Senior All-American Matt Cronin will represent UMass Dartmouth at the 2019 New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA) Joe Walsh All-Star Game that will be played on Friday, May 31st at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford, Conn. beginning at Noon EDT.
A native of Framingham, Mass. and a graduate of Framingham High School, Cronin will join 17 other Division III standouts on this year’s NEIBA College Division squad at Friday’s contest, where they will team up with student-athletes selected from Division II. Matt is one of 17 Little East Conference players to earn NEIBA All-New England honors.
Cronin was one of three Corsairs named to this year’s NEIBA team, as last year’s Little East and New England Pitcher of the Year posted an overall mark of 4-3 on the mound with a league-leading 1.85 earned run average to earn third team all-New England accolades. A second-team all-Little East performer this spring, Cronin tossed a pair of complete games in 11 starts, as he allowed just 47 hits in 78 innings while striking out 80 (9.23 per nine innings) along the way. Matt, who led the conference in ERA by nearly a full run, finished his career with a 12-6 record that included 12 saves and a 1.83 earned run average, and he capped a stellar 2018 campaign by earning first team ABCA All-America accolades. Cronin fanned 182 batters (9.72 per nine) in 176 2/3 innings of work, and he made his final collegiate appearance a memorable one by hurling 6 1/3 scoreless frames in a 5-2 elimination round victory over Eastern Connecticut that lifted Head Coach Bob Prince’s squad to a spot in the conference championship game.
Friday’s game will be part of a very special day for the Corsair baseball program, as legendary UMass Dartmouth mentor Bruce Wheeler is one of three inductees set to be enshrined into the 2019 NEIBA Hall of Fame prior to the start of the all-star game.
After coaching at the high school level in Vermont, Wheeler arrived at then Southeastern Massachusetts University in 1972 to serve as both the Corsairs’ baseball and men’s basketball coach. He amassed an overall mark of 746-530-4 (.584) on the diamond from 1972-2004, and over that time Bruce guided his squad to nine NCAA Division III tournament appearances, eight trips to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournament as well as four appearances in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national tournament from 1972-75. Wheeler’s 1975 team set a school record with 32 victories that spring, as the Corsairs eclipsed the 20-win plateau on 22 occasions that includes 30 or more wins in five campaigns.
Inducted into the UMass Dartmouth Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003, Wheeler mentored a total of nine All-Americans that include first-team American Baseball Coaches Association honorees Mark Chicoine, Rod Correia, John Graham and Pat Schultz. Bruce, who led the Corsairs to five Little East Conference post-season berths and the league’s tournament title in 2000, received NEIBA’s Jack Butterfield Award in recognition of his distinguished service and promotion of college baseball in 1997.
Wheeler’s success wasn’t limited to the baseball diamond during his tenure at the University, as he amassed 133 victories while serving as the Corsair men’s basketball coach from 1972-83. Bruce led SMU to a berth in the 1976 NCAA tournament after compiling a 17-9 mark, and his 1978-79 squad earned a trip to the ECAC tournament. Wheeler and current UMD mentor Brian Baptiste are the only two men to patrol the basketball sidelines on the South Coast for nearly a half century.
For more information on the NEIBA Hall of Fame and the 2019 All-Star Game, please visit www.neiba.org.