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2014 CBD Season Preview: Patriot League

PatriotLeagueLogo_thumb.jpgWith 2014 quickly approaching the Patriot League and its members continue to work hard in anticipation for a new Patriot League season. With many changes to all the rosters, it promises to be a very competitive season that could be full of some upsets. As always Army, Navy and Holy Cross will be the teams to beat in 2014 with Bucknell, Lafayette and Lehigh rounding out the bottom of the standings.

Army 29-23 (11-9)

Key Returning Players: 1B/RHP Patrick Mescher, OF Mark McCants, RHP Brian Hapeman, RHP Alex Robinett

Key Losses: RHP Chris Rowley

After relieving head coach Joe Sottolano of his duties this past fall, the Black Knights look to turn a new page as the 2014 campaign slowly approaches. With associate head coach Matt Reid assuming the responsibilities as interim head coach, the Knights and all other parties involved are excited to start fresh with a familiar face at the helm. Coach Reid has experienced success with Army in the past and this change may be just what the program needs to make a run for another Patriot League Championship. Also joining the coaching staff in 2014 will be Eric Folmer who spent the previous eight seasons at Penn State. Folmer brings a lot of experience to the Army program and will be taking care of the outfielders while working with the offense under interim head coach Matt Reid. He will also have recruiting responsibilities which will be beneficial over the next couple of years. Folmer steps into a talented program who knows how to win and his presence will definitely have a positive impact on the team as a whole.

Army is coming off back-to-back Patriot League Championship’s and their win in 2013 became the programs seventh overall title, the most in Patriot League history. Army returns a majority of their core with the only key loss coming with the departure of RHP Chris Rowley. Rowley (9-4, 2.67 ERA) posted an Army single-season record with 97.2 inning pitched while his nine wins in 2013 ranked tied for 5th in a single-season. The loss of Rowley means that players like RHP Erik Washburn (1-0, 3.38 ERA) will have the opportunity to see more starts in the 2014 campaign.

Returning for the Black Knights is handful of talented players that have been important pieces to their success in the past. 1B Patrick Mescher returns after a very impressive year offensively posting a .341 average in 52 games played. The 6’4” senior collected 59 hits and 40 RBI in 2013 and looks to once again lead the offense in 2014. Also returning to the Knights offense is OF Mark McCants (.314, 24 RBI) who is back for his junior season in an Army uniform. The 5’10” prospect has shown gap to gap power and great confidence at the plate which will benefit Army if he is able to continue his success.

On the mound, the Black Knights return RHP Brian Hapeman as well as RHP Alex Robinett to their 2014 staff. In 2013 Hapeman was impressive, posting a 1.69 ERA in 21.1 IP and proved that he had what it takes to compete against some tough offenses only allowing opponents to a .235 batting average. RHP Alex Robinett also had an impressive season going 7-4 with a 3.43 ERA in 86.2 innings pitched. With their returns being certain, Army will be a top contender once again in 2014.

Navy 28-23 (13-7)

Key Returning Players: 1B Kash Manzelli, OF Brandon Beans, OF Robert Currie

Key Losses: OF Greg Dupell, C/DH Dave Milanes,

After a season of ups and downs for the Navy baseball squad, Coach Kostacopoulos looks forward to a fresh start in 2014 despite some key high notes during the 2013 season. One of those high notes included the victory over their long time rival Army which hasn’t been done in a decade. This being said, Navy knows that there is much more at stake here then just one game. Losing 10 seniors is not an easy hurdle to overcome for any program and in the case of Navy’s roster, there will be some changes in 2014 as well as some familiar faces returning to the diamond. The Mids are locked in to a competitive non-conference schedule at the beginning of the year, highlighted with Florida A&M and the annual Freedom Classic which will be a great test for the 2014 roster.

Returning to the infield at first base for the Mids is Captain Kash Manzelli who had a very impressive year last season posting big numbers for Navy. He started all 51 games and was tied for first in hits (64) with teammate Greg Dupell who graduated after the 2013 season. With the loss of OF Greg Dupell, Manzelli will be looked upon to carry a heavy load offensively which won’t seem to be a problem for the experienced veteran. Also returning are outfielders Brandon Beans and Robert Currie. Beans also had a solid year at the plate batting .291 with 52 hits and 21 RBI. OF Robert Currie will also be asked to step up his game to fill in the gaps offensively and provide another threat in the Mids lineup. Currie batted .273 last year with 41 hits and 19 RBI as he added some youth to the lineup. As he matures with time, Currie has the opportunity to become a real talent in the Patriot League. Gone in 2014 is OF Greg Dupell (.320, 3 HR, 39 RBI) who was clearly the biggest threat in the lineup last year which will open up a position in the outfield, which could give Currie the opportunity to start in more games. Also gone is C/DH Dave Milanes who also played a big part in Navy’s success last year after batting .311 with 1 HR and 32 RBI.

With the bulk of the pitching staff returning it looks like the rotation will remain the same for the most part heading into 2014 with some minor changes to the bullpen always a possibility. With young talent like LHP Luke Gillingham (4-3, 3.23 ERA) ready to step up, the mids seem be in good shape heading into the upcoming spring season.

Lehigh 18-29 (5-15)

Key Returning Players: OF Justin Pacchioli, OF Joe Abeln, C/UT Tim McKay, RHP Colin Gotzon

Key Losses: OF Casey Turner

In a disappointing season last year for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks they look to 2014 as a year of redemption. After going only 5-15 against Patriot League opponents, Coach Leary has a tough path ahead of him in order to be prepared for the very competitive upcoming season. With power houses like Army and Holy Cross in the mix it makes it makes it easier to understand the issues that Lehigh has had when it comes to scoring runs and closing out big games. Despite a poor 2013 season, Coach Leary, who enters his 19th season at the controls appears to be optimistic after a successful fall schedule. “The most encouraging thing was that our players came back in terrific shape,” said Leary.  “It was immediately a high level of competition when we got to the scrimmages. By the end of the fall, we feel like we’re in a good spot to do an evaluation of everyone who’s healthy and who’s played the best.”

Gone in 2014 is OF Casey Turner who was a great leader for the Mountain Hawks and led the team in batting average in his senior season. The outfielder batted .337 in 172 at bats while collecting 58 hits and 28 RBI in his final year at Lehigh and will definitely be missed in the Hawks lineup this year. Despite the huge loss to the offense and clubhouse, Coach Leary believes that he has the right combination of newcomers, underclassmen as well as veterans to field a very competitive team in 2014. Also, do not be surprised if some of the incoming freshmen earn starting positions right away as the coaching staff has praised their work ethic and talent thus far.

Returning to the lineup will be OF Justin Pacchioli (.366, 14 RBI) who had a very impressive fall and will resume his spot in centerfield for the Mountain Hawks. His speed and dynamic game play will have him as the cornerstone of the offense. Seniors, OF Joe Abeln (.311, 28 RBI), 1B Tyler Brong (.273, 2 HR, 23 RBI) and RHP Mike Burke (3-4, 5.27 ERA) will also be returning and will add the leadership and commitment needed for a successful season.

On the mound, the Mountain Hawks look to be in good shape as they return RHP Colin Gotzon (5-5, 3.56 ERA) and almost all of their bullpen guys. With this core group returning in 2014 there is a good chance you will see them competing for a post season berth down the stretch.

Holy Cross 28-25 (15-5)

Key Returning Players: OF Evan Ocello, 2B Andrew Barry, RHP Donny Murray, OF Brandon Cipolla

Key Losses: 1B Jordan Enos, OF Patrick Puentes, RHP John Colella,

After a very impressive performance during conference play in 2013, the Crusaders are once again projected to be at the top of the Patriot League in all categories. Head coach Greg DiCenzo enters his seventh season with the Crusaders and is joined by an experienced staff that is familiar with winning. The Crusaders finished the 2013 season with a 28-25 overall record and a 15-5 mark in the conference, which was the best in school history. The Crusaders captured the Patriot League regular season title, but fell short in the Patriot League Championship as they proved to be no match against a talented Army program.

Once again, the Holy Cross baseball squad will be competing in a total of 51 games in 2014, which include three opponents that played in last season’s NCAA tournament. The Crusaders lose a key group of players entering the 2014 season that will have to replace in order for the Crusaders to continue competing at a high level. Gone is 1B Jordan Enos who played in 50 games and led the team in doubles with 18. His .332 average was good for third on the squad and his 37 RBI also led the team. This proves to leave a big gap offensively that will have to be filled in order to stay consistent with run production. Also gone this spring is OF Patrick Puentes who also added a spark to the offense in 2013 batting .320 with 56 hits and 27 RBI. With these two impact players gone from the lineup, Coach DiCenzo will be looking for younger guys to step up and fill those positions. The last key loss is RHP John Colella who put up record like numbers during his time at Holy Cross. As a senior captain in 2013, Colella was named the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year, becoming the first ever relief pitcher to receive the award. He maintained a 3.47 ERA over 49.1 innings pitched and holds the single-season and career saves record with 11 and 28 respectively. He completed his Holy Cross career with a 3.66 ERA through 167.0 innings pitched. With his 25 appearances in 2013, Colella set the school record appearing in 87 games in his career. Colella was a two-time New England All-Star team member, two-time first team All-Patriot League member and a irreplaceable piece of the Holy Cross family.

Despite these losses the Crusaders also have a talented group returning for the 2014 season. Among those returning are outfielders Evan Ocello and Brandon Cipolla who both had very impressive 2013 campaigns. Ocello led the offense in batting average (.338) and hits (67) and played an important role in the success they had last season. Cipolla also impressed finishing just shy of Ocello in batting with a .333 average while posting 62 hits and 30 RBI to his stat sheet. Also returning to the lineup offensively is 2B Andrew Barry (.286, 27 RBI) who was given the Ray Dobens Award for the team’s Most Improved Player after his 2013 performance. Barry brings a repertoire of skills which have proved to be beneficial to the Crusaders as he made a career-high 196 plate appearances which ranks sixth in program history as well as scored a career-high 29 runs. With Barry on the bases, Ocello and Cipolla always a threat at the plate, Holy Cross has the potential to put up some big numbers at the plate.

On the mound, the staff returns RHP Donny Murray who is coming off a very successful summer season with the Falmouth Commodores in the prestigious Cape Cod League. Murray was selected as the 121st ranked prospect by Perfect Game as he joined teammate Evan Ocello who was selected 26th among players in the NECBL. With the Crusaders, Murray led the staff in innings pitched with 72.2 and posted a 4.33 ERA in the process. Murray also led the team in strikeouts (61) and will be the cornerstone for the staff in 2014. The rest of the bullpen seems to be untouched and will most likely go through some changes early on before being solidified. Holy Cross will aim to reach the Patriot League Baseball Tournament for the sixth time in seven years under DiCenzo.

Lafayette 10-40 (6-14)

Key Returning Player: 1B Campbell Lipe, RHP Mitch Leeds

Key Losses: OF Andrew Ruck, INF Kevin Casey

2013 was a year of disappointment for head coach Joe Kinney and the Lafayette Leopards as they only managed to only capture ten victories the entire season. In a conference jam packed with talented programs like Holy Cross, Navy, and Army it is difficult to battle for those top spots in the standings. Despite their season ending in frustration, a good program always has a short memory and Lafayette is no different.

As the 2014 season approaches Coach Kinney has brought in nine talented freshmen to try and shake up the team and add some depth in areas that have fallen behind in production. With the addition of the newcomers, the Leopards return two key players that will definitely be looked upon to step their game up and lead a struggling Lafayette program out of the darkness. 1B Campbell Lipe (.273, 27 hits, 16 RBI) rejoins the Leopard’s lineup for his much anticipated sophomore season and hopes to add a huge jolt to a struggling offense. Also returning is RHP Mitch Leeds (1-2, 4.28 ERA) who ended up throwing 40 innings for the Leopards in 2013. You can expect to see a jump in innings for Leeds with the departure of some arms on the staff as he also enters his sophomore season. Gone in 2014 is OF Andrew Ruck (.318, 3 HR, 18 RBI) who was a regular in the outfield for the Leopards. His team leading batting average will definitely be missed along with his lightning speed. His efforts on and off the field got him selected to the Second Team All-Patriot League as well as named to the Academic All-Patriot League team along with teammate Michael Massa. Also gone this season is INF Kevin Casey (.317, 2 HR, 16 RBI) who helped hold down the offense in 2013. As expected Lafayette is in a complete rebuilding stage with many spots that desperately need to be filled. Unless a major change happens over the offseason, Lafayette may find themselves in the same situation as last season.

Bucknell 16-33 (10-10)

Key Returning Players: OF Corey Furman, LHP Dan Weigel, RHP Andre Andreychik

Key Losses: RHP Dan Goldstein, INF Travis Clark

In 2013 Bucknell rounded out the bottom of the standings alongside Lafayette and Lehigh. Despite their poor overall record, the Bison’s have proved that they have the talent to compete against Patriot League opponents. After a very competitive fall schedule, second year head coach Scott Heather is optimistic about the upcoming season as his players performed above expectations. A season-opening four-game series at South Carolina, a visit to Depew Field by Penn State and four home weekend four-game series highlight Bucknell baseball’s 2014 schedule which will be a huge test for the Bison’s and most likely set the tone for the rest of the season.

Unfortunately the Bison’s will be without RHP Dan Goldstein and INF Travis Clark as they have both graduated from the Bucknell family. RHP Dan Goldstein made 12 starts for the Bison’s in 2013 posting a 4-5 record while holding a 3.60 ERA. After making the move to the starting rotation in early 2012, Goldstein was the work horse of the staff and his absence in the rotation this year will definitely be an issue that must be addressed. Also gone is INF Travis Clark (.278, 2 HR, 19 RBI) who received Second Team All-Patriot League recognition. A three-year starter at second base, Clark hit a team-high .346 during Patriot League play and was second on the squad with 14 multi-hit games in 2013. His 15 doubles this spring ranks eighth on the Bison single-season list, while he is in the top 10 on Bucknell’s career lists for games played (8th, 163), games started (10th, 147), at bats (10th, 553), doubles (7th, 37) and hit by pitch (t-5th, 23).

Luckily for the Bison’s, they will still have some key players returning for the 2014 season, including OF Corey Furman (.291, 1 HR, 21 RBI), LHP Dan Weigel (2-8, 4.33 ERA) and RHP Andrew Andreychik (3-6, 3.73 ERA). Furman, who became a regular in the starting lineup for the first time in 2013, concluded the regular season with a .304 batting average, making him the lone Bucknell player to be above the .300 mark. He began the year in the outfield, but moved to designated hitter for the majority of April and hit .338 during Patriot League play out of mostly the leadoff spot. LHP Dan Weigel also returns as him and Goldstein will make up half of Bucknell’s weekend starting rotation. Weigel finished his season tied for first in strikeouts (59) and was able to hold opponents to a .277 average. Despite his 2-8 record you can count on Weigel to be right back at the top of the rotation come the spring. Rookie of the Year, Andrew Andreychik will also be returning after an impressive freshman campaign. Just the second Bison to earn Rookie of the Year honors, Andreychik was strong all year, but was especially effective during Patriot League play earning three of his four wins in conference play. With Bucknell close on the heels of Army and Navy in Patriot League play, 2014 promises to be a season to follow.

Predictions

  1. Holy Cross
  2. Navy
  3. Army
  4. Bucknell
  5. Lafayette
  6. Lehigh

Top 5 Hitters

  1. Justin Pacchioli (Lehigh)
  2. Evan Ocello (Holy Cross)
  3. Patrick Mescher (Army)
  4. Kash Manzelli (Navy)
  5. Mark McCants (Army)

Top 5 Pitchers

  1. Stephen Moore (Navy)
  2. Alex Robinett (Army
  3. Andrew Andreychik (Bucknell)
  4. Brian Hapeman (Army)
  5. Donny Murray (Holy Cross)