Monday, May 16, 2016

Blandino, Cruz playing in same NCAA Regional three years after being drafted by Reds

Three years ago, Matt Blandino and Manny Cruz were drafted by the same Major League Baseball team.
Felician University athletics
Blandino, a standout Bristol Central High School pitcher, was taken in the 33rd round by the Cincinnati Reds. Six rounds later, Cruz, a star shortstop and pitcher at Wolcott, was chosen. 
This week, Blandino and Cruz will play on the same field, only at the collegiate level.
Blandino's Felician University team, and Cruz's Southern New Hampshire University squad, are part of NCAA Division II's East Region. SNHU is the No. 2 seed, Felician is the No. 4 seed. The Penmen won the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament title while the Golden Falcons captured the CACC. Top-seeded Franklin Pierce, the NE-10 regular season champion, is the East Region host.
Both Blandino and Cruz had a chance to chase a dream, but each passed on signing with the Reds. 
Blandino went to Central Connecticut State University, made a stop at Tunxis Community College, then ended up transferring to Felician University in New Jersey. All Blandino did in his junior season was earn Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Pitcher of the Year honors, along with a spot on the CACC First Team.
SNHU athletics
Cruz has been at SNHU since his freshman year, and he was a second team All NE-10 selection at shortstop. Cruz's defense has been stellar, so good that a diving grab earned him a nod on SportsCenter's Top 10 one night. He has also been solid at the plate for the Penmen.
With Franklin Pierce having the only bye in the seven-team bracket, both Felician and SNHU hit the diamond Thursday. The Golden Falcons take on fifth-seeded Bridgeport at 11 a.m. The Penmen take on No. 7 Dowling at 3 p.m. The regional is double elimination, with the championship set to be played next Monday.
In 2013, Blandino and Cruz were drafted by the same team. This week, the college standouts from neighboring towns could end up facing each other on the same field.

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