Flight helps lift off Southern N.H.
Dominant season helps Penmen into first NCAA tournament
Tim Flight’s baseball career has taken off since landing at Southern New Hampshire two years ago.
He has compiled some of the top-pitching numbers in Division II, while helping to propel the Penmen to their first NCAA tournament appearance.
Flight began his collegiate career at Charleston Southern – a Division I school in the Big South Conference. There was a coaching change before his first year with the Buccaneers’ program, and Flight found himself never quite meshing with the new staff. He redshirted the first year, and went 1-1 with a 12.46 ERA in 11 appearances in his second season. As the opportunities to pitch became more limited, Flight’s confidence diminished. It was time for a change.
At the same time SNHU head coach Scott Loiseau was in the midst of raising the level of play of the Penmen. He took over the program in 2009 -- a year after the team had finished with just seven wins. Loiseau’s first team doubled that win total to 14. In 2010, there was more improvement and 18 victories.
Flight was pitching at a summer league game in 2010, and word was out that he was looking to transfer from Charleston Southern. A SNHU player that had just graduated told Flight’s friends about Loiseau’s rising program. A short time later, Flight sent Loiseau his transfer release.
When Flight met Loiseau and visited the school, things started falling into place.
“I liked that [Loiseau] was a younger coach,” Flight said. “I felt like I could relate more to him, and I could tell that his passion was definitely winning. I really liked that attitude. I felt like we fit together perfectly.”
Flight transferred to SNHU in the fall of 2011. In his first season on the mound for the Penmen, he garnered Northeast-10 Conference Third Team All-Conference honors after posting a 6-3 record, 2.34 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 77 innings and 11 starts. The Penmen finished the season 25-22, the first time they had finished above .500 since 1997.
“It was the first I felt I got an opportunity -- not just in certain situations -- but consistently to show what I have,” Flight said. “It wasn’t going in for a relief appearance, and if you did poorly, maybe in a couple weeks you’d get another opportunity. Being able to throw on a consistent basis was really what I needed to get sharper and hit all my pitches better.”
The 6-foot-4 left-hander throws three different pitches in any count, keeping the hitters off balance. This season, he has compiled an 8-1 record and 1.22 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 95.2 innings and 14 starts. Flight leads the nation in strikeouts, and ranks third in ERA. He is a member of a pitching staff that leads the nation with 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings, and ranks second with a 2.27 ERA. Flight was recently named one of six finalists for the Tino Martnez Award, which honors the best player in Division II baseball.
“Last year was really his first go-ahead as far as diving into college baseball, and getting an opportunity to pitch on an everyday basis,” Louseau said. “He had a good year, and gotten better as the season went on. With all his hard work over the last two years, he’s really developed into the pitcher he is today. It was a mixture of hard work and opportunity that has gotten him to this point.”
The Penmen (42-13) won the NCAA East Regional and Flight -- the NE-10 Pitcher of the Year -- was a big part of their success. He tossed eight shutout innings with 13 strikeouts in a 3-0 win against Dowling to open the regional tournament, and then came back to pitch three solid innings in the championship game against NE-10 Champion Le Moyne as the Penmen won 4-3 to advance to nationals.
“It's an unbelievable experience, and not necessarily because we’re the first team from our school to do it,” Flight said. “Regardless of that, making it to the national championship tournament is a pretty remarkable feat.”
Loiseau says there are many things that have played a part in turning the Penmen program around.
“My administration has been phenomenal in terms of their support and giving me the freedom to do some different some different things,” Loiseau said. “The student-athletes have been great in terms of their approach on a daily basis, and the leadership we’ve gotten from the seniors and captains has been excellent.”
The Division II World Series will be held at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., on May 26-June 2. Southern New Hampshire will open the tournament on Saturday against Minnesota State, a veteran of the NCAA Division II World Series. The Mavericks are making their sixth appearance in the national championship tournament, and second in the last three years.
But regardless of their inexperience in the NCAA postseason, the Penmen will certainly be ready for the challenge.
“In every game, we give ourselves an opportunity to win, whether is with pitching or with the hitters picking us up,” Flight said. “No matter what, we’re always in the game.”