“This is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. I’ve never been a part of something like this and I won’t ever take it for granted. We worked hard for this and we deserve it.”
–Third Baseman, Tom Blandini
All eyes were on graduate student Shane McDonald on Monday, May 21, as he fired a one-hit, complete-game shutout to lead the fourth-seeded SNHU baseball team to a 6-0 whitewash of second-seeded and 17th-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC) at Pace University’s Finnerty Field. McDonald struck out a career-high 15 on route to the Penmen capturing their second NCAA East Regional Championship Title.
The victory secures the Penmen their second berth in Saturday, May 26’s, College World Series tournament. The Penmen avenged last season’s regional final, having lost to St. Thomas Aquinas then, and now await their seeding and first matchup at the College World Series (CWS), which will take place in Cary, North Carolina.
Head Coach Scott Loiseau knew McDonald would succeed from opening pitch, and McDonald did just until his final strikeout in the ninth inning. McDonald recorded six 1-2-3 innings and struck out the side three times, picking up at least two strike outs in five of the nine innings. He retired 13 of the first 14 he faced and then 14 of the final 15.
“Shane’s been around a bunch and pitched this past summer in the Cape Cod championship,” Loiseau said of McDonald. “I knew he was going to perform well and seeing him excel was unbelievable. It was great having him on the mound, and his fast ball was incredible.”
When asked about his pitching during an interview with Athletic Communications Director Eric Coplin following the game, McDonald said, “I was just trying to hit my spots really; that’s what it comes down to. I know if I got my good stuff and I’m hitting my spots, I’m a tough guy to hit.”
As pitching stunned batters from both teams, the game remained scoreless until SNHU grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. Ryan Sullivan (’18) doubled to the gap in right-center, moved to third on a groundout to the right side from Sam Henrie (’21) and scored when Idelson Taveras (’21) legged out what was scored a two-out error by the STAC second baseman.
The Penmen expanded the lead in the third when Tom Blandini (‘20) laced a double into the right field corner before graduate student Thomas Buonopane smacked a two-run homer to left-center and raced around the bases pumping his fist to make it 3-0.
McDonald cruised through four no-hit innings before a double from Anthony Maisano broke up the bid in the fifth. McDonald would strike out the side, however, to get out of the tough spot.
SNHU nudged its lead to 4-0 in the sixth when Henrie led off the frame with a double to left-center before Joshua Goldstein (‘20) delivered a single to center to plate him. The Penmen looked to add another run when Blandini ripped a base hit to right, but a good throw from Giovanni Dingcong and an out-of-position home plate umpire combined to call Goldstein out, despite sliding in ahead of the tag.
The Penmen widened the gap in the seventh when singles from Buonopane and Caleb Potter (‘18) and a walk to Dakota Mulcay (’21) loaded the bases with no outs. Sullivan followed with a ground-rule double to left that caromed off the foul pole and out of play to make it 6-0.
McDonald retired nine of the last 10 after that to end it. McDonald, who has a win-loss record of 7-2, allowed just one hit over nine innings, fanned 15 and walked just two, as he reached career highs with the Penmen in strikeouts and innings pitched.
Buonopane (two RBI, two runs), Sullivan (two RBI, run) and Potter (run) all went 2-for-5, while Blandini finished 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored. Goldstein was 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI, with Henrie going 1-for-4 with a walk and a run.
“Everything just went right for us throughout the whole tournament,” said Blandini. “Pitching was unbelievable and our bats were just on fire”
Going into the weekend, Loiseau hopes the team maintains their positive momentum as they hope to capture the national title.
“The guys are at a really good place mentally right now and hopefully they can stay where they’re at going into the weekend. We have to want it more than the playing field,” he said.
The Penmen now await their seeding and schedule for the College World Series Championship.
Game Statistics within this article are courtesy of SNHU Penmen Athletics.