(WTNH)–When I texted my dad, a Bryant alum, to let him know that his Bryant Bulldogs had the best record in all of college baseball, he was, not unexpectedly, a little surprised.
“No…seriously…in D1?” he asked.
The Bulldogs (47-10) entered Friday’s game against East Carolina with the best record in the nation, and a national ranking (No. 14/20, depending on the poll), which they’d earned for the first time in school history just weeks earlier.
They also earned a 2-seed in the Charlottesville Region, the highest seed for any Northeast Conference champ in history, and if they can knock off AAC opponent East Carolina, will likely take on defending national champion Virginia in the winner’s bracket.
It’s all heady stuff for a tiny school that had to practice on freezing, snow-filled fields in January, and played 31 of its first 45 games of the season on the road.
Bryant, located in Smithfield, Rhode Island, is doing all of this with the help of some former Connecticut high school stars, including East Haddam native and Xavier grad Matt Albanese, who’s raking for the Bulldogs.
The junior outfielder is batting .366 (second on the team), with 11 homers and 52 RBI this season. He was an all-Northeast Conference performer and earned National Player of the Week in April of last year.
The former Xavier star has been so good that, in an ESPN.com article earlier this year, writer Mike Scandura mentioned that if there was a fantasy league for college baseball players, Albanese might be a first-round pick.
As a team, the Bulldogs are batting .324, which ranks No. 1 in the nation.
Griswold native and senior third baseman Zach Wood is only bringing down the average a little bit, batting .322 with six homers and 37 RBI on the season.
Wood transferred to Bryant from the Community College of Rhode Island in 2015. He was all-state in baseball and football at Griswold High School, and he’s pretty pumped to be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“The whole team has done this whole experience, but I’m still in awe that we’re here, and soaking it all in,” Wood told BryantBulldogs.com. “I’m just excited that we’re going, and it’s my first one.”
Wallingford native and Sheehan High grad James Davitt is another reason for Bryant’s standout success. The righthanded starter is 7-2 on the season with a 3.71 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 68 innings. According to Bryant’s website, he’ll get a start at some point during the regional as well.
Lessard has racked up four saves, Weiner’s picked up two, and Powers has one himself.
If the Bulldogs can make some noise in this tournament, they’ll earn respect from people across the country who think college baseball is just about teams from the south, or California.
In fact, along with UConn and Fairfield, Bryant is one of five teams representing New England in the NCAA Tournament, the most ever from this corner of the country.
It’s kind of hard to believe, but little Bryant University, a school with an enrollment of 3,500, is making it big in college baseball.
And yeah, it’s Division 1.