Another World Series for Beverly’s Clark, this time with Salve Regina

Brayden Clark and Tyler Petrosino could definitely get used to this whole World Series thing. Just a couple of years after taking Beverly/Salem Post 331 to the American Legion World Series for the first time ever, the Garden City duo is at it again. This time, as seniors, they’ve helped the Salve Regina University baseball team reach the Division 3 College World Series, which begins Friday in Eastlake, Ohio.

“It’s a full circle moment,” said Clark, one of the top starting pitchers for a Seahawk team that enters the World Series seeded No. 2 behind only top-ranked Endicott College.

It’s the first-ever trip to the World Series for the Seahawks (38-8), who face No. 7 Birmingham-Southern (32-14) Friday at 4:45 p.m. The eight-team World Series features two double-elimination brackets of four teams, with the winner of each bracket facing off in a best-of-3 set for the national title next week. Wisconsin-Whitewater (40-9) and Randolph-Macon (33-14) are the other teams in Salve’s bracket, so they couldn’t face top seeded Endicott (46-2) until a potential championship series.

“Two New England teams playing for it all? That would be pretty crazy,” Clark said.

Until last season, Salve Regina and Endicott were both members of the Commonwealth Coast Conference. The Seahawks departed for the NEWMAC this year, and going through some powerhouse teams such as Babson and Wheaton helped strengthen Salve’s resolve for this postseason run.

Even though they fell in the NEWMAC playoffs, the Seahawks earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and blitzed through the Cortland Regional with three straight wins. A right-hander who won the opening game of the NCAA’s with six strong innings against Colby, Clark earned a spot on the All-Region team.

“We’d lost in the regionals last year, so to win it now with all the guys I’ve been with since Day 1 means a lot. We worked for this our whole careers,” Clark said. “It was a really good feeling because nothing was handed to us. We had to fight for everything for these last four years.”

Clark then became the first Salve pitcher to ever start a Super Regional game the following week at Salisbury. That game one was a slugfest with Salve Regina winning, 9-8, then coming out on top of another high-scoring affair, 14-12, to sweep their way into the World Series.

“Those were some really tough at-bats,” Clark said of the Super Regional. “It’s crazy how many hits and runs there were in those two games.”

The Salve Regina baseball record books have a lot of room for notes about Clark’s stellar career. He’s 21-5 overall in his four seasons, ranking fourth in school history in wins while clocking in at second in starts (41), third in innings (216 2/3) and third in total strikeouts (212). His earned run average also ranks in the school’s top 10 all-time.

“I’m a big contact guy … get soft contact into the ground and get a lot of grounders,” said Clark, who was an NECBL all-star pitching for the North Shore Navigators last summer. “With horizontal movement, I get a lot of guys swinging down on the ball.”

The changeup has been a tremendous pitch for him this season, noted Clark.

He’s already graduated with a degree in marketing but has one year of base all eligibility left under the NCAA’s pandemic related extensions. He hasn’t decided if he’ll play next year or not; all his focus is on finding a way to help Salve claim its first national title.

“A lot of us have a lot of experience from last year. Doing well has given us a ton of confidence to trust the process,” Clark said. “This could be my last start or two. That’s been on my mind and I’m going to go out there and give it all I’ve got.”

Petrosino, also a senior, is a tremendous defensive outfielder who earned a third-time All-CCC nod as a sophomore. This season, he has two homers and 22 RBI, and he’s a career .293 hitter who can help the Seahawks in a variety of spots.

Salve’s outfield brigade features one other local: St. John’s Prep grad Shane Williams of Georgetown. He’s played in 32 games this year with a .273 average, two bombs and 13 RBI.

In preparing to pitch on the biggest stage in D3 college baseball, Clark plans to trust his stuff and enjoy the moment.

“The process stays the same, more or less,” he said. “Prepare for at-bats where guys are going to fight, and you have to pitch to try and challenge their weaknesses, whatever those might be.”