SALEM — The Salem State baseball team had high aspirations after an early season trip to Florida that saw the Vikings compete well against some of the top teams in Division 3 college baseball.
They returned home to Salem at just 3-7, but the Vikings were extremely confident that their best baseball lay ahead.
They were right.
That confidence was particularly evident in Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference play, where the Vikings went 12-2 and captured their first regular season MASCAC title since 2006. Salem State (22-13 overall) was rewarded for its conference dominance with the opportunity to host this year’s MASCAC tournament at Salem for the first time in seven years.
Salem State will host Worcester State today at 3 p.m. The double-elimination tourney continues tomorrow and concludes with Sunday’s MASCAC championship game Sunday at noon.
“That was our first goal this year and we still have a ways to go, but it was nice to win this year’s regular season title,” said first-year head coach Mike Ward, who is pleased to have home field advantage. “I think you’ve got to love the fact that we earned that. It certainly can give you an edge when you don’t travel and you get that bye.”
Pitching and defense go hand-in-hand on the diamond, and while the Vikings have excelled in both it’s been their fielding that has really paved the way for success. SSU is a sparkling 19-6 since returning from Florida.
Centerfielder Ethan Trowt and fellow outfielder (and MASCAC Player of the Year) Steve Buitkus have .986 and .987 fielding percentages, respectively. Second baseman Kevin Salines (.992) and catchers Mike Lamothe (.989) and MASCAC First Teamer Brett Cahill (.964) have also been outstanding.
Fielding has been crucial all season, probably no more than when Salem State defeated North Shore Cup rival Endicott College, 1-0, in 10 innings. The Vikings didn’t commit an error the entire game and wound up scoring the game-winning run on an infield mishap. A recent sweep of conference rival Bridgewater State also saw Salem State play errorless ball in both contests.