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Six From Eastern are ECAC All-Stars

Members of softball, men's lacrosse and baseball programs are cited

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WILLIMANTIC,Conn. -  Senior All-America right-handed softball pitcher Molly Rathbun (Hebron)  has been named New England Pitcher-of-the-Year by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC)  for the second time in three years and has been joined as an ECAC New England spring all-star by four additional Eastern Connecticut State University student-athletes. 

At right: Molly Rathbun

Named to the ECAC all-star first team for the fourth straight season, Rathbun was joined on an ECAC spring all-star team by teammate Arielle Cooper (Mystic), men's lacrosse selections Mike Devine (Cheshire) and Michael Sullinger (Brookfield) and baseball first baseman Joe Balowski (Berlin). Balowski, Cooper and Devine were first-team selections and Sullinger a second-team choice. Balowski is a junior first baseman, Cooper a junior third baseman, Devine a sophomore midfielder and Sullinger a senior attackman. All but Rathbun were first-time picks.

In addition to the student-athletes, 11th-year Eastern head softball coach Diana Pepin was named ECAC New England Coach-of-the-Year for the second time in three seasons after leading the Warriors to a program-record 44 wins in 47 games and to a fifth straight NCAA tournament. Pepin, who earned Little East Conference Coach-of-the-Year honors in 2012 for the fourth time in seven years,  headed Eastern's staff which was voted  NFCA New England Region Coaching Staff-of-the-Year in both 2010 and 2011. The ECAC began compiling a Coach-of-the-Year award in 2008.

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Only one institution had as many as Eastern's two first-team selections. Including Rathbun and Cooper, a total of five all-stars were named from Little East institutions. Only individuals who were voted first-team all-conference in their respective conferences were eligible to be included on the ECAC voting ballot.

At right: Arielle Cooper

Rathbun concluded her career as a four-time NFCA All-America (the last there seasons as a first-team pick) and four-time first-team All-New England Region pick, two-time NEISCA New England Player-of-the-Year,  three-time Little East Conference Pitcher-of-the-Year and the 2012 LEC Player-of-the-Year. Previously this year, Rathbun was named Division III New England Player-of-the-Year for the second time in three seasons by NEISCA.

Earlier this year named second-team All-America and first-team all-region, Cooper was additionally named to the all-conference team for the second time in three seasons (first time as a first-teamer) and as MVP of the Little East Conference tournament.

Rathbun was named New England Pitcher-of-the-Week three times (in a span of four weeks) this season for the 44-3 Warriors, while Cooper was selected Player-of-the-Week in the final week of the weekly report after being named LEC tournament MVP. Eastern was voted the No. 1 team in New England for the fourth straight time that week.

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At left: Diana Pepin

Rathbun completed a record-shattering career this spring by winning a program-record 33 games against three losses with a program-record 339 strikeouts and just 39 walks and a 0.73 ERA in 212 1/3 innings. She won 29 straight decisions heading into NCAA regional play and ended up beating every team that she had a decision against at least once. In addition to strikeouts, innings and wins, Rathbun also set season marks this year for appearances (42) and starts (29). She threw two no-hitters and also a perfect game against regional champion Tufts University

Although she was overlooked as the ECAC Player-of-the-Year despite amassing remarkable pitching and hitting numbers, Rathbun batted .439 as the team's designated hitter this year. She shared the team lead with Cooper in batting average and topped the club in RBI (48), walks (21), and on-base percentage (.506) and was second to Cooper in hits (58), doubles (11), total bases (84), and slugging (.636).

Rathbun, who helped Eastern to the No. 1 winning percentage (.936) in Division III, ranked among the national top four in six individual categories in the final NCAA Division III statistics. She was first in wins, and second in ERA, strikeouts and shutouts (15), third in least hits allowed per seven innings (3.46) and fourth in strikeouts per game (11.2).

Rathbun graduated with every program pitching record but one, including those for appearances (142), innings (770.6), starts (105), wins (103) winning percentage (.880), strikeouts (1,130), saves (14), complete games (94), shutouts (49), no-hitters (tied/9, and relief appearances (37). Rathbun's career ERA of 0.88 ranks second to Kim Durocher (0.71), who led the Warriors to national championships in both of her seasons in 1985 and 1986. Offensively, Rathbun finished first all-time in home runs (28), total bases (303), slugging (.642), and RBI (145), and was third in batting (.390) and hits (184).

The team's primary leadoff hitter, Cooper smashed the program record with a 33-game hitting streak (third-longest in NCAA Division III history), set season marks with a New England-leading 123 total bases, tied the 26-year-old mark with 69 hits, tied  season records with 11 home runs and  a .783 slugging average, and shared the team lead with a .439 batting average. which equals the fifth highest in a season in program history. She was named MVP of the LEC tournament with nine hits and seven assists in the field without an error.

Cooper's totals for total bases, home runs, triples, RBI, and runs exceeded those of Williams College senior outfielder Allison Hart, who was voted ECAC Player-of-the-Year for the 22-16 Ephs.

The past season, Eastern  was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally and No. 1 in New England for four straight weeks. Eastern reached the championship round of the regional tournament for the third straight season, losing for the first time after advancing to the national tournament in 2010 and 2011.

Pepin, a player on Eastern's 1990 national championship team,  has compiled a career record of 286-158 (.644) in 11 years at Eastern, and has won and coached more games than any coach in the program's 36-year history. The Warriors have won conference regular season and tournament titles each of the past three years, compiling a regular-season LEC mark of 40-2 in that span and amassing the first perfect regular-season record (14-0) in the 17-year history of conference regular-season competition.

Men's Lacrosse

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At left: Mike Devine

evine, the only ECAC first-team selection from the Little East Conference, becomes the program's 13th first-team pick in the 12-year history of the all-star team.

Devine's previous awards this year include NEILA All-New England second-team honors and LEC Offensive Player-of-the-Year and first-team all-conference accolades. He shared the conference lead with 46 goals this season, was fourth with 58 points, first with 145 shots and tied for first with eight extra-man goals. In the LEC tournament win over Keene State, Devine had three goals and one assist - all three goals coming in the final six minutes of the third quarter to spark the Warriors from three goals down to two goals up heading into the final quarter.
Devine had at least one goal in all 18 matches for the 12-6 Warriors (giving him goals in 34 of 36 career matches), who won their seventh LEC tournament title in 12 years and qualified for their tenth post-season tournament in the last 14 years with a berth in their seventh NCAA tournament.

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At left: Michael Sullinger

Devine scored 11 goals on 18 shots and totaled 14 points in the team's first two matches of the season, with a career-high six goals coming in the second match against Stevens Tech, ranked No. 9 nationally in the most recent USILA Division III poll.

This year, Sullinger competed in the NEILA East-West Senior All-Star Game and repeated all-conference honors (the first time as a first-teamer). Sullinger's conference-leading 81 points (45 goals, 36 assists) equaled the third-highest in a season in the program's 17-year history and his conference-leading assist total equaled the sixth-highest in a season in program history.  Sullinger recorded points in all but one of 18 matches this year, with six or more coming six times.  In two wins against Keene State, Sullinger totaled seven goals and four assists, with a career-tying five goals coming in the regular-season triumph.

Baseball

balowski72_0322.JPGIt marks the 12th time in the last 13 years that at least one Eastern baseball player has been recognized with a spot on this all-star team.

At left: Joe Balowski

This past year, Balowski was the only player to start all 42 games for the 29-13 Warriors, penciled in at first base each time. He spent the majority of the season as the No. 3 hitter in the order after serving as the starting third baseman and No. 6 hitter as a sophomore. Having already earned recognition as a first-team ABCA All-New England Region and all-conference pick at first base this past year, Balowski led Eastern in hitting (.371), slugging (.528), hits (66), total bases (94), RBI (37), doubles (17), and fielding percentage (.994/two errors on 361 chances).

Balowski, whose average peaked at .438 on April 1 and stood at .400 on April 11, led the Warriors with 22 multiple-hit games and 11 multiple-RBI contests He hit safely in  36 of 42 games, never went as many as two consecutive games without a hit, and put together a season-high ten-game hitting streak early in the second half of the season when he batting .426 (20-for-47) with five doubles, two home runs, 13 RBI and 14 runs scored. In eight of those games, he collected at least two hits and four times drove in at least two runs. He had two hits each in that stretch against eventual NCAA Division III Mansfield, Conn. Regional qualifiers Wheaton College, Western New England University and Trinity College, driving in seven runs. Against Wheaton, which went on to a national second-place finish, Balowski had two hits and two RBI and clubbed his third and final home run of the season in the third inning to give the Warriors a lead they would not give up on a 4-2 victory at the Eastern Baseball Stadium.

Balowski went the final 20 games of the season without an error, handling 177 chances without a miscue in that stretch.

Balowski becomes only the second Eastern first baseman in ten years to be named to the team, following Tristan Hobbes in 2007.


 

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