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UConn-Avery Point's baseball team has grown accustomed to winning during Roger Bidwell's impressive 33-year run as head coach.
Last weekend, the Pointers captured their ninth NJCAA New England championship in 11 seasons and 12th overall to move on to the Division II East District tournament.
Their success has not lessened their appetite for capturing more championships.
Bidwell has set up the pitching rotation this weekend with one goal in mind: win an East District title.
He's picked sophomore Andrew Reel to start today's opener against Westchester Community College at 10 a.m. at Rockland Community College in Suffern, N.Y., and is saving aces Doug Domnarski and Zach Albin for later games in the three-team, double-elimination district tournament.
The fact that Bidwell chose Reel is a statement about Avery Point's pitching depth.
There really wasn't a bad choice.
"I have a lot of confidence in him," Bidwell said. "He can give us a good outing against them. You have to handicap the field and go about it the best way you can. I'm not interested in second place. I'm going to set up the pitching to win it.
"If we go 0-2 and don't use one of my top pitchers, so be it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I just go by what I feel is best."
Bidwell took a similar approach against the Community College of Rhode Island last weekend in a best-of-three New England tournament series, electing to use Baylor LaPointe to pitch in game one.
His decision looked shaky when CCRI won the first game 8-0. But Bidwell looked a whole lot smarter when Domnarski, a former Stonington standout, and Albin both pitched gems to help the Pointers rally to take the series and earn another trip to the districts.
"They have been consistently good all year," Bidwell said. "I would say that's been a strength of our club this year. We're able to run a good arm out there all year and not just those two."
Avery Point (36-9), the defending district champion, will need to play well to knock off Westchester (30-14) and Mercyhurst North East (29-8), the other teams in the tournament. After playing Westchester, the Pointers will meet Mercyhurst at 1 p.m. today.
The championship round is set for Sunday.
During the regular season, Avery Point beat Westchester twice during their spring trip to Florida in March, winning 2-1 and 16-1. Both teams have evolved since then. The Pointers never faced Mercyhurst, which did play CCRI, taking two out of three.
If any of the Avery Point starters struggle this weekend, Bidwell has a couple of options out of the bullpen. Sophomore Shawn Nadeau, a left-hander from Groton, has been a reliable closer, earning three saves.
"Last year, he was one of our starters," Bidwell said. "I've changed his role because we had more pitching depth. I figured we could use a nice lefty out of the bullpen and that it would fit his game and our needs better. He's done a good job for us."
Offensively, Andrew Hinckley, the New England Division II player of the year, fellow freshman Nick Perrelli and sophomore Chris Mayhew anchor the lineup.
Bidwell calls Alex LeFevre, a sophomore catcher, the team's most improved player. LeFevre is being recruited by Division I programs. They are the team's top three run producers.
The Pointers rode a combination of good pitching and an offensive outburst to win last year's East District tournament.
Their pitching staff is better this season, but they'll need a strong all-around effort this weekend to win the championship and earn the program's sixth World Series appearance, scheduled for May 24-31 in Enid, Okla.
"It's going to come down to pitching well and catching well in these types of baseball games," Bidwell said.