By John McGraw
|Nick Hart was 5-for-11 last year as Cortland swept Oswego State in a three game series in 2016.
Cortland athletics photo
The 2016 season was a banner year from teams in the New York Region. Two teams from the region, SUNY Cortland and St. John Fisher, advanced to the World Series and a third, Oswego State, was just two wins away from winning the Manchester, Conn., regional. Away from the diamond, D3baseball.com All-American Jake Fishman from Union (N.Y.) College, St. John Fisher’s Marc Iseneker and C.J. Picerni of New York University were all selected in the 2016 Major League Baseball amateur entry draft. Both Fishman and Iseneker were taken after standout junior seasons.
Looking ahead to 2017, familiar foes will face off on the road to Appleton. SUNY Cortland opens the 2017 season ranked first in the D3baseball.com Top 25. The Red Dragons have represented the region 14 times at the World Series over the last 21 years. However, Cortland must replace its entire starting pitching rotation for the second year in a row and that includes filling the shoes of D3baseball.com Player of the Year Seth Lamando.
Cortland’s top challenger in the region and the SUNYAC as well will be 12th ranked Oswego State. The Lakers, led by SUNY Cortland grad Scott Landers, have been to the NCAA tournament two years in a row and a veteran team looks ready to take the next step.
Empire 8 powerhouse St. John Fisher opens the season ranked eighth after reaching the World Series for the first time in school history in 2016. While the Cardinals lose a lot from last year’s team, head coach Brandon Potter has put together seven-straight seasons with at least 25 victories and the Cardinals appear to still be the class of the Empire 8. Ithaca could be lurking as a darkhorse candidate among regional sides. The Bombers return nearly all of their offense from last year but will need to find pitching with D3baseball.com All-American John Prendergast having graduated.
Other potential regional teams to watch include defending Liberty League champ Union, defending Skyline tournament winner St. Joseph’s (Long Island), Farmingdale State and Old Westbury.
Mike Armstrong, Alfred State: Alfred State tapped Armstrong as its head coach in mid-January. Armstrong spent the past four years as an assistant coach in the NESCAC at Amherst. The Purple and White won over 100 games and made three NCAA tournament appearances during Armstrong’s tenure. Armstrong finished his collegiate playing career at Ithaca and went on to work for longtime head coach George Valesente before going to Amherst. He has extensive summer collegiate experience as well having working in both the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League and New England Collegiate Baseball League.
Matthew Righter, Vassar: Righter moved across the Hudson River from New Paltz to Vassar to become the Brewers boss with the departure of Jon Martin to Bates. Righter helmed the Hawks of New Paltz for three seasons and won 41 games in that time period. Last season, New Paltz won 20 games and finished with a .533 winning percentage, the highest at the school in 15 seasons. Righter pitched in the Detroit Tigers farm system after a successful four year career at Johns Hopkins. He worked as an assistant at his alma mater between 2009 and 2014.
|Andy Salvatore has been at Bard as an assistant coach and now the head coach from the beginning of Bard baseball.
Bard athletics photo
Andy Salvatore, Bard: Andy Salvatore has been one of the only baseball coaches Bard has known since the school re-started the program in 2013 after a 76-year absence. When Bard skipper Ed Kahovec resigned to take an assistant coaching position at Holy Cross, the school promoted Salvatore to head coach. The 2017 season will be Salvatore’s fifth at Bard. He has helped the Raptors to 21 wins, 11 in the Liberty League, over the last two years. Prior to Bard, Salvatore played and coached at Oswego State.
John Muller, Mt. St. Vincent: Muller takes over for the Dolphins after spending two seasons at Division II St. Thomas Aquinas as a pitching coach. Muller’s STAC squad won 37 games last year and advanced to the NCAA tournament. He was a two-way standout for St. Thomas Aquinas during his playing career and went on to pitch professionally for five seasons. Muller signed with the Chicago Cubs out of school and was a Northwest League all-star while pitching for the Boise Hawks.
Arlan Freeman, New Paltz State: Freeman arrives in New Paltz after a successful four-year run as an assistant coach at in-region foe Stevens. During Freeman’s four years in Hoboken, the Ducks won 105 games. His 2014 pitching staff, that helped the team reach the NCAA tournament, led all Division III schools in total strikeouts and set a school record with a 2.34 team earned run average. Freeman has also worked as an assistant coach at Division II Felician, Lynn and Barry. He pitched collegiately at Keene State.
Games to Watch in 2017
February 26: Cortland at Randolph Macon: Part of Cortland’s spring break trip, this will be one of 10 games against teams that made the NCAA tournament in 2016.
March 25 - 26: St. John Fisher at Ithaca: Top two teams in the Empire 8 collide in a four-game series at Ithaca’s Freeman Field.
April 21 – 22: Oswego at Cortland: The SUNYAC regular season championship may come down to the penultimate weekend of April. The Red Dragons and the Lakers will play a three-game series at Wallace Field. The winner will likely host the conference tournament in May and have the inside track to a number one seed in the regionals.
May 6 – 7: The final weekend of Liberty League conference play. Last year’s league champion Union squares off with Capital District rival RPI in a home-and-home series. Vassar travels north to Canton to face St. Lawrence, Bard entertains RIT at Honey Field and Rochester welcomes in Skidmore. With every spot in the league standings hotly contested last year and splits by percentage points, the final weekend in the conference will find out who’s in and who’s out of the Liberty League tournament.
|Glenn Glennerster is the only player on the Staten Island roster that started every game in 2016.
Staten Island athletics photo
City University of New York Athletic Conference: Staten Island (26-13) is the only CUNYAC team to make the NCAA playoffs, making the trip in 2015. Last year they repeated as CUNYAC champions but were not rewarded with a bid reserved for teams that do not have an automatic bid or an at-large pass. Glenn Glennerster (.336, 8 SB, 26 RBI) will be joined with Bobby Drake (.344, 10 SB, 13 RBI) as the top returners on defence, both patrolling the outfield. A pair of junior starters will be a potent 1-2 combo. Tom Musso (5-4, 3.11 ERA, 55K) and Christian Capellan (5-1, 3.82 ERA, 43K) return after successful sophomore seasons.
Baruch (14-18) has the weekend series with Staten Island circled as this set of games will go a long way in determining the regular season champion of the CUNYAC. Baruch brings back both their top hitters and starters so a 1-2 finish with Staten Island looks assured. Three Bearcats were named team captains this year. They are the top batter, Jasdeep Buttar (.378, 18 2B, 27 RBI), Top defensive star, Matthew Ballone (.272, 10 2B, 18 RBI) and the top pitcher Cameron Kitt (4-2, 3.14 ERA, 51K).
John Jay (13-28), Maine-Presque Isle (12-26), Lehman (10-28), and CCNY (5-33) will need some help to break the stranglehold Staten Island and Baruch have on the top of the conference.
Empire 8: Seven schools will vie for the Empire 8 championship in 2017 and this year is different as the conference champion is guaranteed an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. St. John Fisher, as an at-large selection, made the World Series last spring for the first time in program history. The Cardinals claimed the conference’s regular season crown. However, Ithaca College prevailed in the postseason conference tournament to claim its 14th Empire 8 title in 17 years. The Bombers and the Cardinals again will fight for the catbirds’ seat in the Empire 8.
Seven all-conference selections and 30 players overall return from St. John Fisher’s school record setting 39-win season. The best of the bunch is D3baseball.com Preseason All-American Loukas Brigham (2-1, 10 SV, 1.73 ERA). However, the Cardinals will have serious shoes to fill as head coach Brandon Potter must replace three quarters of his starting rotation and the top of his batting order. Big bopper Scott Eisenmenger (.297, 10 HR, 56 RBI) and Nate Roethel (.403, 31 RBI) are the top returning Cardinal hitters along with Malcolm Kelsey (.331, 3 HR, 32 RBI). Jim Dawson (9-1, 2.08 ERA, 52.0 IP) topped St. John Fisher in wins as a freshman. He’ll be counted upon to shoulder an increased load on the mound in 2017.
Offense should be abundant on Ithaca’s South Hill in 2017. Bomber batsmen belted 28 home runs in 2016 and hit .294 altogether. The majority of that offensive core is back topped by Sam Little (.329, 5 HR, 41 RBI), Webb Little (.328, 4 HR, 30 RBI), Ryan Henchey (.327, 4 HR, 25 RBI) and Trevor Thompson (.318, 6 HR, 33 RBI). Head coach George Valesente’s line-up will have returning starters at nearly every position. However, the biggest question mark for the Blue and Gold will be on the mound with the graduation of All-American John Prendergast. IC’s pitching staff will be young and Tyler Hill (5-7, 3.31 ERA, 81.2 IP) projects to be the top starter. Division I transfer Jake Binder (Fairfield) may also factor into Ithaca’s pitching plans.
Like Ithaca, Stevens must move on after graduating an All-American pitcher with the loss of D3baseball.com All-American Jayson Yano. While Yano has departed, the Ducks will now be led by another two-way standout in Zeph Walters (.370, 7 HR, 38 RBI). Walters paced Stevens in ERA (1.69) and OBA (.202) last season as well as runs batted in, slugging percentage (.616) and on-base percentage (.486). Six position players return for the Ducks though the offense overall through the batting order must improve. A young pitching staff will boast Walters and the returning Alex Detweiler (3-1, 1.76 ERA, 41.0 IP, 2015) who missed last season due to injury. Help also may come from a 13-man freshman class. Of the rookies, shortstop Eric Zickert may earn an opening day nod.
In year number two as a program, Elmira (16-24) doubled its win total overall from 2015 and the team improved its win total against Empire 8 sides by three. Entering 2017, the Soaring Eagles are looking to fly into the conference tournament after falling short by one game last spring. Slugger Dylan Bellinger (.378, 5 HR, 40 RBI) is one of the top returning mashers in the conference and he’s joined by fellow all-league choice Hayden Rothenberg (.340, 17 RBI, 14 SB) on a line-up that hit .298 last season. Other All-Empire 8 returnees for Elmira include two-way standout Conor Barwiec (5-4, 5.43 ERA, 58.0 IP) and Nick Sampogna (4-3, 2.90 ERA, 53 K).
SUNY Canton (15-24) enters its second season as an Empire 8 baseball member. The Roos competed in the conference tournament in 2015 and then played a full league slate last spring. Canton should be in the mix to return to the postseason in 2017 with nearly everyone back. Seth Douglas (.383, 8 HR, 51 RBI, 13 SB) and Wilson Matos (.379, 4 HR, 29 RBI) form one of the most dangerous one-two punches in the league.
Utica (9-25-1) qualified for the Empire 8 tournament and knocked off St. John Fisher in the opening round. First team all-conference selection Tim Quinlan (.404, 3 HR, 28 RBI) topped UC in batting average and RBI as a freshman. J.T. Ross (.331, 25 RBI), Matthew Fitzgerald (.301, 8 RBI) and reliever Dan Caccioppoli (1-0, 3.86 ERA, 32.2 IP) are the other top returning Pioneers.
Houghton (13-25) rounds out the Empire 8 contingent. The Highlanders will start anew with 11 freshmen. Joseph Gilligan (.289) and Tage Johnson (.288, 28 RBI) are the top returnees.
|Kent Curran (pictured) joins Adam Ashenfarb and Jake Vesling as captains of the 2017 Dutchmen.
Union athletics photo
Liberty League: The road to the regionals through the Liberty League has gone through New York State’s Capital District over the last four years. Route 7 rivals Union (N.Y.) and RPI have split the last four Liberty League tournament titles and Union has finished first in the league table three out of the last four seasons.
The conversation about the Liberty League in 2017 starts in Schenectady where Union head coach Paul Mound has built a consistent winner. The defending league champions must replace All-American Jake Fishman, lost to the draft and three of their top four hitters. The cupboard is far from bare in the Electric City with six returning starters and a deep pitching staff that will need to traverse the rigors of conference play. Kent Curran (.376, 23 RBI), Andy Labeck (.359, 12 RBI, 2015), Harrison Glatt (.321, 16 RBI) and Joe Ganim (.276, 26 RBI, 10 SB) form Union’s core of returning veteran hitters. Labeck, who cobbled together a 1.73 ERA in seven starts in 2015, missed most of last year due to injury. While Union is loaded with upperclassmen after graduating a small senior class, several newcomers could appear in the opening day line-up. Adam Ashenfarb (2-4, 2.41 ERA, 52.1 IP) will anchor the Garnet pitching staff while closer Billy Christopher (2-3, 2 SV, 3.37 ERA, 10.2 IP) will look to return to his Liberty League Closer of the Year form of 2015.
Including Union, seven of nine Liberty League teams finished 2016 at .500 or better in conference. The line between teams making and missing the conference tournament will be as thin as ever. Clarkson (20-16) slugged its way to a second-place regular season finish with a league-best .318 batting average and 251 runs scored in 2016. Chris Miller (.449, 40 RBI, 62 H) is the one of the top batsmen in the region. The Golden Knights also return Liberty League Rookie of the Year Brad Pearson (.323, 24 RBI), Will Coleman (.277, 23 RBI) and Dom Pirro (24 RBI). Coleman is the latest in a strong line of Clarkson utilitymen sharing the same surname. He struck out 47 and walked three in 10 appearances on the bump. He and first team all-conference choice Ted Wilson (6-4, 2.72 ERA, 59.2 IP) will be Tech’s two top inning eaters in conference play. The most intriguing openings for Clarkson are in the infield where the Golden Knights project to possibly be starting rookies around the horn.
The biggest losses to graduation are in western New York where Rochester graduated five all-conference and two all-region performers. The losses include UR’s top three hitters and two frontline starting pitchers so Rochester must re-tool. But, the Yellow Jackets may have the best pitcher in the loop in D3baseball.com All-New York hurler John Ghyzel (7-1, 2.97 ERA, 60.2 IP, .245 OBA). Outside of Ghyzel, head coach Joe Reina may rely on his other most experienced returning arms in closer Luke Meyerson (4-1, 4 SV, 5.58 ERA, 40.1 IP) and Jack Denzer (2-3, 5.52 ERA, 44.0 IP). Of the new faces on the pitching staff, southpaw Jack Donlon, an all-county selection from New Jersey and utility man Jack Herman, an all-conference pitcher in high school, project to have the most impact. UR’s top returning swinger is all-conference first baseman Aiden Finch (.326, 4 HR, 31 RBI). The Jackets will also get a back returning shortstop Tyler Schmidt (.345, 21 RBI) who started as freshman but missed all of last year.
Rensselaer (17-26) finished in the league’s top four and reached the Liberty League championship game before falling to Union. The Engineers return a majority of their position players. Sam Lawrence (.320, 33 RBI), Thomas Desmond (.320, 4 HR, 19 RBI) and J.T. Sawyer (.271, 15 RBI) have Rensselaer’s biggest bats though head coach Karl Steffen will need more offensive production out of the entire line-up to improve upon a .262 team batting average. Coming off of a brilliant freshman season, all-conference pitcher Brendan McNerney (6-2, 2.66 ERA, 61.0 IP, 48 K) will drive ‘Tute’s train on the mound along with Aaron Kalish (55.1 IP, 44 K). Among 16 newcomers is pitcher Erick Zecha, a three-time all-state selection from New Hampshire.
In a conference full of big time boppers, D3baseball.com Preseason All-American Will Gorman (.367, 8 HR, 52 RBI) of Rochester Tech is one of the standouts. Gorman set five school single-season records in 2016. Most impressive is that Gorman blasted five home runs and collected 34 RBI over the Tigers final 12 games of the regular season. RIT was one of several teams that narrowly missed the conference playoffs last year. Gorman will have help in the line-up from Jason Schulz (.330, .450 OBP) and Daniel Zeglen (.296, 21 RBI), both all-conference choices as freshmen. Zeglen may see more time on the mound in 2017 as well after posting a team low 1.59 ERA in six pitching appearances. Six position player starters will be back for the Orange and Black including Brett Kajanich who hit .444 with five RBI in five games before an injury sidelined him the rest of the season. Brian Reed (2-3, 4.35 ERA, 49.2 IP) is RIT’s top returning pitcher.
Matt Righter takes over Vassar after three years at nearby New Paltz. He inherits a veteran team that won 18 games and finished one game out of the playoff picture. Last spring, Vassar doubled its amount of league victories from 2015 and six seniors have conference tournament experience. On the bump, Righter will benefit from the return of senior arms Adam Erkis (1-4, 3.25 ERA, 55.1 IP), Trent Berg (1-3, 4.63 ERA, 43 K) and Robert Winkelmann (2-1, 2 SV, 4.22 ERA) as well as reliever Joe Conti (2-2, 4.21 ERA). Offensively, the Brewers bats will be led by Bobby Kinne (.316, 13 RBI) and Mike Koscielniak (.357, 22 R).
Like RIT and Vassar, St. Lawrence finished just one game outside of the conference playoff hunt in 2016. Four all-league players march back to Canton including Michael LeFevre (.369, 30 RBI), Taylor Diglio (.346, 17 RBI), Liam Rogers (3-2, 2.21 ERA, 20.1 IP) and Evan Reichel (3-3, 3.67 ERA, 41.2 IP). Head coach Pete Hoy has eight returning starters that will dot the SLU line-up card.
Both Skidmore (14-25) and Bard (10-30) are looking to break into the conference tournament picture. Racing back for the Thoroughbreds are all-conference picks Josh Brown (.338, 4 HR, 38 RBI), Ben Murphy (2-0, 2.52 ERA, 35.2 IP) and Andrew Aikins (4-4, 4.41 ERA, 49.0 IP). A large freshman class will join a team with six returning starters. In Annandale-on-Hudson, Bard moves on from the only head coach in program history. Former assistant Andy Salvatore now guides the Raptors whom had five players named to the conference all-star team last spring. Alex Bunnell (3-1, 3 SV, 1.84 ERA, 17 APP) should again be one of the best relievers in the conference. John Wendt (2-0, 1.14 ERA, 23.2 IP) projects to be one of Bard’s top arms after being out most of last season. David Schlosser (.344, 17 BB, 15 SB) and Adam Carafotes (.321, 5 HR, 27 RBI) will power the Bard offense.
|Old Westbury shortstop Tommy Ziegren led the NCAA in triples in 2016.
Old Westbury athletics photo
Skyline Conference: St. Joseph’s College (Long Island) became the first school since 2007 to put a halt to Farmingdale State and Old Westbury’s dominance in the Skyline tournament. The Rams and Panthers bogarted the conference crown between 2008 and 2015 with Farmingdale State capturing seven in a row during that time frame. The Golden Eagles tied for third at the end of the regular season and then swept through the conference tournament with four-straight victories. SJCNY also impressed in the Washington, Pa., regional, knocking out powerhouse Johns Hopkins in the elimination round.
The 2017 Skyline forecast looks to be another tight race for Gotham-area supremacy. The defending tournament champs from St. Joseph’s (Long Island) can pitch with the top three starters back with the group topped by Ryan Aloise (8-2, 2.03 ERA, 71.0 IP, 54 K) and Brandon Lubrano (4-3, 3.04 ERA, 50.1 IP, 50 K). Left-handed hurler P.J. Martino should bolster the back end of the bullpen. He posted a 1.07 ERA and three saves in 50.2 innings at Division II Bridgeport in 2015. Pitching will need to carry the Eagles while the offense comes together. The Eagles graduated six players with at least 90 at-bats. Among the players that are back, Anthony Bonilla (.281, 25 RBI) will be the most pivotal.
Old Westbury won a league best 26 overall games last year but the Panthers were tripped up in the conference tournament. It’s no surprise that the Panthers best asset is speed. Old Westbury led all Division III teams in triples (14) and stolen bases (119) last spring. Ten of Old Westbury’s 14 triples were belted by all-region selection Tommy Ziegen (.348, 4 HR, 42 RBI, 26 SB). Along with Ziegen, other all-region honorees back are Kevin Lao (.353, 7 HR, 34 RBI) and Michael Cardino (.340, 23 RBI). Among Westbury’s seven returning starters, four swiped at least 10 bases in 2015. On the mound, the Panthers will have questions with the loss of several important arms. Daniel Aquilo (6-3, 3.59, 57.2 IP, 55 K) leads all upperclass hurlers. The starting rotation will be led by Division I transfer Adam Heidenfelder (Hofstra). Heidenfelder, a two-time Nassau County Pitcher of the Year, struck out 44 over 22 appearances as a relief pitcher last spring for the Pride.
A young Farmingdale State team came together to finish in a first-place tie with Old Westbury in 2016. In terms of youth, seven of Farmingdale’s top eight hitters were freshmen and sophomores. Nick Attardi (.420, 14 RBI, 50 H) led the Rams in batting average, hits and runs scored as a freshman. He’ll again be the offensive catalyst and have support from Brandon Ernest (.277, 18 RBI), Dalton McCarthy (.353, 14 RBI, 8 XBH), Dominic Palumbo (.316, 15 RBI) and Ryan Osbourne (.280, 3 TRP). On the mound, Matt Seelinger (4-1, 3.24, 58.1 IP, 63 K) , the reigning Skyline Pitcher of the Year, will once again be the Rams top arm.
SUNY Maritime looks to play the role of spoiler to the projected top three. The Privateers are coming off one of the best seasons in school history with 22 victories and a co-third place finish in conference under Skyline Coach of the Year Charlie Barbieri. While the Privateers do lose an all-conference outfielder, six of nine starters and all four pitchers are back in Throggs Neck on one of the deepest teams that Maritime has had. The bevy of returning starters is led by the offensive core of Stephen Semler (.392, 4 HR, 25 RBI), Brian McLaughlin (.360, 2 HR, 19 RBI) and Chris Deddo (.328, 5 HR, 25 RBI) and pitchers Anthony D’Ancona (2-2, 2 SV, 2.78 ERA, 45.1 IP) and A.J. Ammirati (4-3, 3.08 ERA, 64.1 IP, 49 K).
St. Joseph’s (Brooklyn) qualified for the Skyline tournament in its first year in the conference. To return to the league playoffs, the Bears will have to replace their top hitter and pitcher, 2016 Skyline Player of the Year Brian Luebcke. As a team, St. Joseph’s hit .311 last season, smashed 71 doubles and launched 24 home runs. Seventeen belts are back with the best boppers being Nicolas LoPrinzi (.377, 5 HR, 34 RBI) and Michael Camerada (.323, 5 HR, 27 RBI). With SJC’s two best starting pitchers graduated, the onus will fall on seniors Mitch Brigando (3-4, 5.44 ERA, 48.0 IP) and Connor Pasetti (3-5, 5.32 ERA, 44.0 IP). The pitching staff overall will be young; of 12 freshmen, seven are pitchers.
Youth will be on display on Newburgh where Mount St. Mary (14-25) welcomes 20 newcomers. The Knights return only 12 players from a conference tournament participant. Tom Hueve (16 RBI) is Mount’s best returning hitter. Purchase (12-23) showed a three-win improvement from 2015 and a large senior class should have the Panthers in the hunt to return to the Skyline playoffs for the first time since 2014. Defense will be a key for Purchase which finished second in the conference in fielding percentage (.970) last spring.
State University of New York Athletic Conference: SUNY Cortland has won 34 State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) championships overall and last May the Red Dragons claimed their 23rd SUNYAC tournament title in 26 years. Under head coach Joe Brown, Cortland has won 15 of the last 17 SUNYAC titles. Cortland finished one game ahead of the regional contender Oswego State last year and then the Red Dragons sunk the Lakers in the conference tournament championship game.
Cortland has major holes to fill with the graduation of 12 seniors including two D3baseball.com All-Americans and three other all-conference selections. And for the second year in a row, the Red Dragons must nearly replace their entire starting pitching rotation with 25 starts lost from last spring. Despite the graduation losses, Joe Brown feels this year’s team may be one of his deepest. Cortland will get a boost on the mound from the return of Alex Weingarten (9-1, 2.83 ERA, 60.1 IP) who was part of the 2015 national championship team. Jeff Cooke (8-1, 2.96 ERA, 67.0 IP) is the top returning starter from 2016 for an overall pitching staff this spring that could feature as many as eight southpaws. Among the incoming left-handers of note are Division I transfers Pat Merryweather (College of Charleston), a former NJCAA All-American, and Jake Casey (Canisius), a local product and all-state selection. Offensively, there are questions in the middle of the line-up though two of the top run producers in Nick Hart (.350, 41 RBI) and Steven Figueroa (.349, 41 RBI) should continue to be reliable at the top of the line-up card. A tough early season schedule may prove challenging for Cortland with potentially four new position player starters.
Should Cortland falter, a veteran and talented Oswego State team could rise to the occasion. The Lakers bring back the majority of last year’s 35-win side. Oswego’s seniors have won 83 games over the last three seasons. D3baseball.com All-American Eric Hamilton (.399, 13 HR, 55 RBI) headlines a list of five returning all-conference selections. The Lakers averaged over seven runs per game last year and batted .327 as a team. Seven swingers return that hit at least .300. Myles Kutscher (.353, 6 HR, 34 RBI) and Wes Randall (.359, 34 RBI, 14 SB) should combine with Hamilton to anchor the Laker offense. On the mound, look for workhorses Brian Nolan (6-2, 2.54 ERA, 60.1 IP) and Robert Donnelly (5-1, 2.07 ERA, 65.1 IP) to shoulder most of the pitching load. Reliever Andrew Morano (3-1, 1.64 ERA) will lead the bullpen.
The only team to unseat Cortland in the SUNYAC tournament since the turn of the century has been Brockport. The Golden Eagles won the conference tournament championship in both 2004 and 2010. And while Brockport suffered heavy graduation losses, the Golden Eagles have the potential to play spoiler down the stretch. Sam McCumiskey (6-1, 1.99 ERA, 72.1 IP) was one of the top arms in the conference last year. McCumiskey combined with Austin Spindler (7-1, 3.70 ERA, 73.0 IP) for 13 of Brockport’s 23 wins last spring and the pair ate up 23 starts and 140 innings. The Eagles may also get a boost from Cortland transfer Ben Moxley (3-1, 4.39 ERA, 26.2 IP). On the offensive side of the field, there is potential depending on the new faces fill into the line-up. Brockport lost five of its top seven swingers from 2016. Paul Ludden (.338, 31 RBI) and Dane Cala (.330, 20 RBI) are the two top returning hitters.
|Patrick Bryant, a transfer from Hofstra, is penciled in as the starting first baseman and the ace of the Plattsburg State pitching staff.
Hofstra athletics photo
The surprise of the conference could come from New Paltz. The Hawks will have a new head coach in Arlen Freeman however the former Stevens assistant inherits a veteran team that boasts the last two players to win SUNYAC Rookie of the Year in Jake Williams (.307, 18 RBI) and Justin Stybel (3-1, 1.24 ERA, 43.2 IP). New Paltz won 20 games in 2016 and took two out of three games from top-ranked SUNY Cortland but finished just outside of a conference playoff berth. Nick DePietro (.342, 19 RBI, 16 SB) and Anthony Pantano (.339, 17 RBI, 14 SB) pace an offense that brings back its top five hitters, four of whom batted over .300.
Fredonia State (20-21) has advanced to the conference tournament three out of the last four years. To return, the Blue Devils will have to replace two graduated all-conference performers and a workhorse starter. Joshua Crocetti (.397, 11 RBI) and Liam Kelly (.364, 19 RBI) headline a group of 22 returnees that has veteran depth. Five returning regulars batted over .290. The line-up will also be bolstered by the return of first baseman Mike Prentice (.336, 2015) who was limited to just two games last season.
SUNY Plattsburgh (6-30) is looking for improvement in 2017 and a return to the conference tournament for the first time since the 2012 season. The Cardinals will rely on help from 22 newcomers that include transfers Patrick Bryant (Hofstra) and Joe Deland (Suffolk County CC). Bryant, a 6-foot-6 utilityman that began his collegiate career at Wake Forest, is projected to pitch and play first base. Deland hit .437 for Suffolk County C.C. last spring and was an NJCAA Gold Glove winner. T.J. Montalbano (.310, 16 RBI) is Plattsburgh’s top returning hitter.
SUNY Onontea (9-26) has eight players back with starting experience. The strength of the Red Dragons will be in the bullpen with returnees Steven Gerringer (1.96 ERA, 18.1 IP) and Christopher DiDomizio (2-0, 2.59 ERA, 24.1 IP). Sean Mullins (.317,9 RBI) is the top returning hitter.
Independents: New York University (20-22) has won at least 20 games in each of its first two seasons since the program was re-started. The Violets will be young again with 15 freshmen and 13 sophomores. NYU’s top two hitters from 2016 return in Adrian Spitz (.366, 3 HR, 35 RBI) and Jonathan Iaione (.323, 27 RBI). The driver of the offense will be lead-off man Jack Walter (.378 OBP, 29 SB), NYU’s bats will go how he goes. The biggest strength on paper for NYU looks to be the bullpen with three relievers returning all with sub 3.00 earned run averages in at least 15 games.
A new head coach and 22 returning players from 2016 have hopes high for a strong season at Alfred State. The Pioneers are still in the Division III provisional process and will play a mix of Division III, NAIA and USCAA teams.