Navy picked to win Patriot League

FROM CONFERENCE PRESS RELEASE
Center Valley, Pa. – Navy has been selected as the favorite to claim the 2008 Patriot League Baseball title in a preseason poll of the League’s head coaches and sports information directors.

The Midshipmen top the poll with 43 points and four first-place votes, just one point ahead of second-place Lafayette which also claims four first-place votes. Army takes third with 37 points, while Bucknell is in fourth place with 29 points. Both schools claim a pair of first-place votes. Lehigh (17 points) and Holy Cross (12) round out the preseason poll. Head coaches and sports information directors were not allowed to vote for their own teams.

Navy recorded a 35-20 overall record and a 12-8 Patriot League mark last season, and advanced to the Patriot League Tournament. Head Coach Paul Kostacopoulos enters his third season at the helm with 16 letterwinners returning, including eight positional players and eight pitchers. Three student-athletes that received All-League honors a year ago are back, including pitcher/utility player Mitch Harris and first baseman Thomas Hamilton. Harris earned Second-Team status as a starting pitcher and designated hitter last season when he led the League with eight home runs and compiled an 8-5 record with a 2.14 earned run average on the mound. He is second in Patriot League history in career ERA (2.32) and strikeouts (254). Hamilton earned First-Team honors after hitting .345 for the season.

Lafayette will go for consecutive titles after winning its first Patriot League Championship in 2007. The Leopards completed the campaign with a 33-20 overall record, and finished 17-3 in Patriot League play for Head Coach Joe Kinney. The Leopards bring back 24 letterwinners from last year’s team, with four All-League performers returning. Third baseman Jeff Butler received First-Team honors after hitting .349 with a .447 on-base percentage a year ago. Starting pitcher Kevin Reese, first baseman Chris Luick and second baseman Tom Hayes return after earning Second-Team All-League accolades.

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Army takes third place in the preseason after falling to Lafayette in the Patriot League Championship Series a year ago. Head Coach Joe Sottolano’s team has 14 letterwinners back after finishing 25-23-1 overall and 12-7 in the League a year ago. Pitcher/outfielder Cole White is expected to lead the way on the mound and in the field once again. White has earned All-League status as a pitcher and positional player in each of his first three seasons, and comes off a year where he led the League with a .408 batting average and posted a 7-3 record in 14 games on the mound.

Gene Depew enters his 27th season at the helm at Bucknell, which finished 16-24 overall and 8-12 in League play a year ago and returns 21 letterwinners. The Bison are led by pitchers Jason Buursma and Matthew Wilson. Buursma recorded five saves and led the Patriot League with a 1.65 ERA last season, while Wilson placed second with a 1.78 ERA. Buursma is second in Patriot League history with 15 saves, while Wilson is sixth with a 3.27 career ERA.

Lehigh was 13-30-1 overall and 2-18 in Patriot League action last year, but Head Coach Sean Leary’s team has 21 letterwinners returning. Shortstop Liam O’Connor earned First-Team All-League recognition with a .342 batting average in 2007.

Holy Cross has a new head coach to go with 21 returning letterwinners. Greg DiCenzo takes over a team that finished 12-23 overall and 8-11 in the Patriot League a year ago. Catcher Brendan Akashian is back after receiving First-Team All-League honors and leading the Patriot League with a .520 on-base percentage a year ago.

Patriot League baseball student-athletes have received national recognition in the preseason. White, Harris and Wilson were all named to the preseason Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award watch list, while Buursma earned a spot on the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award watch list. White also received Third-Team Preseason All-America status from the NCBWA and Louisville Slugger.

The first pitch for the Patriot League baseball season is on Friday, with every team except Holy Cross in action on the opening weekend. The League schedule begins on March 29, and will conclude with the semifinals on May 10-11 and Patriot League Championship on May 17-18. Both postseason rounds are best-of-three series that will be played at the site of the higher seed.

For more information on Patriot League baseball refer to the 2008 Patriot League Baseball Webguide

2008 Patriot League Baseball Preseason Poll

Rank Team Points (First-Place Votes) 2007 Overall Record 2007 League Record
1. Navy 43 (4) 35-20 12-8
2. Lafayette 42 (4) 33-20 17-3
3. Army 37 (2) 25-23-1 12-7
4. Bucknell 29 (2) 16-24 8-12
5. Lehigh 17 13-30-1 2-18
6. Holy Cross 12 12-23 8-11