Taking a look at the America East

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on February 3rd, 2010 in American East
 

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Unlike the chaos of the 2000s, it’s starting to look more like the AmEast is Binghamton’s personal playground. But don’t rest on your laurels Bearcats, in this take-no-prisoners conference it’s a quick road to skid row. Strap in tight, the AmEast is going back to becoming an all-out brawl again.

2009 in a Paragraph:
Always one of the more entertaining conference races, the AmEast can be downright cruel. One year you’re on top, setting school records and going to the NCAA tournament. The next year, you’ve hit rock-bottom, finishing in dead last while wondering what the hell happened. That’s life in the AmEast. But Binghamton has figured out the magic potion and won the regular season for the fourth straight season in 2009. But this time, they also added the post-season tournament title as well.

Conference RPI: 25

2009 Results:
1- Binghamton, 13-7
2- Albany, 15-9
3- Stony Brook, 14-10
3- Vermont, 14-10
5- Maine, 13-11
6- Hartford, 7-15
7- UMBC, 4-18

2010 in a Paragraph:
BU has grown the biggest bulls-eye on the east coast and looks like their prime target No. 1 again. If some pitching depth is found, this one’s a no-brainer. But Maine is ready to reclaim its rightful place at the top of the standings, and they’ve got the pitching to make it happen. With Vermont putting a toe tag on their baseball program, the AmEast will resort to filling the void in the schedule with another AmEast team, meaning each school will play one of the other schools on two different weekends this season.

Favorite: Binghamton

Contender: Maine

Darkhorse: Stony Brook

Can’t-Miss Series of the Year: Maine at Binghamton, April 17-18.

Best Non-Conference Series: Binghamton at Tennessee Tournament, March 5-7.
(Binghamton vs. Kennesaw State and Tennessee)

Hot Coach: Tim Sinicki, Binghamton

Hot Seat Coach: John Jancuska, UMBC

Player You Gotta See: C Myckie Lugbauer, Maine.

Three Non-Conference Series AmEast Opponents Better Take Seriously:
1- Binghamton at Tennessee Tournament, March 5-7.
2- Stony Brook at Alabama, March 13-14.
3- Albany at Loyola Marymount, March 26-28.

Three Bold Predictions:
1- Maine will finally shake the cobwebs of the last few years and get back to the NCAAs.
2- With Vermont dropping and a lot of pitching coming back conference-wide, the AmEast will vault up three or four spots in the conference RPI rankings.
3- Binghamton will upset LSU on March 31st and the people in Baton Rouge will think the story in the Morning Advocate the next day is some kind of April Fool’s joke.

The Black Bears of Maine should have more to celebrate this season.

The Black Bears of Maine should have more to celebrate this season.

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- ALBANY (26-31-1, 15-9)
2009 RPI: 214
Starters Returning: 5
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 2
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 0

All Conference Candidates:
RHP David Kubiak (4-9, 5.90)
OF Brendan Rowland (.289-4-32, 25SBs)

The Good News:
Albany seemed to be tough when it counted, going 7-2 in one-run games last season. Rowland is a firestarter on an offense that desperately needs more like him. The infield returns three starters, including solid gloves in 2B Kyle Crean (.246-4-25) and 3B Pete Eichner (.251-4-31). There is a modicum of youthful arms that made big contributions last season in RHP Zach Kraham (5-2, 4.86), LHP Ryan White (2-4, 6.58) and RHP Austin Chase (3-4, 8.99) and should grow even more this season.

The Bad News:
The Danes have had to live with that frustrating double-digit loss to Binghamton in the AmEast tournament finale all off-season long. Arrrgh! They’ve also lost 29+ games in each of the last four seasons. All three of the .300+ hitters have graduated off a team that only hit .264 to begin with. A new brigade of closers will need to be cultivated after Sean Gregory (6svs) and Alex Beaulieu (3svs) graduated. The .945 defense was 2nd-to-last in the AmEast.

Schedule Note:
The farthest roadie ever.
Never in the history of Albany’s program have the Danes been on a roadie as far as they’ll take in late March when they visit Loyola Marymount and Cal State Northridge. They’ll also play the first two weekends of the season down in the Carolinas, vs. UNC Greensboro and at the Caravelle Resort Invitational at Coastal Carolina, taking on the likes of Pitt, Ball State and Toledo. Wait… where is CCU in that mix?

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- BINGHAMTON (30-22, 13-7):
2009 RPI: 167
Starters Returning: 8
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 0
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 2

All Conference Candidates:
1B Dave Ciocchi (.381, Freshman All Am.)
2B Jim Calderone (358-5-32, 14SBs)
OF Corey Taylor (.340-16-56, 11SBs)
RHP Mike Augliera (5-3, 5.60, .241OBA)

The Good News:
The Bearcats had a record-breaking 2009 season, including a third straight AmEast regular season title and a win in the NCAA tournament (11-6 over George Mason). The 30 wins was also a school record for wins in a season. An alarming number of wicked bats return to lead the offense, including the top six hitters, who all hit .336 or better. Ciocchi is an All American candidate and leads a sound infield, featuring the double-play combo of Calderone and SS Jeff Abrams (.294). They also will have OF Henry Dunn (.347 in 27 starts) around for the whole season this time. Two weekend starters return on the hill in Augliera and LHP James Giulietti (4-1, 5.03) and they are part of a staff that issued just 133 walks all season. That’ll keep Tim Sinicki in prime position for another AmEast coach of the year award. And on top of all that, a brand new baseball complex is in the designs to be built in time for the 2012 season. THAT’s the kind of news college baseball needs to hear from the Northeast.

The Bad News:
Losing their two top staff aces on the mound in Murphy Smith and Jeff Dennis, who combined for 14 wins, AND losing their star closer Greg Lane (7svs) will be a lot to overcome – even for the Bearcats. As mentioned above, the defense should be improved, but keep in mind they were really average last season, posting an unseemly .950 percentage.

Schedule Note:
To “L” with your schedule!
The Bearcats play a pretty stout slate in the pre-AmEast portion, going on the road to take on Longwood, Lehigh, LSU and Louisiana-Monroe. Along with all those L-teams, they’ll also play a great tournament at Tennessee against the homestanding Vols and A-Sun contender Kennesaw State.

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- HARTFORD (15-32, 7-15)
2009 RPI: 261
Starters Returning: 5
Weekend Starters: 1
Mid-Week Starters: 2
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 2

All Conference Candidates:
C Mike Amendola (.362, just 4 Es)
C/DH Andy Drexel (.363-7-49)

The Good News:
Drexel and Amendola represent the two best hitters on the team and exemplify their leadership roles. OF Andrew Siano (.259, 13SBs) was a solid frosh last year and should blossom in a bigger role in 2010. RHP Steve Sobocinski (2-2, 4.88) will be a good anchor to rebuild the staff around. Speaking of the mound, watch for transfer LHP Vincent Fiore to make an immediate impact.

The Bad News:
Try to avoid another 1-12 start like last year, which ruined the Hawks confidence. When the Hawks lost, they tended to lose pretty badly, as 19 of their 32 losses were while giving up double-digit run totals. The offense was 98-pound weakling-like, hitting just 21 home runs and .281 overall. The staff had an AmEast-worst 8.41 team ERA. Must carry on without sparkplug Ben Sobocinski – a leader at the dish and in the field.

Schedule Note:
Another attempt to open at home.
Last year, Hartford had two games scheduled with Bryant for March 3rd and 4th, but, not surprisingly, neither game came about as weather did them in. This year, the Hawks are going to give it the old college try again, scheduling an opening game for March 10th vs. Central Connecticut. We’ll see, right?

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- MAINE (32-23, 13-11)
2009 RPI: 204
Starters Returning: 5
Weekend Starters: 4
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 0

All Conference Candidates:
C Myckie Lugbauer (.321-4-21)
DH/OF Ian Leisenheimer (.356-5-41)
SS Tony Patane (.315-5-31)
LHP Kevin Scanlon (6-3, 3.96, 2svs)
RHP Matt Jebb (7-3, 4.33, 1sv)

The Good News:
A lot to like here, boys and girls. The biggest thing is having all four weekend starting pitchers returning to their post (you can almost hear Coach Trimpner smiling). And best of all?… None of them had an ERA higher than 4.38. Damn, that’s good. They’ll also get back the services of strapping ace Joe Miller (5-2, 3.93 in ’08), who missed most of the ’09 season. Relief ace Jonathan Balentina (3-0, 3.88, 6svs), who has a knack of suffocating opponents, will be around to put the clamps to opposing offenses again. Lugbauer is a big lug behind the dish and could be an All America type of player. As if the pitching corps needed any more quality, incoming RHP Jeff Gibbs was a Toronto draftee last June.

The Bad News:
Black Bears black eye: two straight years of missing the AmEast tournament. That’s not expected for a program used to success. They crapped out in the end, going just 4-8 in the month of May to ruin their season. A trio of four-year starters and team captains in Kevin McAvoy, Billy Cather and Danny Menendez have all hit the bricks and will need their leadership replaced. Cather and Menendez were also the only stolen base threats on the squad (54 of the 73 SBs).

Schedule Note:
Taking on the national champion contenders of ’06 and ’07.
THIS will be a tough slate. No, I’m not kidding, maybe even too tough. The Black Bears will play at both North Carolina and at Oregon State in the first month of the season. That’s harsh dude. Don’t worry, winnable games with Lamar, Lehigh and Penn surround those long jaunts.

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- MARYLAND-BALTIMORE COUNTY (9-36, 4-18)
2009 RPI: 293
Starters Returning: 4
Weekend Starters: 3
Mid-Week Starters: 0
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 3

All Conference Candidates:
1B Max Himmelstein (.304-3-26)
RHP Marty Zawicki (1-2, 4.28, .217OBA)

The Good News:
A rebounding Retriever squad should be in order, if pitching experience has anything to do with it, since UMBC has three weekend starters coming back, led by a pair of seniors in Kevin Clark (3-4, 5.30) and Ed Bach (1-10, 6.02). LHP Travis Pearson (1-5, 4.42) could be a saves leader this season. Zawicki brings one of the most effective arms to the mound and hopes to play a whole season this year.

The Bad News:
Unfortunately, the Retrievers reverted back to the old, downtrodden ways by going from a 13-11 AmEast record in 2008 to just 4-18 last season. Dammit! UMBC didn’t win a game from April 25th onward. With the worst defense in the AmEast at .941, you can see why they had such a tough time. Four of the top five hitters have left, including All-Everything Shawn Retz, who hit .383 last season. Weekend starter Bach must revert to soph form when he went 3-6, 5.11.

Schedule Note:
Hoping for a bunch of warm fronts.
UMBC will spend the first two weeks of the season in nearby locales, hosting Army, playing at George Washington and at George Mason and also hosting Yale at home, making for eight straight games in the local area right off the bat. We’ll see how many they actually get in and how many are called because of the usual poor March weather.

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- STONY BROOK (29-23, 14-10)
2009 RPI: 162
Starters Returning: 5
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 1

All Conference Candidates:
C/DH Nick Thode (.364-6-32)
2B Chad Marshall (.354)
RHP Nick Tropeano (5-1, 5.12)
RHP Tyler Johnson (5-3, 5.32)

The Good News:
The Brook has thrown together three straight winning seasons including last year’s unit that finished one game out of first place in the AmEast. And get this… they also had the best RPI of any AmEast teams at No. 162. The weekend returnees in sophs-to-be Johnson and Tropeano (who was named the Atlantic Collegiate League pitcher of the year over the summer) are solid blocks on the mound. Watch for 1B Rob Dyer (.285-15-50) a true power threat who committed only five errors last season.

The Bad News:
The Seawolves are still stinging from last May’s 0-2 AmEast tourney finish. The left side of the infield needs re-working, though incoming frosh Maxx Tissenbaum could help after being a 43rd round draft pick of Toronto last summer. The entire outfield of Steven Mazzurco, Michael Tansey and Brian Witkowski (who all hit .341 or better) will need to be replaced. Reliever Jordan Purington (1-1, 6.23) needs to revert to his ’08 form when he went 3-3 with 7svs.

Schedule Note:
Murder, pure murder-in-the-first.
Once again Coach Matt Senk is willing to put his troops through a multitude of tough tests, this time have his Seawolves going to UNC Wilmington, Alabama, Pepperdine, San Diego State and Fresno State before AmEast play begins. Look for more tough sledding early on. But come conference play, their callous will be built up and they’ll be ready to rip heads off.

 

COMMENTS:

February 3, 2010 at 4:24 am

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