2013 Preview – The Colonial Athletic Association

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on February 6th, 2013 in 2013 National Preview, Colonial
 

2012 CONFERENCE ISR: 19

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HOW THEY’LL FINISH IN 2013:

1- UNC-Wilmington

2- Hofstra

3- Towson

4- James Madison

5- Delaware

6- George Mason

7- Northeastern

8- William & Mary

9- Georgia State

10- Old Dominion

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THE LOWDOWN.

Five programs won 30+ last season and surprisingly two of the snowbird teams – Hofstra and Delaware – finished 2nd and 3rd in the conference. UNCW was the only team to go Big Dancing, having won the regular season and tournament titles. When you take into consideration how badly Old Dominion and James Madison tanked last year (despite having a lot of experience returning to go along with their winning pedigrees), you have to figure there may be no conference in the country that is as wide open as the CAA will be this year. It’s pretty clear-cut that UNCW has the pitching to make this a back-to-back thing in 2013. But there are a lot of hungry wolves at the door. Stay tuned, ‘coz this has the chance to get really fun.

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BREAKTHROUGH TEAM:

- James Madison.

There’s a hell of a lot of talent coming back for the Dukes, which will help. Keep in mind, this program won 42 games in 2011, then sunk to just 16 last season. The big deal was the fact that JMU was rife with injuries last season. If the Dukes stay healthy this year – knock on wood if you must – they should have a much better season.

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TRENDING DOWN:

- Towson.

Since this will be the last go-round for the TU baseball program, no one will ever be in a down-cycle this bad. But let’s hope for a balls-out nothing-to-lose season from the Tigers, ala Providence in 1999.  (What, too vague of a reference?)

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BIGGEST CLEATS TO FILL:

- Matt Davenport, P, William & Mary

The Tribe had the best team ERA in the conference, but will lose a lot, particularly their ace in Davenport, who had a minuscule 1.73 ERA despite tossing the most innings of any pitcher in the CAA. No. 2 hurler Brett Koehler will be asked to take on a heavier load in the Friday spot.

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BEST PLAYER:

- Jared Hammer, 1B, Hofstra

Not only does he have the best returning batting average of anyone in the CAA at .376, he also has the name of Hammer. Beauty.

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BEST PITCHER:

- Michael Trionfo, RHP, Towson.

The league’s most victorious mound crawler – at 11-2 last year – Trionfo will be a huge key to setting the tone each weekend. It could be a special final year for the Tigers. Trionfo is the key.

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IMPACT NEWCOMER:

- Jordan Negrini, 3B/1B, Old Dominion.

With so little coming back to the roster for ODU, the 6’3, 210 strapper looks like he’ll fill into the infield plans immediately. A JC transfer from Yavapai in Arizona, he hits for power and average and also has a knack of stealing bases on occasion.

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STEAL A LEAR JET FOR…

- UNC-Wilmington at Hofstra, May 17-18.

This has the potential to be a great season wrap-up as the projected top-two of the CAA will square off in the final weekend of the regular season. If this all holds true, it’ll be series with huge ramifications.

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CAPSULES…

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- DELAWARE (31-27, 17-13)

2012 ISR: 175

Starters Returning: 8

Weekend Starters: 1

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

INF Jimmy Yezzo (.358-8-46)

OF Nick Ferdinand (.313-4-47)

RHP Stephen Richter (1-1, 4.39, 8svs)

RHP Chad Kuhl (5-5, 4.42)

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NOTES:

- A 3rd place regular season finish, 31 wins and a trip to the CAA tournament title game ain’t too shabby. Nice work UD. The 2012 season was worthy, especially after the tepid 9-13 start to the campaign. A whole mess of talent returns for the Blue Hens in 2013. In fact, other than leading hitter Alex Maruri (who hit .361), every other fielder of note comes back. In all, 12 players with 20 or more starts last season return for this year’s campaign.

- Middle infielders D.J. Long (.289-4-29) and Brock Niggebrugge (.239) will lead the defense, which fielded at a .965 pace a year ago.

- Coach Jim Sherman and his staff are hopeful that the old E.J. Stolzfus re-emerges in 2013. Last year, E.J. hit a miserable .231, but he went a robust .331 in 2011.

- The pitching will lose the two most-used arms from a year ago in Corey Crispell and Eric Young, who both made 14 starts and tossed 96.2 and 89.1 innings last year respectively. But RHP Chad Kuhl is a player who the pro scouts are keeping an eye on after he had a big summer in the Valley League, pulling the No. 1 slot in their scouts’ Top 10 list for the league. He and Dan Gatto (4-2, 4.89) combined for 24 starts last season.

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- GEORGE MASON (33-24, 16-14)

2012 ISR: 156

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 1

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP Anthony Montefusco (4-3, 3.61)

OF Josh Leemhuis (.256, 10SBs)

3B Blaise Fernandez (.270-2-33)

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NOTES:

- What a turnaround season for the Patriots. Going from 21 wins to 33 in a year’s time and pulling themselves back into contention in the CAA ranks. But a dwindling finish which saw them lose six of their last seven games blew any chances for a post-season run.

- The defense should improve its .965 fielding percentage where infield talents like 3B Blaise Fernandez, 2B Nick Allen (.321), 2B/SS Chris Cook (.226) and 1B Mick Foley (.243) all return to their post. Another key contributor for an infield position could be incoming frosh from Brandon Gum, who spent last summer playing at the college-level Cal Ripken League and should acclimate well to D1 ball this spring.

- Oof! Lots of losses on the bump. Weekend starters Ryan Pfaeffle and A.J. Johnson (combined for 27starts/148innings) and hammer closer Chris O’Grady, who saved 14 games and held opponents to a smothering .163 average, have all moved on. Their brick wall of a backstop in Jake Leonardo has also graduated, so a nearly all-new battery will need to be restocked for this spring.

- A trio of juniors will be the key to the bullpen with LHP Jake Kalish (5-2, 3.00, 5svs, .241OBA), LHP Sean Cabrera (0-1, 5.16, 1sv) and RHP Neight Hoffa (1-2, 5.19). But the cupboard is pretty bare beyond them so a lot of newcomers will need to step in right away and play at a good level.

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- GEORGIA STATE (24-31, 14-16)

2012 ISR: 184

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 0

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

SS Caden Bailey (.315)

1B Nic Wilson (JC transfer)

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NOTES:

- First off, 2012 was a total rebuilding season. The 2011 team won 37 games but there was very little pitching and only two field starters coming back to last year’s squad. So it wasn’t a shock to see the Panthers break their string of four straight 30+ win seasons come to an end.

- Still not a lot of quality pitching coming back, with the loss of all three weekend starters and a good bit of the relief corps, so improving the won-loss mark could be a chore. (Not that head coach Greg Frady is afraid of rebuilding projects in the least, mind you.) But the good news is that RHP Nick Squeglia will return and is expected to take over the Friday starter position. Squeglia missed all of 2012 recovering from injury but hopes to regain his 2011 form.

- Three of the top four bats on the stat sheet come back to pace the offense in Caden Bailey, 2B Greg Bowder and 3B Drew Shields, who went .315, .314 and .303 respectively. Also, because of these three in particular, the defense should improve dramatically from the 2012 unit which fielded at a rather poor .956 pace.

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- HOFSTRA (34-22, 20-10)

2012 ISR: 104

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 2

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 7

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All Conference Candidates:

1B Jared Hammer (.376-4-66, 12SBs)

C Matt Reistetter (.283)

OF Kenny Jackson (.344-4-51)

SS Dalton Rouleau (.328-5-31, 26SBs)

RHP John Tiedemann (7-5, 5.13, .258OBA)

3B Joe Perez (.277-9-24 in 2011)

RHP/DH Bryan Verbitsky (1-3, 6.15)

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NOTES:

- This was a HELL of a year for the Pride. A second place finish with 34 overall wins and a complete turnaround from 2011′s 15-32 campaign. Wow. The only down-side was going 1-2 in the CAA tournament and also having to stomach seeing their fellow Long Island rivals Stony Brook make it all the way to the College World Series. Ugh! Right?

- The best news might be that for the first time in seven years, I finally won’t be able to tauntingly start my write up on Hofstra with the line I’ve been using for the last six years… “Since changing their nickname from the not-offensive “Flying Dutchmen” to the confusing “Pride” Hofstra has finished with a losing record each of the last six seasons.”

But for the record, I’d still like to refer to Hofstra as the Flying Dutchmen. It’s just a significantly cooler name.

- I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the unbelievable job that coach John Russo and his staff did last season. Coach Russo was designated as the interim coach at the 11th hour before the season started. By the time May rolled around, the Blue & Gold were contending for the Colonial crown, closing in on a 30-win season and then named Russo the permanent head coach. What a spree that was.

- The offense led the CAA with a .334 team average and an amazing 157 stolen bases. Although they will lose the top hitter in the conference in Danny Poma – who went .430 at the dish, they will get back the next three most potent sticks in Matt Ford (.384), Jared Hammer (.376) and Kenny Jackson (.344). Dalton Rouleau (26SBs) and Austin Nyman (25SBs) will continue to put major pressure on opposing pitchers, leading the theft brigade.

- RHP Bryan Verbitsky had an “off-year” in 2012 (1-3, 6.15, 5svs) but tore it up in the Cape Cod League last summer, getting 30Ks in 18 innings and even played in the Cape All Star Game. He and weekend ace John Tiedemann will need to step up their numbers, as both had relatively high ERAs and the team ERA was 5.37.

- Be sure to watch for two big new impact players. One is JC transfer Rob Cafiero, who hit .406 at Catawba Valley last season. And for a familiar face coming back, Joe Perez will be a welcome returnee at 3rd base. He has good power to help replace some of the big stick work that left with leading hitter Danny Poma, who hit .430-7-48 in an All American 2012 season.

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- JAMES MADISON (16-35-2, 10-20)

2012 ISR: 245

Starters Returning: 8

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 1

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All Conference Candidates:

UTL Ty McFarland (.330)

1B Matt Tenaglia (.347 career average)

CF Johnny Bladel (.284)

OF Cole McInturff (.360, 15SBs)

INF Conner Brown (.338-3-33)

RHP Patrick Toohers (2-3, 4.29, .250OBA)

LHP Ben Garner (2-3, 6.64)

RHP Chris Huffman (3-5, 4.53, 2svs)

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NOTES:

- Oi vey! Where do I start? The Dukes went from 42 wins in 2011 down to 16 wins last year. They had the worst pitching staff in the CAA at 6.53 and the second-to-last defense at .959. The offense was decent at .288 and even pulled in the 230 walks but it wasn’t enough to help pull the team over its other shortcomings.

- The big bugaboo was the fact that the Dukes had an insane amount of injuries in 2012, so there has to be some better luck in the MASH unit for this spring. That was a major part in what led to the Dukes 5-12-1 downslide from Tax Day on last season.

- The offense is stoked with the top three hitters coming back in Cole McInturff, Connor Brown and Ty McFarland. Also keep an eye on C Bradley Shaban, who only hit .260 but showed flashes of gritty power with six home runs and 41RBI, and the middle infield combo of Casey Goss, who went .288 with 21 stolen bases, and Chad Carroll, who was .279 with 15 stolen bases. All of those returnees should keep the Dukes engines running.

- Coach Spanky McFarland and the staff are beyond ecstatic to be getting Matt Tenaglia back into action for 2013. The thunderbolt junior sat out all of 2012 due to injury but went .341-9-54 as a sophomore and earned All-Virginia honors. And that came off the heels of a Freshman All American season in 2010 where he hit .361.

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- NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON (39-23, 24-6)

2012 ISR: 43

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 2

Key Relievers (20+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

1B Hunter Ridge (.340-4-41)

2B Michael Bass (.326, 20SBs)

OF Tyler Molinaro (.273-16-48)

LHP Mat Batts (6-5, 3.04, 90Ks)

RHP Jordan Ramsey (4-3, 4.36)

LHP Kelly Secrest (5-2, 2.12, .193OBA)

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NOTES:

- Talk about a steady team, the Seahawks finished second across the board in offense (.302), pitching (3.61) and fielding (.972) in the Colonial ranks. And all three categories should post similar numbers with a healthy dose of returnees

- A pair of 2nd team All-CAA returnees will come back to the right side of the infield with Hunter Ridge and Michael Bass. DH Corey Dick (.302-8-35, Freshman All American) and power-hitting Tyler Molinaro will provide the big punch and will join them to make a great base to build the batting order around.

- Pitching should be the strength of the Seahawks with the return of weekend starters Mat Batts and Jordan Ramsey. But the other big news is the healthy return of RHP Blaze Tart, who was 2-0, 3.25, 5saves in 2011 before getting shut down for a full year and a half. Also watch for LHP Christian McDonald, who the coaches raved about in the fall, despite throwing just 11.1 innings last season.

- The bullpen is in great shape as saves leaders Ricky Holden (3-0, 2.78, 4svs) and William Prince (2-3, 2.77, 4svs), both Junior righties, will return to the fold. If set-up man Kelly Secrest, who made 30 appearances, can pitch to potential again, this will be a pitching-strong team. That means, yes, they could be railroaded to the Big Dance again.

- There’s a good crop of future Seahawks joining the fold too. RHP Evan Phillips was a 33rd round pick of the Royals last June and will provide quality depth this year but will get his shot down the road. In the field, the SS position could be manned by incoming frosh Terence Connelly, who possesses a strong arm and also has big stolen base potential.

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- NORTHEASTERN (23-28, 13-17)

2012 ISR: 201

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

2B Jason Vosler (.312-6-43)

SS Oliver Hart (.260-3-20)

3B Rob Fonseca (.289-8-37)

OF Aaron Barbosa (.352, 15SBs)

OF Connor Lyons (.263)

RHP Kevin Ferguson (6-4, 3.78)

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NOTES:

- Despite having most of the pitching staff that led the CAA in 2011 coming back to the mound, the Huskies arms corps took an uncharacteristic dive last year, throwing at a 5.57 ERA, 7th in the conference. Ironically, their usual light-hitting offense turned out to be the 4th-best in the CAA at .289.

- The offense should be a strength again, as witnessed by the seven returning bats to the order. It’s almost odd to write this, considering the history of this arms-rich, hitting-light program, but power at the dish and speed on the basepaths (and in the field) will be the hallmarks of this year’s squad once again. One of the biggest plusses this year is the luxury of getting Michael Foster back, after he played just 15 games in 2011 – hitting .298 at the time.

- So yes, the oddest glitch to last year squad was seeing the team ERA balloon to 5.57 and having their opponents hit .292 off of them. Getting RHP Chris Carmain back in action will be a huge boon. He has thrown 67.2 career innings in 37 appearances prior to having to sit out last season with an injury.

- The Huskies gave up the most stolen bases in the conference last year with 90 thefts against the NU batteries. Fix that, pronto. Getting sophomore catcher Josh Treff should go a long way in fixing that. Like Carmain above, Treff missed the 2012 season but is back this year and ready to go. He’s got a compact built, a great work ethic and a strong arm/pop time.

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- OLD DOMINION (19-34, 9-21)

2012 ISR: 225

Starters Returning: 4

Weekend Starters: 0

Mid-Week Starters: 0

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 5

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All Conference Candidate:

OF Josh Eldridge (.299)

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NOTES:

- This will be the final season for ODU to play in the Colonial as the sports programs will migrate to Conference USA in the summer of 2013. And by the way, that also means the baseball program MUST get markedly better before going to what is considered a “Big Six” conference.

- Like JMU above, the Monarchs are coming off of a stunningly bad season for their high expectations. Getting just about everyone back from the 2011 season didn’t seem to help as they got off to a putrid 3-11 start before conference play kicked off and they never really recovered from there.

- I chastised the Monarchs for hitting a “98-pound weakling-like” .264 in 2011. But then lo and behold they dipped even farther down the rung at .252 last season. Gah! This has got to stop, people.

- Don’t look for ODU to be in this squaller for long. Second-year head coach Chris Finwood has a good track record of success, including his years at Western Kentucky before coming over to be the Monarch head honcho. As their website describes, “losing gnaws at him in ways he can barely describe.” I think he’ll get ODU relevant in baseball again, but last year showed that it will definitely take some time.

- Only eight starting assignments return to the squad this year. But on the flipside of that, all seven saves come back in relievers Deal Ali (3-4, 2.32, 2svs), Brandon Smith (8-1, 4.64, 3svs) and Erick Baker (2-4, 5.15, 2svs).

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- TOWSON (27-31, 15-15)

2012 ISR: 175

Starters Returning: 8

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 2

Key Relievers (14.2+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

1B/DH Brendan Butler (.308, 15SBs)

OF Dominic Fratantuono (.301-5-33, 10SBs)

RHP/OF Brandon Gonnella (3-2, 2.53, 1sv & .283, 15SBs)

RHP Michael Trionfo

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NOTES:

- Aw crap. Sure enough, that thud you heard back in the fall was the corpse of the Towson baseball program hitting the slab as the athletic department decided that it was a good idea to eliminate the baseball program. So this appears as if it will be the final go-round of the Tiger Nine. Dammit.

- The Tigers will need to make a number of turnarounds this season, including patch-working their second-to-last performance in batting (.267) and pitching (.5.79) in the Colonial ranks.

- But, in looking at the glass being half-full, the Tigers will return nearly everybody of significance from last year’s squad. The only players missing will be a .228 hitter and a pitcher who made one start. That’s it. You can’t swing a cat by the tail in a Towson practice without hitting someone with a large amount of experience on this year’s squad. It’s ridiculous.

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- WILLIAM & MARY (31-25, 12-18)

2012 ISR: 167

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 1

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 2

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All Conference Candidates:

3B Ryan Lindemuth (.376-5-48m 15SBs)

2B Kevin Nutter (.321, 11SBs)

1B Michael Katz (316-10-58)

OF Ryan Brown (.302, 17SBs)

RHP Brett Koehler (6-2, 3.21, .237OBA)

RHP John Farrell (2-3, 2.32, 8svs)

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NOTES:

- Jamie Pinzino takes over the Tribe program after spending last year as pitching coach and was previously the head coach at Bryant University, where he was twice named conference Coach of the Year.

- The Tribe program is coming off of losing campaigns in three of the last four years in CAA play, which partially led to Frank Leoni’s resignation.

- Despite the losing mark in CAA play, Pinzino led the Tribe to the best team ERA (3.01) and best opponent batting average (.245) in the conference. The Green and Gold were also 13th in the nation in team ERA. But there’s a lot to replace off last year’s team, including the two biggest starting arms on weekends in 14-game starter Matt Davenport and 12-game starter Cole Shain.

- I got the chance to see incoming freshman Mitchell Akers play in the Area Code Games in Long Beach in the summer of 2011 and I can vouch that his athleticism and energy could be a game-changer for the W&M program. After playing in such a high-profile event like the Area Code Games it’s also a little surprising he didn’t go straight to pro ball like most of those players do. Kudos on coming to college Mitchell Can’t wait to see what you do here.

 

COMMENTS:

February 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm
T-town says:

Great job as always….

The Towson pitcher who had only one start last season was their closer….converted from a starter…..and did lead the nation in K’s/9 inn. for D-1. While his ERA was nothing to yell about, he did help his team and their starting pitching get some of those wins. And…. graduated in 4 years….
Just a proud dad giving some inside scoop…..and it’s a damn shame what the powers that be are doing to a good bunch of players/coaches
thanks…