EASTON – After a one-year absence, the Stonehill College baseball team is back in the Northeast-10 Conference tournament.
The third-seeded Skyhawks (28-18) will be at Pappas Field in Rindge, N.H., on Wednesday for a 4 p.m. opening-round game against second-seeded Franklin Pierce University.
Stonehill went 17-10 in the conference during the regular season, including 13-8 in the Northeast Division, while the Ravens (35-15) were 20-7 in the conference and 15-6 in the division.
The two teams also squared off to start the NE-10 tourney in 2011 and 2012 with the Skyhawks losing on the road, 3-2 and 6-0, respectively.
Stonehill opened the season by going 9-5 in South Carolina and Florida and never lost more than three games in a row.
"I think we've been pretty consistent and pretty solid all year,'' said coach Pat Boen. "You have a goal to have a 30-win season for it to be a successful year and we're right about there.
"I think we're playing well right now. We had to win a couple of games (last week) to get in the tournament and we did that. This is a resilient group. It is a mentally tough team.''
Pitching has been the strong point for the Skyhawks, who lead the NE-10 with a 2.50 earned-run average.
Junior Jim Duff, who will start against Franklin Pierce, is 7-2 with a 1.82 earned-run average. He has struck out 59 and walked just four in 74 innings.
"He's been a guy who is pretty consistent,'' said Boen. "He has always thrown strikes, and now he has added velocity. He's really worked at it to become a better pitcher.''
"It's great to have the two starters like we do and a closer like Armand Rugel,'' said Boen. "We've really depended on those three guys.''
Sophomore Brian Campbell leads the Stonehill offense with a .302 batting average and has 14 doubles and 22 RBI while sophomore Chris Hoyt is hitting .297 with 10 doubles. Dan Fratus, a standout at shortstop, is hitting .287 with 20 RBI and a pair of homers.
Stonehill dropped two of three games to Franklin Pierce in a series played in New Hampshire in late March. Duff went the distance in the Skyhawks' 5-1 win, allowing four hits and striking out eight.
"I feel very good having Jimmy as our game one starter,'' said Boen. "I think we are up for the challenge. We've beaten Franklin Pierce once, so know we can do it.''
The NE-10 tournament will conclude this weekend with the NCAA Division 2 tourney selections to be announced on Sunday night.
Jim Fenton may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JFenton_ent.