The CBB continues our series of previews of different conferences throughout the nation. This week we check in on the America East conference which had Binghamton win the Regular Season title and Albany won the conference tournament in a classic 1-0 pitching duel. Albany was put into the Arkansas regional where they lost to Arkansas 9-0 and Creighton 21-11. The conference tournament will be double elimination at the number 1 seed’s home field.
University at Albany
The Albany Great Danes won the America East Tournament after entering as the number 3 seed. The victory led to the Great Danes first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. They went 29-29 and 13-11 in America East.
The Great Danes return their number two and three starters in Casey Walsh and Cory Warrings where both went 5-6. The Great Danes will miss their ace starter John Naples who went 8-3 with a 3.71 ERA. Alexander Beaulieu is the top returning closer in America East as he got 10 saves in 24 appearances with a 2.81 ERA.
The offense is going to be led by Sean Donavan who finished third in hitting with a .322 batting average. The Great Danes will need to replace their top two hitters in Steve Wyland and Sean Doyle who both graduated after stellar careers with the Great Danes. Thomas Zink is expected to take over behind the plate as he struggled in his 34 games as he only hit .233. He is the only catcher on the roster with Division 1 playing experience as Ryan Gugel will serve as a backup after transferring from Genesee Community College.
The Great Danes should be back into the hunt for the conference championship but will need some young players to step into some leadership role to make it back to back NCAA tourney appearances.
The Binghamton Bearcats had a solid season as they won the America East regular season title with an overall record of 28-19 and 17-5 in America East.
The Bearcats will be bringing back the top pitcher in the conference in Jeff Dennis. He has already been named to the Brooks Wallace Watch List for the 2008 season. He went 4-2 with a 2.62 ERA which was the lowest on the team in 2007. Senior Zach Groh will also return to the rotation after being named to the America East first team after going 7-1 with a 3.28 ERA. They will also have their top reliever in Khalid Afify who accumulated a 5-2 mark with six saves in 17 appearances. He was named to the 2007 America East second team.
Junior shortstop Kyle Klee finished fourth on the team in 2007 in batting average and is the top returning hitter. Klee hit a solid .314 in 35 games. The other two starters to hit above .300 were Ryan James (.311 BA) and Ken Jacobi (.310) who will be expected to contribute more as they try to defend their regular season championship.
Binghamton will continue to be a power on the mound with Groh and Dennis leading the staff but need to replace their top three hitters from the 2007 squad. If they can replace these three players they should be right in the hunt for the conference championship again.
The Hartford Hawks had a disappointing 2007 season which saw them go 15-34 and 9-14 in America East. They failed to qualify for the America East tournament.
The Hawks bring back their top starting pitcher in Weston Szymanski who appeared in 14 games including nine starts as he went 6-5 with a 2.99 ERA. He will be joined by Pete Moraski who made nine starts as he went 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA. The Hawks will be looking to some freshmen to make an impact on the pitching staff.
Junior Ben Sobocinski led the Hawks in batting average at .333 in 2007 and second on the team in hitting was Senior Bill Perry who hit .327. The Hawks had no other hitters above .300 in 2007. Who else is going to be able to contribute this season?
The Hawks look like a program heading in the wrong direction with subpar hitting and pitching. How are they going any of the America East teams with such a poor pitching staff and offense?
The Maine Black Bears struggled through the 2007 season as they went 22-31 and 12-11 in America East. Head Coach Steve Trimper is entering his third in charge of the Maine program after a successful run at Manhattan. His career coaching record is 229-227-1.
Junior Alejandro Balsinde will lead the pitching staff as he is the top returning pitcher with 20 appearances. He should move into the rotation as Greg Norton and Brad Hertzler graduated. Senior Nolan Boike needs to step up his game during his final season as he struggled to a 1-1 record with a 8.07 ERA. The Black Bears get two highly touted players from outside the United States in Jonathan Belentina and Matt Jebb. Balentina is a 6’3 lefty which hails from Curacao and continues the tradition of players coming from the island to head up to Orono. Jebb is a 6’6 righty out of Toronto Ontario which should provide depth to an inexperienced pitching staff.
The Maine Black Bears led America East hitting at .301 as a team. They return one of the top hitters in the conference with Curt Smith from Willemstad Curacao. Smith picked up some national recognition going into last season as he was named to the 2007 NCBWA Pre-season Third team. He had a solid 2007 campaign as he batted .351 with eight homers in 52 games. Billy Cather is played in 47 games for the Black Bears where he hit a solid .321 with an outstanding season on the basepaths as he had 17 stolen bases in 19 starts. Transfer Joe Mercurio from Illinois and freshman Evan Jones are competing for the starting spot at catcher.
I believe that Steve Trimper is bringing Maine back to the national stage with some solid recruiting classes coming in and he is an excellent on the field coach as he led his former team Manhattan to consecutive upsets in the Nebraska regional.
UMBC had a horrible 2007 campaign with a 13-40 overall record and a pathetic 4-20 mark in the conference. Head Coach John Jancuska is entering his 31st season with a career record of 633-611-6.
The Retrievers return four out of their six starting pitchers from the 2007 squad. Steve Evans a 6’5 205 pound right handed pitcher returns from a 3-5 season with a 4.66 ERA including three complete games. Marty Zawacki made 15 appearances including nine starts where he accumulated a 10.28 ERA with a 3-8 record.
The Retrievers return six out of their nine starters from the 2007 squad led by Will Delawter. He was the only player to hit above .300 as he led the team in hitting at a .365 clip. He chipped in with six homers and 38 RBI. Senior Joe Fowler led the team with eight homers on the year.
The Retrievers can’t have as bad of a season in back to back season. I predict that they improve on a 4-20 mark up to a fifth place finish.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The information on the Stony Brook athletic site is severely outdated with the 2006 roster still posted on the website.
Stony Brook had a solid season which saw them finish in second place behind Binghamton. They went 31-24 and 16-7 in America East.
Redshirt Senior Jonathan Kalkau had a perfect 7-0 record in 11 appearances including six starts with three complete games. We are currently looking for some more information on the Seawolves pitching staff.
Stony Brook returns sophomore catcher Michael Stephan after he finished the 2007 season second on the team in batting average coming in at a clip of .328. Brian Witkowski had a solid 2007 season which saw him lead the team with 22 stolen bases in 25 attempts and had a .317 average.
I can’t really make a prediction on the team with the lack of information available.
Vermont had a tough season in 2007 which saw them go 21-29 and 10-13 in America East good enough for a fifth place finish. Head Coach Bill Currier is entering his 21st season with the program as he has a career record of 436-413 record.
The Catamounts return five starters with sufficient experience. LHP Justin Albert is the top returning pitcher who went 4-3 with a 2.21 ERA. Two-way player Kyle Henry is a threat on the mound as he went 4-8 with a 4.22 ERA. Eric Thompson (3-6, 7.44 ERA), Joe Serafin (5-3, 4.23 ERA), and Keith Rakus (3-1, 2 SV, 5.79 ERA) are the other three returning pitchers. Sophomore Tom Kelly who is entering his first season with the Catamounts program will try to break into the rotation after transferring from Suffolk.
Vermont returns five out of their nine starters from the 2007 squad. Kyle Henry is the top returning hitter as he hit .298 average with five homers and 28 RBI. Kyle Massie is a senior co-captain who looks to improve on a .292 average and 12 stolen base 2007 campaign. Some of the other returning hitters are Jeff Nolet (.206 BA), Ethan Paquette (.235 BA), and returning from an injury in Miguel Magrass (.303 BA in 2006).
Vermont should finish higher in the standings with about a fourth place finish. This is a program that is at a severe disadvantage in terms of scholarships and backing from the athletic department but head coach Bill Currier has done an excellent job up in Burlington.
Predicted Conference Finish
5. Stony Brook
Photos are the courtesy of the respective schools.