CASTLETON, Vt. – After taking three out of four games in a home-and-home series with Lyndon this week, the Castleton baseball team will conclude its North Atlantic Conference regular season schedule with a four-game set at Husson this weekend. The top two teams in the conference will square off in a doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m., before completing the series with a twinbill Sunday at 12 p.m.
Castleton (26-7, 17-3 NAC) is in control of its own destiny to host the conference tournament, as it holds a four-game lead over Husson with four conference games left.
The Spartans are coming off a doubleheader split with Lyndon on Senior Day, defeating the Hornets, 8-1, in game one before dropping the nightcap, 5-4. Steven Jurkiewicz pitched a complete game victory to improve to 5-1 on the season, while the bats broke out for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to seal the opening victory. Charles Stapleford struck out a season-high eight batters in the nightcap, but a two-out, two-RBI double in the top of the seventh snapped the Spartan bid for a season sweep.
The Castleton pitching staff holds the nation's top-ranked earned run average at 2.03 heading into the final stretch of the regular season, with three starters posting ERAs under 2.00. Michael LaBeau has been lights out over the last month, allowing two earned runs in a total of 31.0 innings in April. The senior is 4-0 with four complete games in his last four starts and ranks sixth in the country with a 1.07 ERA. Senior Devin Hayes has pitched in big spots all year for the Spartans and is 5-1 with 41 strikeouts in 42.0 innings pitched. He ranks third in the NAC with a 1.93 ERA. Luke Salerno is coming off the best start of his career against Thomas last Sunday, pitching a complete game, one-hit shutout with a career-high 10 strikeouts in an 8-0 win. Aaron Smith has been strong out of the bullpen for Castleton with a 1.64 ERA in 11.0 innings.
The Spartan offense compliments the strong pitching corps with a .295 team batting average. Senior Zach Bahan went 5-for-10 with two home runs in the series against Lyndon, with both of his homers coming in a 2-0 win behind a complete game shutout from Hayes. Sophomore outfielder Deagan Poland leads the conference with 44 hits and tops the team with a .364 batting average. He has recorded four doubles, a triple, and nine RBI out of the leadoff spot, while leading the team with 33 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. Mikell is batting .339 with a team-leading .443 on-base percentage and a .642 slugging percentage. He has slugged seven home runs with 27 RBI in 33 games. Dylan Bailey has been one of Castleton's hottest hitters of late, while Matt Jackson is batting .379 with seven RBI and seven runs scored in 20 conference games.
Husson (21-14, 13-7 NAC) enters the weekend four games behind Castleton in the conference standings after taking two from UMF on Tuesday. The Eagles are riding a three-game winning streak after defeating Bowdoin, 6-5, in non-conference action Wednesday.
Husson is batting .282 as a team and averaging five runs per game. Freshman infielder Logan Rogerson is slashing .319 to lead the Eagles offensivey, while scoring 23 runs and driving in 11 more in 113 at-bats on the season. Sophomore catcher Sam Huston has been the middle-order presence for the Eagles, leading the team with 12 doubles and three home runs, while leading the NAC with 33 RBI.
The Eagles' pitching staff is anchored by senior ace Ben Walls, who has a 1.62 ERA in 50.0 innings. He is 5-1 with five complete games and one save in eight appearances. Walls is consistently around the plate, as he has allowed just seven free bases all season. Freshman Jesse Colford has been strong in conference contests, posting a 2-0 record with 16 strikeouts and a 1.35 ERA in 20.0 innings pitched. Freshman Jacob Gauvin has proven to be a solid option out of the bullpen with a 0.67 ERA with seven strikeouts in eight appearances spanning 13.1 innings.
Castleton and Husson have met in the NAC Championship in two of the last three years. The Spartans swept the Eagles in the regular season last year, with the largest margin of victory being three runs over the four games.