PAWTUCKET, R.I. – A pair all-time great Little East Conference (LEC) baseball coaches – current University of Southern Maine head coach Ed Flaherty and former UMass Dartmouth head coach Bruce Wheeler – will be inducted into the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA) Hall of Fame on Friday, May 31, 2019. They will receive the honor prior to the NEIBA All-Star Game that will take place at Dunkin' Donuts Park in Hartford, Conn. at Noon EST.
Preparing for his 34th season at the helm of the USM baseball program, Flaherty has compiled a 1,004-450-4 career record (.690 W-L pct.) and guided the Huskies to two NCAA Division III national titles and five Little East Conference championships. He has been named LEC Coach of the Year nine times. He earned his 1,000th career win on May 2, 2018, when USM defeated Bates College 10-3.
During his 33 seasons at USM, Flaherty has guided the Huskies to 24 NCAA regional tournament appearances and eight NCAA Division III College World Series berths. Among their eight NCAA Division III College World Series appearances, the Huskies won the national title in 1991 and 1997, and were runner-up in 2013.
Flaherty led his 2013 team to a school record 46 wins, and sixteen times in his career the Huskies have reach 30-or-more wins in a season. Twenty-eight of his players have earned 40 ABCA Division III All-America citations, and two players, Tucker White (2013) and Sam Dexter (2015), have been named the ABCA/Rawlings Gold Bat Award winners as the Division III National Player of the Year.
The NEIBA Hall of Fame induction will be the sixth Hall of Fame for Flaherty, who joined the USM coaching staff in the fall of 1985 as the school's first women's soccer head coach and baseball head coach. Southern Maine honored Flaherty in 2017 by renaming the baseball field as Ed Flaherty Field.
Wheeler, who received NEIBA's Jack Butterfield Award in recognition of his distinguished service and promotion of college baseball in 1997, arrived at then Southeastern Massachusetts University in 1972 to serve as both the Corsairs' baseball and men's basketball coach. He amassed an overall mark of 746-530-4 (.584) on the diamond from 1972-2004, and over that time guided his squad to nine NCAA Division III tournament appearances, eight trips to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournament as well as four appearances in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national tournaments from 1972-75. Wheeler's 1975 team set a school record with 32 victories that spring, as the Corsairs eclipsed the 20-win plateau on 22 occasions that includes 30 or more wins in five campaigns.
Inducted into the UMass Dartmouth Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003, Wheeler mentored a total of nine All-Americans that include first-team American Baseball Coaches Association honorees Mark Chicoine, Rod Correia, John Graham and Pat Schultz. He led the Corsairs to five LEC post-season berths and the league's tournament title in 2000.
Wheeler's success wasn't limited to the baseball diamond during his tenure at the University, as he amassed 133 victories while serving as the Corsair men's basketball coach from 1972-83. Bruce led SMU to a berth in the 1976 NCAA tournament after compiling a 17-9 mark, and his 1978-79 squad earned a trip to the ECAC tournament. Wheeler and current UMD mentor Brian Baptiste are the only two men to patrol the basketball sidelines on the South Coast for nearly a half century.