Leggett and Sacred Heart head coach face off again...first time on diamond

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CLEMSON – Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett and Sacred Heart head coach Nick Giaquinto will be facing off against each other for the third time in their athletic careers when their respective teams meet in the second game of the NCAA 2011 Baseball Championship (Clemson Regional) at 7 p.m. Friday night.

However, it will be the first time on the baseball diamond.

“I knew coach Leggett was from up north, and when I looked at his bio, I saw that he played football at Maine so I knew I played against him on the football field,” Giaquinto said Thursday as his team practiced at Doug Kingsmore. “I know when I was at UConn in 1975, we played them in the cold and the mud and driving rain and won 14-0. The next year, we played them at UConn and they beat us. I was a running back, and he was a defensive back, so I’m sure we ran into each other out there.”

Giaquinto has been at the helm of Sacred Heart for 23 seasons, but he also played in the NFL after graduating from UConn. He first played for the Miami Dolphins in 1980, then joined the Washington Redskins, playing for the Super Bowl XVII squad that beat his former team for the title.  He graduated from UConn in 1979, where he still holds the school's all-time single-game rushing record of 277 yards against Holy Cross in 1976. 

After his professional football career, Giaquinto took a position as assistant baseball coach at George Mason University. There he received his master's in Physical Education before being hired at Sacred Heart in 1988.

He said that he takes his coaching style from both of his NFL head coaches.

“I played under Don Shula and Joe Gibbs, and I learned a lot from both of them about coaching,” he said. “It’s all about managing the team and managing people, and I got a lot from that experience. They were different in many aspects, but they were similar in how they handled people. They will tell it like it is. Players might not like that or they may not like what you have to say, but they like straight shooters.”

The head coach of the 2011 Northeast Conference champs said his team wins by playing small ball.

“What we talk about every day is playing nine innings and being aggressive,” he said. “We have to execute at the plate because that is what got us here. Batters one through nine have to battle at the plate and execute with two strikes. We have to execute our bunts and play solid defense. We play a lot of small ball because we don’t hit a ton of home runs. We use what we have to work with.”

Troy Scribner will start for the Pioneers, and he has a 9-2 record with a 3.69 ERA. His head coach says he needs for his starter to compete with a deep Clemson lineup.

“His greatest asset is his competiveness and mental toughness,” he said. “He just has been a guy we want to give the ball to. He has been our Friday guy as a sophomore, and he was our Sunday guy last season. He pitched pretty well on Sundays last year, so we bumped him up to No. 1. He always gives us his best effort out on the field.”


2011 Northeast Conference Baseball Championship...The Pioneers swept the competition at the NEC Tournament to win their second league title two weekends ago at Dodd Stadium in Norwich. Sacred Heart beat Long Island 10-1 in game one, took down Monmouth 6-1 in game two, then once again defeated Monmouth in the championship game 9-2. John Murphy was named tournament MVP, going 5-13 with 1 HR, 4 R, 5 RBI. Troy Scribner, Nick Leiningen, and Kody Kerski all threw complete game victories. Murphy, Scribner, Leiningen, and Derick Horn (5-11 2 R 5 RBI) were all named to the NEC All-Tournament Team. With the tournament sweep, Sacred Heart finished the season with 11 consecutive wins in NEC play.

*Sacred Heart has won this year against some powerful college baseball programs. The Pioneers beat Mississippi State (SEC) 8-3 and then #19 Connecticut (BIG EAST) 5-4 in consecutive games March 13-15. SHU also defeated Southeastern Louisiana (Southland) twice and UNLV (Mountain West) once in non-conference action this season.

*Record Setting Year...Not only did Sacred Heart win its second-ever NEC Championship, but this year’s Pioneer squad also set the school record for wins in a season for the second straight year. They broke last year’s mark of 31 wins with their 10-1 win over Long Island in the first game of the NEC Tournament, and now stand at 34 wins in 2011.

*Offensive Explosion...The Pioneers lead the NEC with a .311 team overall average and a .330 team average in NEC games this season. SHU also finished first in hits (572) and second in runs (319). Six of SHU’s everyday starters are hitting .305 or better.

*Defense Stingy...The Pioneers are the second best fielding team in the NEC (.968 fielding %), committing 65 errors (3rd fewest) in 2041 chances (most). First baseman Rob Griffith and left-fielder JJ Edwards have not made an error all season.

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