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CEDAR RAPIDS — John Mesagno can look at Jordan Bohannon and say ‘Meh, that’s nothing.’
The Warriors are in a best-of-3 championship series against defending champion Salisbury (Md.) that begins Tuesday morning at 11 at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Mesagno is a graduate student at ECSU who is about to complete his sixth year on the roster. The Tappan, N.Y., native began his college baseball career all the way back in 2017, when he started 23 games as a true freshman.
A torn ACL required knee surgery that kept him out the 2018 season. He returned in 2019, only to have the COVID-19 pandemic wipe out the 2020 season.
Mesagno was a second-year team captain last season, as Eastern qualified for the NCAA tournament, losing two straight regional games. Now there’s this one.
Because not every college played in 2021 because of COVID, he technically has an opportunity for an unbelievable seventh year at Eastern in 2023. Bohannon, of course, played parts of “only” six seasons for the Iowa basketball team.
“It’s been a long road,” Mesagno said. “It was worth the wait. It just kind of makes me feel old. A lot of ups and downs. I’m grateful for this team and the coaching staff that we’re at this point.”
Eastern Connecticut State actually has four grad students on its team.
“We have a team joke amongst everybody else that we got these guys to come back because we built a daycare at the stadium so they could drop their kids off,” joked Eastern associate head coach Chris Wojcik. “We mess with John all the time. He has another year next year (if he wants it). Every game after we win, I’m like ‘Hey, another year. Another year.’”
Eastern Connecticut State (47-3) is ranked first nationally by d3baseball.com but was the second seed at this eight-team, double-elimination tournament behind Marietta (Ohio). It came in with the best team earned run average in the field (2.90) and has shown off those pitching chops here, allowing seven runs in its three games.
Four pitchers combined to win this game, as Eastern beat LaGrange (44-9) for the second time at this event. The Warriors had 15 hits, at least one from every starter.
“Some good momentum going into this championship series for everybody,” said ECSU third baseman Luke Broadhurst. “So we’re feeling good.”
Salisbury (39-10) eliminated Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Monday’s opening game, 5-2. The Sea Gulls scored three runs in the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie.
Salisbury had the second-lowest ERA in this field (2.94), so expect some low-scoring games in the title series.
“Now we’ve got the No. 1 team in the country playing against the defending national champions,” said Eastern Coach Brian Hamm. “So that’s a pretty good setup for a championship final.”
Oh, by the way, the aforementioned old-man Mesagno apparently has a position lined up in Major League Baseball’s Diversity Fellowship Program in hopes of someday getting a job in a club’s front office. So it doesn’t look like a seventh year will happen.
“I’m just worried about the next two games,” he said with a smile.
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