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Monday, May 13, 2013

Eagles built nest, birds flocked to it

Tom King

Daniel Webster College has done a few things wrong over the years, but a lot of things right.

You’ve got to wonder what the thinking is across town at Rivier University over the baseball success of Daniel Webster College in the J.P. Pyne era. ...

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Daniel Webster College has done a few things wrong over the years, but a lot of things right.

You’ve got to wonder what the thinking is across town at Rivier University over the baseball success of Daniel Webster College in the J.P. Pyne era.

The Eagles have struggled and stumbled often in their athletic history since joining the NCAA about a quarter century ago and making attempts to upgrade their program.

One of the things they did right, obviously, was make the commitment to the baseball program. They stumbled through coaches but they built a great field, Harvey Woods Field, that showed any potential coach they were serious about baseball.

Rivier has struggled over the years, but the hiring of Anthony Perry as its coach proved it want to get it right. Yes, it’s a tough sell when the Raiders don’t have their own field and can’t really get on one around the city at times because they just aren’t ready in mid to late March. Holman Stadium is a great attraction, and the Raiders do get to play a handful, if that many, games there a year because it’s never really ready for use until early to mid-April.

Now let’s not get carried away. The Eagles hit a home run when they hired Pyne, a guy who likely will be moving onward in the not-too-distant future. That’s just the nature of the beast.

But they also made the perfect move when they went into the New England Collegiate Conference a half dozen or so years ago. It’s smaller than the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, where Riv has always resided, and provides the Eagles more of a chance to accomplish what they’ve achieved – two straight NCAA tourney berths and even a national poll vote. But winning the NECC is not easy by any means; anyone who witnessed last weekend’s conference tourney at Woods Field will tell you that.

But here’s how it works. Suddenly, recruiting gets easier. Now the word spreads, and that brings in not only freshmen recruits but also other players as well. When a pitcher like Greg Dubela, not happy at UMass-Boston, is looking to transfer, a school like DWC, with a Pyne-run program, shows up on his radar. He shows up, likes what he sees, and decides the Eagles’ nest is his new home. Without his 8-0, 1.39 numbers you can pretty much bet the Eagles wouldn’t be where they are today.

They are also starting to get local appeal. There are several Nashua area and New Hampshire players on the squad, but there could even be more.

Times have changed. Former Nashua High School standout Nate Goulet, who has experienced his own big-time college success as the head coach at Old Dominion, is now an Eagles assistant. He knows in the early 1990s, when he was a local infielder leading Nashua to state titles, the Eagles weren’t even on his radar.

“I didn’t even know they had a team,” Goulet said. “I didn’t know they had a team coming up through elementary, high school and so on. Once J.P. got the job, that’s kind of when my ears perked up. I followed them a little bit when I was down south, on the internet.

“It’s awesome. People need to come out and see the talent we have on the field. They really do.”

Hopefully, over at Rivier, which went 8-30 this spring, Perry will be able to say that same thing. Riv is on the right track, as Perry had a roster of 29 players and only a handful of upperclassmen. That mean’s he’s recruited his rear end off. It also means that, combined with DWC, there are at least 60 collegiate athletes in the city of Nashua playing baseball every spring. That’s pretty impressive.

Look, Daniel Webster struggled even after its facility was built, no question. However, it had that starting point.

Thus, this observer can’t help but just wish Riv had made the decision when it introduced baseball years ago to build a field, if it were at all possible. Softball has one, with lights, and has made the NCAAs. Lacrosse has one, with lights, and has a program that has been on the rise. Baseball has had constant restarts for the last two decades.

Everything goes in cycles. But wouldn’t it be great to see both city colleges enjoying diamond success at the same time? Keep an eye on the Raiders. If those young players stay, they could have something. Remember, Pyne had a dozen freshman on the Eagles’ squad four years ago.

That’s why it says here: If you build it, they will come.

Let’s hope for both programs they keep on coming.

Tom King can be reached at 594-6468 or tking@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow King on Twitter
(@Telegraph_TomK).