When Scott Loiseau was hired as the Division-II Southern New Hampshire head coach following the program's disappointing seven-win campaign in 2008, he introduced a very simple philosophy to his players—attitude, effort and concentration.
"Those are the only three things you can control," senior righthander Brad Monroe said. "If you can control those three things on and off the field, then you're going to be successful. I've been here since coach took over the program, and he's instilled that philosophy in us and pushed us to get better every day."
The Penmen have steadily improved in the win column every year since then and won a school record 25 games in 2011. Thanks to dominating pitching by Monroe (8-3, 2.48), junior lefthander and D-II pitcher of the year Tim Flight (9-1, 1.31) and sophomore righthander Junior Mendez (6-2, 1.38), Southern New Hampshire was officially put on the map in New England after capturing 43 wins this season and making its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
"Since we're one of the few conferences in the country to play with wood bats, our goal when I was first hired was to build this team on strong pitching, defense and timely hitting," Loiseau said. "We recruited a great crop of young men that bought into what we were saying and really sold it to incoming freshmen and transfer students."
The Penmen have come a long way since Southern New Hampshire officially became a university in 2001. The team added lights to Penmen Field before the start of this season, and on March 22, in a classic pitchers' duel, the Penmen defeated Saint Anselm 1-0 in the first game under the lights. In front of nearly 1,000 fans, Flight tossed a complete game shutout, allowing just three baserunners while striking out 18. Sophomore infielder Jamie Wollerman hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth after the team chased righthander Jon Healy out of the game.
The Penmen opened the season on a 13-game winning streak—including three against nationally ranked teams—and won 25 of their first 27 overall. Heading into Northeast-10 Conference play in April, the team experienced something they hoped was in their distant past—a losing streak. Sophomore outfielder Al Stanton, the team's most productive hitter, went down for the season on April 6 after dislocating his shoulder while diving back to first base. Still, they managed to win eight of their next 10 games, but the loss of their three-hole hitter showed its affects two weeks later in a crucial part of their conference schedule. The Penmen lost seven of their next 10 and went from 9-2 to 12-9 in the conference in what felt like a heartbeat to Loiseau.
"Obviously, it was frustrating to watch," Loiseau said. "We weren't playing bad ball, but we had to shuffle the lineup around a little because of Stanton's injury, but that's just how the game goes sometimes and it cost us a spot in the conference tournament. It's something we absolutely cannot let happen again because there's a lot of good teams in our area that are going to be tough to beat."
The Penmen finished fifth in the conference and failed to qualify for the Northeast 10 tournament, yet still earned the top seed in the East Regional tournament due to their overall body of work. While waiting for their postseason to begin, Loiseau arranged a scrimmage against the Worcester Tornadoes of the independent Can-Am League. The Penmen were idle for 11 days without an official game, and after losing to Saint Anselm in the second round of regionals, they rattled off three straight wins with their backs against the wall to advance to College World Series in Cary, N.C.
The Penmen's run to the World Series added to a certain buzz in the air in Manchester, N.H. during the 2011-2012 school year. The men's soccer team as well as both of the men and women's tennis teams made NCAA tournament appearances and the baseball team's success only increased that excitement. Southern New Hampshire president Paul J. LeBlanc announced that if the team won the World Series, he would get a tattoo dedicated to the Penmen baseball team.
"When you have a bunch of guys that are excited about it and want to tell everybody about it, other people are going to get excited as well," Flight said. "It was a ripple effect—everybody from the student body to the faculty was behind us the whole way."
In the end, the president's ink will have to wait.
Last Saturday, the Penmen made their World Series debut with a 3-2 win over Minnesota State-Mankato. Flight went seven innings, allowed two runs on four hits while striking out nine. Junior outfielder Jon Minucci plated the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in a two-run seventh inning after taking advantage of a costly error by Mankato. But what occurred over the next two games was completely un-Penmen-like. West Chester put up 13 runs on 16 hits against the Southern New Hampshire pitching staff and committed two errors in a 13-7 loss. In a rematch against Mankato on Wednesday afternoon, the Penmen committed five errors and were shut out for the first time all season, 3-0.
"We just have to continue to build on what we already have," Loiseau said. "I'm extremely proud of what my guys were able to accomplish, but the last thing we want to do is become complacent."