The Saint Joseph’s College baseball team is one of hottest clubs in New England.
The Monks have won 11 straight and 15 of 16 and have annexed the Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship. That has earned them an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III New England Regional at Eastern Connecticut State on May 19-23.
Former Hampden Academy teammates Pat Moran and Ian Lee have again played important roles in the 31-10 Monks’ success.
Moran was a first-team All-GNAC selection as a utility player and a second-team pick as a pitcher while Lee was a second-team choice as a designated hitter.
Senior Moran, who plays left field or is the designated hitter when he isn’t pitching, is hitting .314 with a team-high eight homers and 36 runs batted in. On the mound, he is 7-1 with a 3.47 ERA. He has struck out 48 and walked just 10 in 46ª innings.
Lee, a junior, had been St. Joseph’s starting catcher but injured his elbow early in the season and missed several games. He returned as a designated hitter and is now playing left field. He is hitting .398 with two homers and 27 RBIs in 28 games.
“I haven’t played a lot of outfield in my career. It’s a little different. When I first started playing there, I was lost at times. But I’m getting used to it. It’s just good to be back in the lineup,” said Lee.
“He’s a heady player and knows how to play the game. He’s played pretty well out there,” said 18th-year St. Joseph’s coach Will Sanborn.
Lee was a .475 hitter with three homers and 53 RBIs a year ago but was healthy and played in 43 of 44 games.
“When you consider that I missed a good part of the season, I think I’ve put up pretty good numbers this year,” said Lee who admitted that he was “frustrated” when he wasn’t able to play.
He said his elbow has improved but he doesn’t anticipate it being well enough to enable him to catch again this season.
“But I’m hoping to be able to catch again next year,” said Lee.
Moran hit .411 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs a year ago but has been satisfied with his season.
“Last year was an exceptional year for me. I don’t think of myself as a .400 hitter,” said Moran. “I feel I’ve been pretty consistent this year. And my power numbers and RBIs are pretty much the same as last year. And that’s why I’m in the lineup.”
On the mound, he doesn’t have the strikeout numbers he had last year (75 strikeouts in 62ª innings) but his ERA is lower as he had a 3.88 ERA a year ago when he was 8-1.
“I have some of the best numbers I’ve had in college although I don’t have the strikeout numbers I had last year. I’ve learned how I need to pitch,” said Moran. “I’ve had a target on my back. Teams are ready for me. They have scouting reports.
“My curve is my out pitch but my slider has come a long way this year,” said Moran, who also has a fastball and a changeup.
Moran has appeared in 13 games with five coming in relief.
“We used him in relief for a couple of weeks and he was a key to our wins over Southern Maine. It’s nice to know you can use him in any role on the mound and he adapts well to it,” said Sanborn.
Moran picked up a win over USM with 3ª innings of two-hit one-run relief and notched a save with four innings of five-hit three-run ball against the Huskies.
Two other players with Eastern Maine ties are also having solid seasons for the Monks.
Gardiner’s Mike Burdin, a senior, is the starting second baseman and is hitting .410 with two homers and 32 RBIs and Brooksville freshman Nick Saunders is a lefthanded bat off the bench who can play third or be the DH and he is hitting .333 with 10 RBIs in 26 games.
“Mike has had a tremendous year and has a knack for getting the big hit. Nick has swung the bat really well and has had a real nice year,” said Sanborn.
St. Joseph’s concludes its regular season with a doubleheader against MIT today.
Moran and Lee feel this team is better than the one that went 0-2 in the New England Regional two years ago.
“We have a lot more depth and our overall talent is a step above that team,” said Moran. “We have a ton of quality pitching.”
“Our team can be scary good,” said Lee. “We have a strong lineup one through nine. Everyone can hit. And just about everyone has hit a home run.”