Ian Ostberg, Quinnipiac baseball ready for NCAA regional

  • Florence native Ian Ostberg has played all over the field for the Quinnipiac baseball team. The Bobcats reached the NCAA baseball tournament for the first time since 2005 by winning the MAAC championship. COURTESY QUINNIPIAC ATHLETICS

  • Florence native Ian Ostberg is leading Quinnipiac in batting average. The Bobcats reached the NCAA baseball tournament for the first time since 2005 by winning the MAAC championship. COURTESY QUINNIPIAC ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/30/2019 8:58:22 PM

Just reaching an NCAA regional isn’t satisfying for Florence native Ian Ostberg and the Quinnipiac baseball team.

The Bobcats won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for the first time since 2005 to earn an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, but they aren’t in it for a free trip to somewhere warm.

Quinnipiac will open the double-elimination tournament against East Carolina at 6 p.m. Friday in Greenville, North Carolina. N.C. State and Campbell are also playing at Clark-LeClair Stadium, ECU’s park that holds 5,000 spectators.

“The atmosphere is going to be absolutely insane. It’s going to be the loudest environment I’ve ever played in,” Ostberg said. “I’m most excited because I really think we can compete.”

The Pirates (43-15) won the American Conference regular season title and fell to Wichita State in the conference tournament. They feature two first team All-Americans in pitcher Jake Agnos and utility player Alec Burleson.

“We absolutely love being the underdogs,” said Ostberg, a Williston Northampton product. “We embrace that role, and we don’t shy down from any competition.”

Quinnipiac’s roster is primarily made of players from New England and the Northeast, and also features Hatfield native and Smith Academy graduate David Longstreeth. The Bobcats draw a sense of pride in being from New England and carrying a banner for baseball in the region. There’s a strong New England contingent in the NCAA field. UConn reached the regional round along with Quinnipiac, Harvard and Central Connecticut State.

We’re all New England grinders,” Ostberg said. “We don’t have the luxuries these schools do. That’s the nature of the beast. We may not get everything these big-time southern schools do, but we work just as hard if not harder because of that.”

The Bobcats (29-27) have won seven games in a row. They clinched a share of the MAAC regular-season title on May 19 and went undefeated in the conference tournament.

“We started hitting. There isn’t a weak point in our lineup,” Ostberg said. “We always say we could flip our lineup completely backwards, and we would still be just as effective.”

Ostberg has been the fulcrum of the Bobcats’ offense all season. He leads the team in batting average (.332) and has driven in 34 runs hitting all around the lineup. But increased offense hasn’t been the only reason Quinnipiac has excelled lately.

“We’re having more fun. You can see that when we play now, we have a blast,” Ostberg said. “All smiles from everyone, and we’re loud.”

Longstreeth notices the difference from the dugout or the bullpen. He’s out with a shoulder injury and hasn’t pitched since April 3 but still contributes to the team’s chants, traditions and spirit. The Bobcats welcome runners home with a chorus of “hey.” Whenever a Quinnipiac player hits a home run, he takes a handoff like a running back touching home and runs through the tunnel of his teammates.

“It brings a different type of noise and shows teams ‘they’re here, they’re ready to play,’” said Longstreeth, who played a postgrad season at Suffield Academy. “Regardless of what your role is on the team, having these things bring everyone together. It shows you that you can make an impact.”

Quinnipiac plans to keep having fun in Greenville. The Bobcats have nothing to lose, after all.

“We’re playing a team that’s still a powerhouse, but one we can compete with. We’re ready to make some noise,” Ostberg said. “We’re happy to be here, but we’re ready to make some things happen.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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