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Baseball: Futures Clinic Update

labranchepractice72presto_6006.jpgAll youngsters planning to attend the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball Fall Futures Clinic October 12 at the Eastern Baseball Stadium must contact Eastern head coach Matt LaBranche at prior to completing and returning a registration form.


Weight Room Renovation Completed

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weight_room72x_7440.jpgThe Eastern Connecticut State University Sports Center weight room underwent a facelift this past summer. The room, which is located on the bottom floor of the building and services the entire Eastern community, includes new rubberized flooring, new stereo system, signage, expanded mirror coverage, "Eastern Warrior" platform/power racks, new polyurethane dumbells, kettle bells, barbells, bands, free weights, assisted dip and pull-up machine, two fixed glute/hamstring machines, TRX suspension training packs, medicine balls, leather jump ropes, plyo boxes, bosu balls and jammer machines. Weight room hours are Monday-Thursday 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Baseball Program Launches New Era

baseballpractice72_6006.jpgA new era in Eastern Connecticut State University baseball history began Friday afternoon when first-year head coach Matt LaBranche conducted his  first official practice at the Eastern Baseball Stadium. After 14 seasons developing Western New Engand University into a regional contender, LaBranche was selected as the sixth head coach in Eastern baseball history this past summer -- the program's first new head coach since 1969. LaBranche recently announced his entire staff, which is comprised of former Eastern assistants Scott Smith and Steve Cervizzi, Tim Mayo -- LaBranche's former pitching coach at Western New England -- and Marc Senia, a former player at Wheaton College (MA). The Warriors open the 2014 season Feb. 28 at Farmingdale State College and make their home debut a month later, hosting the University of Massachusetts Boston in a Little East Conference noon doubleheader March 29 at the Eastern Baseball Stadium.

Baseball: LaBranche Finalizes Staff

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Smith, Cervizzi, Mayo, Senia named assistants by first-year coach

WARRIORlogo2009_72dpi.jpgWILLIMANTIC, Conn. --  Eastern Connecticut State University's Matt LaBranche - hired this past summer as the sixth head baseball coach in program history -- has announced his coaching staff for the 2013-14 season.

Scott Smith and Steve Cervizzi will return to the Eastern staff after both had previous assistant coaching tenures at Eastern and Trinity College, and will be joined by Tim Mayo and Marc Senia.  Mayo served as pitching coach the last four years under LaBranche at Western New England University and will serve in a similar capacity at Eastern. Senia has coached at the AAU and American Legion levels and is a former four-year member of the Wheaton College (MA) baseball program.

A former catcher in the Eastern program, Smith will work with catchers and hitters. Cervizzi will work with outfielders and hitters, and Senia will work with infielders and be responsible in the area of baserunning. On game days, Smith and Cervizzi will serve as bench coaches and Senia will coach first base.

 "I am very excited about how quickly the remainder of the staff has come together," said LaBranche. "It is a tremendously experienced and knowledgeable staff. These are outstanding baseball men that bring a great passion and enthusiasm for teaching the game of baseball."

A Rockville native and Eastern graduate, Smith brings 22 seasons of collegiate coaching experience to the program. Smith previously spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach at Eastern and three as an assistant coach at Trinity College, helping Eastern to national championships in 1990, 1998 and 2002 and Trinity to the 2008 championship. The only coach in the 38-year history of the NCAA Division III baseball tournament to be part of national championships with two institutions, Smith also served as field manager (2000) and assistant coach (2007) with the Manchester Silkworms of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL).

"I am thrilled that Smitty has agreed to rejoin the staff," stated LaBranche. "He has been such a vital member of not only the Eastern Connecticut baseball tradition but the entire university community.  The student-athletes will benefit from his ability to coach, but more importantly, from his intense pride in this institution." 

A  long-time area resident and Springfield College graduate, Cervizzi previously spent 21 seasons as an assistant coach at Eastern and Trinity. In six years, Cervizzi helped Eastern to five NCAA tournament appearances, two of which resulted in regional championships and national tournament berths. As an assistant at Trinity for 15 years, Cervizzi helped the Bantams to two NCAA Division III regional championship, the first of which in 2008 resulted in a national championship.

"Steve is a versatile coach and a great teacher of the game," points out LaBranche. "We are really fortunate that a coach of his experience was available and able to join the staff.  The program will benefit from his positive energy and his love of the game."                    

An Enfield native and resident, Mayo served as pitching coach at Western New England as the Golden Bears qualified the NCAA Division III tournament every season, winning the regional title in 2011, placing second in 2012 and third in 2013.  WNE compiled a 148-49 record in that span, winning the Commonwealth Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles seven times. The pitching staff's walks per game average ranked second nationally in 2011 and its earned run average rated o. 20 nationally in 2012. 

For four years, Mayo was also on the staff of the Holyoke Giants of the NECBL and spent one season as pitching coach at Elms College prior to being appointed at WNEU. A left-handed pitcher, Mayo was a four-year member of the Springfield College baseball program. Mayo played high school baseball at Fermi High School under Eastern baseball graduate and left-handed pitcher Bob Cressotti '79 and spent ten years as head instructor at the Cressotti Baseball School in Enfield.

Says LaBranche of Mayo, "It was very much a priority for Tim to make this move with me. He has a proven track record of developing a pitching staff that will throw strikes and compete at a high level every day. The pitchers will benefit from his presence."          

A South Windsor native, Senia has served as head coach at manager for the South Windsor American Legion program since 2003 and also is an assistant baseball and asketball coach at Watkinson School in Hartford and an instructor at the Dream Bat Baseball Club in Somers. Senia played from 1999 through 2002 as an infielder and outfielder at Wheaton, where the Lyons won four straight New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference  regular-season and tournament titles, and competed in three NCAA and one ECAC tournaments. He served as a senior captain.

"I have had the opportunity to watch Marc over the years as both a player and an aspiring coach," said LaBranche. "I have always been impressed with his energy and commitment to playing the game the right way.  He will be a tremendous role model for our players."



Baseball's Purnell: Atypical All-America

For closer, hard work paid dividends, culminated in national honors

By Brent Pelella
Sports Information Staff

purnell_tie_72_1239.JPGWILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- It's 4 a.m. on Sunday morning. Your typical college undergraduate is nestling into his or her double-sized dorm room bed, after a long night of extracurricular activities.

However, one seeking individual is tucking his sheets back in and preparing for what lies ahead.

The motivation for his early departure is a simple yet interesting one. Matt Purnell, closer on the 2013 Eastern baseball team, started most of his Sundays this way. Gathering bait, prepping his pole and sailing out into one of the several bodies of water he has tackled over the years.

All puns aside, Matt helped explain his affection very simply; "My grandfather and dad raised me on the water. My town is so small there wasn't much else to do when I was young besides hunt and fish." 

purnell72_0294.jpgHis town of Stafford Springs is exactly as he described. Located a half-hour drive from the Willimantic campus, Stafford Springs is at the crossroads of Rtes. 190 and 32. The Colonial settlement in Northeast Connecticut is best known for its famed speedway and numerous campsites. Stafford High School holds less than 400 students, and the town as a whole is reminiscent of a time prior to the industrialization of America.

However, one recollection of Matt's high school baseball career magnifies every miniscule thing about Stafford Springs, "Being a part of the state championship game is one of the most unforgettable memories I'll ever have. It brought the town together, and that in its own right is something special."

His passion and enjoyment isn't something exclusive to the game of baseball, but rather epitomizes his personality as a whole. Coming into college, Matt had to grasp at every opportunity to merely make the program. If it wasn't for considerable advocacy from his peers and coaches, he believes he wouldn't have been on the team that season.

"My freshman year was a great experience. Most freshmen were upset about being on the JV team, but I was grateful and just used every opportunity to work hard and get better." As a result, he made the jump from bottom-feeder to key bullpen reliever by the middle of his second season.

One of the highlighted moments in his sophomore campaign was a rivalry game against Keene State, where the 6-3 righty went five strong innings in an important game with championship implications. Aside from several durable outings, Matt credits his development to upperclassmen Wes Dutton and Travis Bass, "They were so helpful in my growth on and off the field. They both showed me how to improve on the field, in the weight room and as a person. "

Ironically, Matt cultivated into the epitome of his predecessors, and throughout his final two seasons, he was the one teaching and aiding his younger teammates. One teammate remarked, "Matt is one of the best leaders I've ever been around. He's tough on you, but he's also there to be a friend when you need one."

Nothing Matt went through, as a college baseball player was more humbling than the honor he received this past spring. His selection as a second team All-America was an exclamation point on a career which blossomed primarily due to hard work and commitment to improving. After playing exclusively on the sub-varsity level as a freshman, Purnell began to develop on the varsity level. He pitched middle relief as a sophomore and junior, appearing in 39 games with 55 strikeouts and 26 walks and a  3.44 ERA in 68.0 innings.  

That set the stage for a brilliant final season as the team's closer in 2013, when he appeared in a school-record of 29 games, with a remarkable 51 strikeout against just five walks. He won six of seven decisions and had nine saves (equaling the fourth-most in a season in program history) and a 1.63 ERA.

In addition to second-team All-America honors, Purnell was selected New England Pitcher-of-the-Year, first-team All-Little East Conference, and was named to the New England All-Star Game.

"I'm extremely grateful to be present with such a great honor," Matt exclaims of his All-America certification.  "Baseball has given me something to love throughout my whole life, and I'll never give it up."

After being considered as an afterthought as a freshman, Purnell left behind his senior season ranked fourth all-time in pitching appearances (68).

It's tough for any athlete to give up a game at the height of his or her ability, and for Matt it will be the same way leaving Eastern, "I'm going to miss Eastern baseball. The camaraderie  is unlike anything I've ever experienced... we were a family." Matt solemnly remarked.

The journey won't completely stop, as Matt will fly to California in the winter to work out and prepare for professional tryouts. Whether we see him on the mound or not next spring is still in question, but one thing is for certain... If he gets the chance it won't be squandered.

He was adamant in his message when asked about what he would say to young ballplayers looking to follow in his footsteps, "If you work hard there are no limits. I know it sounds cliché, but you have to believe in it."

Matt, for the four years we've gotten the pleasure to watch you in an Eastern uniform... we thank you for believing in it.




Baseball Futures Clinic Oct. 12

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Matt LaBranche (at left)

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The Eastern Connecticut State University baseball program will be offering a Fall Futures Clinic Saturday, Oct. 12 between 1 and 6 p.m. at the Eastern Baseball Stadium.

High school players grades 9 through 12 are eligible to participate. Cost is $125.

Space is limited for the clinic, which  is under the direction of first-year head coach Matt LaBranche nd his staff and will involve advanced instruction, position play, hitting technique, and instructional games with live at-bats.

More information is available by contacting Matt LaBranche at 860-465-4516 or at

Eastern Announces Pet Policy


Baseball: LaBranche to Lead Eastern

Former WNE mentor relishes challenge as Warriors' new head coach



WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - Matt LaBranche, the most successful coach in the history of the Western New England University baseball program, has been appointed head coach of the most successful program in the history of New England college baseball. LaBranche, 43, the former 14-year head coach at WNE, has been appointed the sixth coach in the 66-year history of the Eastern Connecticut State University program.

He officially begins his duties July 31.

At WNE in his first collegiate head coaching assignment, LaBranche compiled an overall record of 429-187 (.696) and leaves as that program's all-time coaching leader in wins, winning percentage, seasons, and games (616).

A native of Windham, N.H. and a former catcher at Springfield College, LaBranche inherits one of the top three most successful baseball programs in Division III. In 65 seasons, Eastern has qualified for 39 post-season tournaments, competed in 14 national tournaments, and won four NCAA Division III national titles (most recently in 2002). Last spring, Eastern posted its 12th  season of at least 30 wins in the last 13 years and its 29th since 1973, finishing 30-13-1.

"I am honored to become part of a program that is synonymous with excellence in Division III baseball", noted LaBranche. "And I plan on working hard to add to an extraordinary history. I always saw myself as a person who would want a new challenge and a new opportunity," he added. "It's been an emotional couple of weeks, but I'm really excited making the transition and getting started. I met the people (at Eastern) and it's a great community. There are a lot of things to be excited about."

At WNE, LaBranche's teams competed in post-season tournament play every season. He led the Golden Bears to ten NCAA Division III Tournament berths, eight coming in succession through 2013. In each of the last two seasons after reaching its first national tournament in 2011, WNE has lost both of its regional tournament games to the eventual regional champion (Wheaton College in 2012 and University of Southern Maine in 2013), both of whom went on to reach the national championship round.


In addition to his coaching duties, LaBranche served as coordinator of physical education at WNE for the last six years.

Photo courtesy of Western New England Sports Information.

"Coach LaBranche brings a demonstrated commitment to academic excellence and community engagement which is in line with the University's  mission and core values," noted Kenneth M. Bedini, Vice President of Student Affairs at Eastern.

This past season, WNE recorded its sixth straight 30-win season (ninth in the last ten years), sharing The Commonwealth Coast Conference regular-season championship and finishing fourth in the final New England Coaches' Poll with a record of 34-13.  During its record 42-11 season in 2011, the Golden Bears never lost two in a row after a 4-4 start until reaching the national tournament.  That team concluded with a final No. 8 national ranking.

"With the hiring of Matt, we feel that Eastern's tradition as a perennial national competitor in Division III baseball will continue," said Dr. Jeff G. Konin, Eastern's Director of Athletics. "Coach LaBranche brings to our program a track record of tremendous success on the field, and is well-known for his recruiting capabilities throughout the greater New England region and beyond."

In 14 years of Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) and TCCC play at WNE, LaBranche's team won 195 and lost 48 (.803), with17 regular-season and playoff championships.

LaBranche, who claimed his 400th career victory with the fifth win of 2013, entered this past season ranked third all-time among New England Division III coaches in winning percentage, 23rd overall. Among active coaches, he was also third in New England and was 18th in Division III.

LaBranche was the NEIBA Division III Coach-of-the-Year in 2011 and ECAC Coach-of-the-Year in both 2011 and 2012. Four times he was named  the premier coach in the conference. He has also served as chair of the NEIBA Division III All-New England Region Committee since 2007.

LaBranche and  wife Judi reside in Wilbraham, MA with their  two children, Matthew (15) and Dominique (10).



LEC: 25 from Eastern are All-Academic

Seven earn the honor for the maximum third time in their spring sport


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In the spring, France (far left) and Labanara earned LEC All-Academic honors for the third time this year.

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. --  A total of 25 Eastern Connecticut State University student-athletes have been named to the Little East Conference All-Academic Team for the spring season.

Despite sponsoring only six of the LEC's seven championships in the spring, Eastern had the second-high total of All-Academic qualifiers among the eight member institutions. Coupled with 23 fall academic qualifiers  in five sports (sharing second place), and 18 in  five winter sports (placing third), Eastern  amassed 66 All-Academic achievers during the 2012-13 academic. Eastern's season total was the third-highest in the conference.

Seven players from Eastern's 2013 LEC playoff champion women's lacrosse team gained the honor - the most by any Eastern program this season.  The women's track, men's lacrosse and softball programs featured four selections each in the spring, with baseball and men's outdoor track recording three selections each. 

This year's total gives Eastern 441 qualifiers in the six-year history of the All-Academic program, an average of nearly 75 each academic year.

Student-athletes having reached sophomore academic and athletic status and showing a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.30 are eligible for the award each season.


Franklin (at left) was a seven-time LEC All-Academic selection in his career.

This spring, seven senior Eastern student-athletes attained the maximum third All-Academic honor in their spring sport: Health & Physical Education major Drew Accomando (Monroe) in baseball, Sport & Leisure Management major Christine Charpentier (Monroe) in women's track, SLM major Arielle Cooper (Mystic) and HPE major Katie Sokoloski (Eastford) in softball, HPE major Drew Deane (Vernon) and Psychology major Jordan Munsell (Waterford) in men's lacrosse, and Elementary Education major Daniela Marchitto (Orange) in women's lacrosse.

Last month, six of this spring's LEC All-Academic qualifiers earned an E-Club Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award (minimum cumulative 3.50 GPA through last fall) for the maximum second time: Accomando, Charpentier, Deane, Marchitto, Munsell, and Sokoloski.

Junior Elementary Education major Katie France (Portland) and sophomore Accounting major Kelly Labanara (Chaplin) earned a spot on the LEC All-Academic team for the third time this year as cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field participants.

In his career, senior Political Science major Ryan Franklin (Glastonbury) reached LEC All-Academic status seven times in three sports (cross country, indoor and outdoor track), and Charpentier, France, Marchitto and Munsell six times each. Charpentier ran indoor and outdoor track, and Marchitto and Munsell played soccer in addition to lacrosse.marchitto_sru_72_5082.jpg

Marchitto (at right) was one of seven players from the 2013 LEC playoff championship women's lacrosse team to qualify for the LEC All-Academic team.

This past spring, Cooper was named first-team All-America at third base and LEC Player-of-the-Year, and Marchitto was selected first-team All-LEC in both sports and additionally honored as LEC Midfielder-of-the-Year in lacrosse.

Additional individuals gaining spots on the academic squad were women's lacrosse players Rachel Meotti (Glastonbury), a senior, Kelsea Burkhardt (Old Saybrook), a junior, and sister Amy Burkhardt (Old Saybrook), a sophomore, juniors Erin Conn (Moriches, NY) and Christine Lillis (Waterford), and sophomore Lauren Wells (Stratford); senior men's lacrosse players Merrick Smith (Stonington) and Nick Stoop (Crofton, MD), track and field athletes Alex Verrill (Hiram, ME), a senior, junior Lauren Hultzman (Putnam) and sophomore Dylan Kruppa (Torrington), junior baseball players Michael Pendergast (Farmington) and Greg Porter (Mystic); and junior softball players Mattie Brett (Waterford) and Stephanie Johnson (Southington).               

Baseball: Purnell is ABCA All-America

Senior righty is also a All-America second-teamer

Darby gains third-team All-New England recognition

purnell72_0294.jpgdarby_jersey_72_1241.jpgWILLIMANTIC, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University senior right-handed relief pitcher Matt Purnell (Stafford Springs) has been named second-team Division III All-America by both the American Baseball Coaches' Association (ABCA) and

At left: Matt Purnell  

Above: Tom Darby

The All-America honors follow Purnell's earlier selections as the Division III Pitcher-of-the-Year by the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA),  first-team All-New England Region by  NEIBA and, and first-team All-Little East Conference relief pitcher. Senior lefty pitcher Tom Darby (Middletown, RI), a first-team All-Little East pick earlier this month, joined Purnell on the All-New England Region team, earning a spot on the third team.

As a first-team NEIBA senior selection, Purnell is eligible to compete in the 2013 NEIBA New England All-Star Game on Monday, June 3 at LeLacheur Park at Lowell, MA. The game pits the Division II-III All-Stars against the Division I All-Stars.

The All-America selection caps Purnell's steady climb through a four-year career which began with exclusive work on the sub-varsity pitcher as a freshman.

The ABCA All-America selection for Eastern gives the program at least one such honoree in 12 of the last 16 years. Purnell becomes the program's 54th ABCA All-America since 1970, 20th in the last 16 years. Prior to this year, Scott Chiasson - later reaching the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs - was the program's last closer to gain All-America distinction, that coming during the 1998 national championship season.

Purnell becomes Eastern's fourth All-America selection this spring, following first-team NFCA softball selection Arielle Cooper (Mystic) and honorable mention USILA men's lacrosse picks Mike Devine (Cheshire) and Tyler Fresen (Newington).

Purnell appeared in 29 of the team's 44 contests this year. His appearance total established season records for both appearances and relief appearances in a season. The 6-foot-2 inch, 200-pounder was 6-1 with a 1.63 ERA and nine saves (third-most in New England) and 51 strikeouts and only five walks in 38.2 innings. He shared the staff lead in wins and topped all pitchers in ERA and saves, the latter category one shy of the season record.

This season marked the first as the team's fulltime closer for Purnell, who did not have a save in 37 relief appearances throughout his sophomore and junior seniors. He was 1-0 with a 3.30 ERA in 30.0 innings over 20 relief appearances as a sophomore, and 1-3 with a 3.97 ERA in 34.0 innings over 19 appearances (17 in relief) as a junior.

This year,  Purnell gave up earned runs in only six appearances, surrendering more than one in a game only once. He struck out 17 batters before issuing his first walk in his ninth appearance and recorded saves in three consecutive games in mid-April in conference victories over Western Connecticut State University and in both ends of road sweep at Rhode Island College.

In his career, Purnell appeared in 68 games - fourth-most among pitchers in program-history - with an 8-4 record, nine saves, a 2.89 ERA, 106 strikeouts and 31 walks in 102 2/3 innings.

Darby shared the staff lead in wins with Purnell -- also losing one decision - and led all starters with a 2.97 ERA. Darby led the staff with 67 strikeouts (against just 16 walks) and shared the team lead with 11 starts. After pitching only 1 2/3 innings in his first two seasons due to arm problems, Darby concluded his career with a 12-1 record and 2.99 ERA with 118 strikeouts and only one home run allowed in 114 1/3 innings.

Eastern won 30 games for the 29th time since 1973, finishing 30-13-1. Ranked seventh in the final New England poll, Eastern won two and lost two as the No. 2 seed in the Little East Conference tournament earlier this month.










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