Healthy Ryan gets Wheaton to Series
His promising sophomore season at Wheaton, one in which Sean Ryan (inset) was swinging away at a .367 clip through 15 games, ended last March against Clark, when the conference’s reigning Rookie of the Year suffered a knee injury in a collision at first base.
This season, the Wheaton College baseball team is riding a healthy Ryan to the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Division 3 College World Series since 2006.
The Lyons (38-9) punched their ticket to Wisconsin with a 2-0 win over Western New England in the New England Regional final Sunday in Mansfield, Conn.
Ryan has been a key cog.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior from Norton was selected the NEWMAC Player of the Year after leading the conference in hits (73), runs (41), doubles (16), total bases (102), and stolen bases (24).
“He’s batting third for a reason,” said 12-year Wheaton coach Eric Podbelski.
“Sean is one of our most productive hitters, so that’s why you have him in that spot. He’s done exactly what you hope your No. 3 hitter will do. He’s been a big part of what makes a successful offense.”
With a team-leading .389 average, Ryan hit safely in 34 of 41 regular season games, racking up 22 multi-hit games. He was named MVP of the conference tournament after batting .571 with a home run and four RBIs, including a 3-for-6 performance in an 11-2 championship game win over Babson.
The righthanded-hitting Ryan hopes to maintain his hot bat in the series: The Lyons will take on Central Region champion Webster University in the first game of the double-elimination tourney Friday in Grand Chute, Wis. The Lyons defeated Webster, 1-0, during their spring trip to Florida in March.
“This is everything you want as a team when you’re working hard during the off-season. This is a huge opportunity for us.”
Ryan was a star shortstop at Norton High, but was shifted to the outfield at Wheaton. He has made a smooth adjustment after serving as the team’s designated hitter as a freshman and having last season cut short.
“In high school the shortstop is usually the best athlete on the team, and that was true with Sean,” said Podbelski. “But his skill set for college translated well to the outfield. His speed, the way he throws, and his fielding mechanics just screamed outfield. He’s become a very good outfielder in a short period of time.”
The Lyons have also benefited from having a solid closer in place. Sophomore righthander Ryan Grant of Easton picked up his 12th save of the season in Sunday’s regional final. With a deceiving low sidearm delivery, Grant has compiled a 1.99 earned run aveage, allowing just 13 hits in 22.2 innings.
“We gave him the ball in that role about a week into his freshman year, and he’s been outstanding,” said Podbelski. “When he arrived here we saw something with him that resonated well in late relief. He took it a step further and took to the closer role very early in his college career.”
Duxbury’s John Keating is also playing a big role for the Lyons. The senior tricaptain broke into the regular lineup last year and has started all 47 games in left field. Keating is tied for the team lead with three home runs and has nine doubles. He is batting .273 but has walked 25 times, contributing to a lofty on-base percentage of .407.
Here and there
Milton’s Edward Donovan threw a four-hit shutout to lead Trinity to a 4-0 victory over St. Joseph’s of Maine in the NCAA Division 3 New England Regional last Thursday. The 6-foot, 185-pound righthander from BC High finished the season with a 6-2 record. He needed just 99 pitches to record Trinity’s seventh team shutout of the season. The Bantams (34-11) were eliminated by Western New England, 2-1. . . .
Duxbury’s Joe Coyne made an immediate impact at St. Joe’s. The freshman catcher batted .346 for the Monks, leading in at bats (162), hits (56), and doubles (12). Coyne had 24 RBIs for the Monks, who were eliminated from the postseason with a 4-0 loss to Western New England. . . .
Milton’s Hillary McNamara was a starting defender for the Trinity College women’s lacrosse team that captured the Division 3 national championship on Sunday with an 8-7 victory over top-ranked and previously undefeated Salisbury University. McNamara, a junior from Milton Academy, started all 22 games for the Bantams and had four goals and a pair of assists.
John Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.