Matt LaBranche, the most successful coach in the history of the Western New England University baseball program, has found immediate success as the sixth head coach in the 69-year history of the Eastern Connecticut State University program, looking to lead the Warriors to their third Little East Conference tournament title in five years in 2018.
At left: Fifth-year Eastern head coach Matt LaBranche -- shown here with 2016 captain Tim Budd -- reached the 500-win milestone in his 17th season of coaching in 2016. LaBranche has averaged just under 30 wins per season with an overall winning percentage of nearly .700.
Appointed at Eastern in July of 2013, LaBranche has maintained both his and the Eastern program's winning ways by directing the Warriors to their eighth and ninth Little East Conference tournament titles (twice as many as their nearest competitor) in four years, 12th LEC regular-season crown and a New England-record 34th and 35th NCAA Division III tournament appearances.
In recognition of LaBranche's immediate success, the American Baseball Coaches' Association (ABCA) and New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA) named him co-Coach-of-the-Year in New England in 2014 and the Little East Conference selected him as its Coach-of-the-Year, as well.
In 18 seasons as a Division III head coach, LaBrance has compiled a 68.0 winning percentage and has totalled 528 victories, which rank him third in New England among active Division III coaches in the former category and seventh in the latter category. LaBranche has averaged 29.3 wins in 18 seasons as a collegiate head coach, attaining the 500-win standard with a 5-1 LEC win over Rhode Island College at the Eastern Baseball Stadium on April 23, 2016. His first win of 2018 represents his 100th in charge of the Eastern program.
Under LaBranche, Eastern reached the LEC tournament championship round in each of his first three seasons, winning twice. In 2016, the Warriors followed a .500 LEC regular season by surging in the LEC tournament. As the No. 5 seed, Eastern won four straight games in four days, averaging over ten runs a game en route to another NCAA tournament appearance. In 2015, the Warriors won 16 of 21 games late in the season and came through the losers' bracket to reach the championship game of the Little East tournament for the second straight year.
In 2014, the Warriors were ranked No. 1 in the final NCAA Division III New England Regional poll, and first in the NEIBA Coaches' Poll and tenth in the ABCA/Collegiate Baseball Top 30 polls after sweeping the LEC tournament championship. That year, Eastern posted its 13th season of at least 30 wins in 14 years and its 30th since 1973, finishing 32-9 and recording its second-best winning percentage in the last ten years. In all, five Eastern players were named to the ABCA All-New England Region team, three to the NEIBA Senior All-Star Game and five to the All-LEC squad (four of them being selected to the first team).
A native of Windham, NH and a former catcher at Springfield College, LaBranche inherited one of the top three most successful baseball programs in Division III history. In 65 seasons prior to 2014, Eastern had qualified for 39 post-season tournaments, competed in 14 national tournaments, and won four NCAA Division III national titles (most recently in 2002).
At WNE in his first collegiate head coaching assignment, LaBranche compiled a 14-year overall record of 429-187 (.696) and left as that program’s all-time coaching leader in wins, winning percentage, seasons, and games (616).
At WNE, LaBranche’s teams competed in post-season tournament play every season. He led the Golden Bears to ten NCAA Division III Tournament berths, eight coming in succession through 2013. In each of the last two seasons after reaching its first national tournament in 2011, WNE has lost both of its regional tournament games to the eventual regional champion (Wheaton College in 2012 and University of Southern Maine in 2013), both of whom went on to reach the national championship round.
In addition to his coaching duties, LaBranche served as coordinator of physical education at WNE for six years.
In LaBranche's last season in Springfield, WNE recorded its sixth straight 30-win season (in the last ten years), sharing The Commonwealth Coast Conference regular-season championship and finishing fourth in the final New England Coaches’ Poll with a record of 34-13. During its record 42-11 season in 2011, the Golden Bears never lost two in a row after a 4-4 start until reaching the national tournament. That team concluded with a final No. 8 national ranking.
In 14 years of Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) and TCCC play at WNE, LaBranche’s team won 195 and lost 48 (.803), with17 regular-season and playoff championships.
LaBranche, who claimed his 400th career victory with the fifth win of 2013, entered 2017 ranked fourth all-time among New England Division III coaches in winning percentage (68.6) and among the Top 30 in Division III. Among active coaches, he is third in New England in winning percentage, tied for19th in Division III.
LaBranche was the NEIBA Division III Coach-of-the-Year in 2011 and ECAC Coach-of-the-Year in both 2011 and 2012. Four times he was named the premier coach in the conference. He has also served as chair of the NEIBA Division III All-New England Region Committee since 2007.
In January of 2014, LaBranche served as a guest presenter at the World Baseball Coaches' Convention at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville.
LaBranche and wife Judi reside in Wilbraham, MA with their two children, Matthew and Dominique.
MATT LaBRANCHE'S CAREER RECORD AS A HEAD BASEBALL COACH (18 Years)
|Eastern Connecticut State University (2014-2017)|
|2016||42||23||19||.548||LEC Champion, NCAA New England Regional|
|2014||41||32||9||.780||LEC Champion, NCAA New England Regional|
|Western New England University (2000-2013)|
|2013||47||34||13||.723||NCAA New England Regional|
|2012||51||38||13||.745||CCC Champion, NCAA New England Regional|
|2011||53||42||11||.792||CCC Champion, NCAA New England Regional Champion|
|2010||46||34||12||.739||CCC Champion, NCAA New England Regional|
|2009||47||30||17||.638||CCC Champion, NCAA New York Regional|
|2008||46||33||13||.717||CCC Champion, NCAA New England Regional|
|2007||40||28||12||.700||GNAC Champion, NCAA New Enalgnd Regional|
|2006||47||35||12||.745||GNAC Champion, NCAA New England Regional|
|2004||47||33||14||.702||GNAC Champion, NCAA New England Regional|
|2001||26||21||15||.583||GNAC Champion, NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional|
|18 Yrs.||776||528||248||.680||11 Conference Titles, 1 NCAA Regional Title|