This story was revised at 2:18 p.m., May 17, 2011, to correct the name of the Husson Eagles.


A year ago, Will Sanborn coached his St. Joseph’s College baseball team to its best season ever, ending with a deep run at the NCAA Division III New England Regional.

The Monks won three elimination games as the No. 8 seed on the way to a third-place finish. One of the team’s they knocked was Wheaton College.

Both teams are back in the New England Regional, and they’ll meet again at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Whitehouse Field in Harwich, Mass., to open this year’s double-elimination tournament.

Wheaton (29-10) is the No. 3 seed, and St. Joseph’s (30-13) is seeded sixth.

“They’ve got a very good program, one of the best in New England for the last 10 to 12 years,” said Sanborn. “We were very fortunate last year to knock them out of the regional. And they beat us in Florida this year. Maybe this is the rubber game of the series.”

Wheaton was the No. 2 seed a year ago but was eliminated when St. Joseph’s overcame an early 4-0 deficit to beat the Lyons, 9-7. The Monks squelched a threat in the eighth inning when Todd Keneborus made a diving catch in right field with the bases loaded.

“We feel like anyone can win this tournament. Why not us?,” said Keneborus, who is batting .426. “We’ve worked really hard over the past five years. We’re down here almost every single year and we feel like we belong. We feel really confident we have a pretty decent shot.”

Last year’s run, said Sanborn, was important for the program. St. Joseph’s had won just one NCAA tournament game prior to 2010.

“We stuck around, and I think that was an important step,” said Sanborn. “We proved to everyone, OK, we belong down there. I think it gives us a lot of confidence, and this is a loose group. We’ve got so many veterans who have been there.”

The Monks beat Suffolk two weeks to win the Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship, using a late rally capped by a pinch-hit two-out double by former Deering standout Dan Brown.

Sanborn said he will go with his ace, Chad Rafferty, a sophomore from Keene, N.H., who has thrown shutouts in his last two starts. Rafferty is 5-1 with a 1.82 earned-run average.

“He’s got a good fastball, a great slider. He’ll hit any spot the catcher gives him,” said Keneborus. “I’ve faced him (in practice), and he’s got a lot of movement.”

Shortstop Chris Campbell, the team’s leadoff batter, is hitting a team-high .438 and has scored 27 runs.

Junior right-hander David Longley, a reliever, is the lone player from Maine on Wheaton’s roster.

St. Joseph’s will be joined by one other team from Maine: Husson. The eighth-seeded (29-15) Eagles earned an automatic bid by winning the North Eastern Athletic Conference championship.

Ryan Arsenault (8-3, 2.53 ERA), a left-hander from Portland, is likely to start Husson’s opener against Western New England.

Bowdoin (24-14) didn’t receive an at-large bid. The Polar Bears weren’t able to play Tufts for the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship Sunday because of rain. Tufts (26-7-1), by virtue of a 2-0 record in the conference tournament, received the league’s automatic bid.

USM was eliminated from the Little East Conference tournament by Eastern Connecticut.

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:[email protected]