) and 36 RBI (T-3rd in CCC). He also walked 18 times and homered twice while turning in nine multi-RBI performances.
An All-CCC honoree for the first time, Wetmore went 6-2 this spring with a 2.79 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched. He posted three complete game efforts, including a seven strikeout, one-hit shutout at Gordon on April 28th and a nine strikeout blanking of Salve Regina on April 7th.
Halligan also earns his first All-CCC honor after thriving in a relief role this season. The junior went 2-0 with a 0.52 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 17.1 innings of work. He surrendered just one earned run all year and pitched 2+ innings on four occasions.
Nussbaum powered his way to an All-CCC third team selection after tying for the CCC lead with six homers during his sophomore campaign. He also posted a .548 slugging percentage (3rd in CCC) and drove in 29 runs (T-9th) while recording seven doubles, 12 walks and 23 runs.
Kawiecki went a perfect 5-0 during his final collegiate season with a 4.17 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 41 innings on the mound.
Western New England (26-13, 11-5 CCC), which earned the third seed in the CCC Tournament, will open postseason play against Gordon College at 12 p.m. on Saturday at Paolino Field on the campus of Roger Williams University.