SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (May 1, 2019) – Head coach Dan Gomez and 11 members of the Western New England University baseball team were honored when the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) announced its major award winners and All-CCC selections on Wednesday afternoon.
Gomez was named CCC Coach of the Year, while senior pitcher Bob Hamel (Southwick, Mass.) earned the CCC Scholar-Athlete award.
Collecting All-CCC first team honors were senior shortstop Alex Loparco (Riverside, Conn.), senior centerfielder Erik Lacaire (Worcester, Mass.), senior DH Joe Cassella (Wallingford, Conn.), senior closer Sean Halligan (North Branford, Conn.), junior first baseman Zac Nussbaum (Bridgewater, Mass.) and sophomore righthanded pitcher Kevin Hummer (Shrewsbury, Mass.).
Hamel was voted to the All-CCC second team, along with senior catcher Brian Valeriano (Stratford, Conn.), senior third baseman Aaron Rios (Stratford, Conn.) and senior outfielder Ben LaCroix (Branford, Conn.). Senior righthander Paul Wetmore (Hamden, Conn.) earned a spot on the All-CCC third team to round out Western New England's CCC-high 11 honorees.
In just six years at the helm of the Western New England baseball program, Gomez has now been voted by his peers as the CCC Coach of the Year three times. Gomez led the Golden Bears to the CCC regular season title this spring with a 13-1 league record (22-12 overall). He has guided Western New England to a 144-95-1 (.602) record since 2014, including 69-25 (.734) in conference play.
Hamel receives the Scholar-Athlete award for his combined performance on the field and in the classroom. An electrical engineering major with a 3.83 cumulative grade point average, Hamel is a Chi Alpha Sigma National College Athlete Honor Society inductee and a two-time Academic All-CCC qualifier. He was selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team last spring.
Loparco, the 2018 CCC Player of the Year, caps his impressive career with another All-CCC first team selection. Loparco hit .367 (51-for-139) with seven doubles, one home run and 21 RBI while scoring 36 runs. The Riverside, Conn. native became the seventh Golden Bear to record 200 career hits with his RBI single in Western New England's 17-4 win over Endicott last Saturday.
Lacaire batted a career-high .317 (38-for-120) this season and also posted career-bests in on-base percentage (.471) and slugging percentage (.467). He totaled eight doubles, two triples and two homers with 27 RBI, 22 walks and a CCC-leading 44 runs scored.
Cassella was also a key offensive contributor for the Golden Bears as he hit .349 (38-for-109) with seven doubles, 24 RBI and 28 runs scored. His .454 on-base percentage was good for fifth in the CCC during the regular season.
Nussbaum has enjoyed a career year this spring with personal bests in batting average (.324), OBP (.430) and slugging percentage (.559) while providing power with nine doubles and five home runs. His 12 career homers rank tied for fourth in program history.
Hummer earns All-CCC first team honors following a breakout campaign in which he went 4-1 in seven starts with a 2.50 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 36.0 innings pitched. Hummer went the distance, fanning four batters in a 6-0 win at Nichols on April 12, a week after striking out a career-high 9 batters over six innings in Western New England's 8-3 triumph over the Bison on April 5.
Halligan was strong in his closer role with a CCC-leading seven saves this spring. He posted a 3.00 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 15.0 innings on the mound.
Hamel caps his career with an All-CCC second team selection after going 4-1 with a 3.98 ERA and 38 strikeouts in a career-high 61.0 innings pitched. He went the distance in four of his eight starts and now has posted 16 career complete game performances.
Valeriano garners All-CCC honors for the first time following a season in which he hit a career-best .355 (43-for-121) with seven doubles, two triples, five homers and 23 RBI. Valeriano scored the third-most runs in the CCC (35) and posted a .433 OBP with a .570 slugging percentage.
Rios has also turned in career-best numbers this season in batting average (.330), runs scored (29) triples (2) and RBI (29) while recording four doubles and walking 16 times.
LaCroix, who hit a career-high six homers this season, became Western New England's all-time home run leader with his solo shot against Nichols on April 12. He finished the regular season batting .261 (29-for-111) with six doubles, 36 RBI, 33 runs scored and 22 walks.
Wetmore tied for the CCC-lead in wins, going 6-1 in eight starts with a 4.12 ERA and 41 strikeouts 39.1 innings pitched. He posted one complete game, striking out a season-high eight batters and allowing just three hits over seven shutout frames in a 10-0 victory over Wentworth on March 23.
Western New England (22-12), which earned the top seed and hosting rights in the upcoming CCC Tournament, will open the playoffs at home against either Salve Regina or Nichols at Trelease Park on Friday, May 3.