By Alex Schiffer for D3baseball.com
|Penn State Behrend third
baseman Matt Bittner needs 56 RBI this season to break the program
Penn State Behrend athletics photo
The past couple seasons the Mid-Atlantic Region has been known to produce serious title contender’s as Kean and Keystone have found one way or another to punch their tickets to Appleton. This year the Kean Cougars seem to be more of a sleeper than a contender. Graduation has taken a massive hit on the Cougars, jeopardizing the chances of a three-peat for the Mid-Atlantic crown. Look for top NJAC programs such as Rowan, Ramapo and William Paterson to try and dethrone the Cougars this season and make names for themselves out of the always powerful NJAC.
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In the Centennial, you cannot count out Johns Hopkins as the Jays have been dominate in the conference with Haverford making themselves a co-conference favorite. In the CSAC, Keystone has been too powerful to not pick as a conference and regional favorite. In the Landmark, with Moravian losing pitching sensation Brendan Close to graduation, it’s tough to say who will reign supreme. In the MAC-Commonwealth, Yogi Lutz’s Alvernia squad returns a few talented hitters and arms which could propel them to the conference title. In the MAC-Freedom, DeSales or Misericordia could find themselves punching their tickets to the World Series. With the NJAC being slightly down than it has been in past years, any one of these teams has the potential to raise eyebrows this upcoming season.
Eastern: Jed Morris will join Eastern Athletics as the next head coach of Eastern. Morris brings a wealth of life and baseball experience to a program that has experienced tremendous growth over the past three years.
Immaculata: Just weeks before the start of the season, Bryan Torresani was named the head coach of the Mighty Macs' baseball program. He replaces Patrick Swift, who led the Immaculata to a 9-11 record in 2012. Torresani, an alumnus of Elizabethtown, comes to Immaculata from La Salle University, where he has been since September, serving primarily as a recruiting coordinator.
Messiah: Pat Lighlte has previously been a coach for Bristol (Tenn.) and D-I power Coastal Carolina. Lightle will be inheriting a team that is the reigning Commonwealth Conference champions. Lightle replaces Steve DeRiggs who served as the team’s interim coach for the past two seasons.
|Tod Gross will take over the
head coaching duties in 2013 for Muhlenberg.
Muhlenberg athletics photo
Muhlenberg: Tod Gross takes over the job as
former coach Corey Goff takes over as the school’s athletic
director. Gross has been a coach in Divisions I, II, III making him
no stranger to America’s national pastime. Gross has coached
at Davidson and Franklin & Marshall, the Mule’s
Centennial Conference rival. With Gross' experience don’t
count out the Mule’s this season.
Rutgers Camden: Steve Barth is a former high school coach at Gloucester Catholic in New Jersey. Barth helped make the school a state power and will look to do the same with Rutgers Camden in the always powerful NJAC. In the last game Barth coached for Gloucester Catholic he defeated national power Don Bosco 4-1. Barth played for the University of Virginia and helped them clinch the AC regular season title in 1985.
Swarthmore: Matt Midkiff takes over for Stan Exeter, who did a great job of rebuilding the program the past few seasons. Midkiff is a former Swarthmore assistant who was recently the head coach at Eastern. Midkiff was an All-Freedom conference selection his junior season at Wilkes.
Ursinus: Stan Exeter takes the helm at an Ursinus program that has had a notable amount of success the past few years. Exeter had been doing a good job rebuilding the Swarthmore program from the bottom up, increasing the teams win total each of the past few seasons. The 2010 Centennial Coach of the Year will now take over an Ursinus team that could make some noise come May.
Washington: Travis Turgeon takes the helm at Washington as a 25 year old former assistant at Copin State. A former star at Big East power UConn, Turgeon inherits a club that went 28-12 last season.
|Brian Tougher and Tyler
Ferguson will be looking to get La Roche a second consecutive
playoff bid in 2013.
La Roche Athletics photo
Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference: The AMCC is one of the more overlooked conferences due to its lack of a national power yet it seems every year the AMCC is one of those close races that go down until the last week of the season. Defending champion La Roche returns a mix of both senior leaders that will be big offensive contributors like first baseman Dan Burns as well as a talented mix of underclassman that could easily make the program repeat this season. Sophomore pitcher Tyler Ferguson was dominant in the last half of 2012 and will be critical to the team's success. Penn State-Behrend and Penn State-Altoona as well as Pitt-Greensburg and Pitt-Bradford will all be contenders in the conference as well. With all four programs being loaded with upperclassman it will be interesting to see which program has its seniors finish their careers in dramatic fashion by sending them home hopefully with a degree and a conference title.
|Kyle Neverman was an
All-Region performer in 2012.
Johns Hopkins photo
Centennial Conference: With all the coaching changes going on in the Centennial this off-season (four to be exact); it should be interesting to see which first year head coach has the most success. Johns Hopkins has taken home the regular season title the past few seasons and will likely be a favorite this season as well as they return eight position starters including Jeff Lynch (.346, 45 RBI) and Kyle Neverman (.355, 47 runs). With most of the 2012 pitching rotation graduated, the Blue Jays will go as far as the pitching can carry the team. Haverford should be right with Hopkins. Coming off a season in which they finished second in the conference standings and took the Centenial tournament title, the Fords are young and loaded with talent across the diamond. Gettysburg will be a team to watch in 2013. The Bullets return most of 2012's roster including gold glove outfielder Patrick O'Grady (2.56, 0 errors) and DH Austin Davis (490, 9 SB). Washington (Md), McDaniel and Dickinson should all be contenders as well as all teams were in the playoff hunt last season and should be this year. Washington is led by first year coach Travis Turgeon who has enough returning starters to make a name for himself early on in his coaching career. It’s the bottom of the conference where it gets interesting as Swarthmore, Muhlenberg, and Ursinus all have new coaches going into this season. After seeing Stan Exeter work his magic at Swarthmore the past few seasons, it should be interesting to see if he can have the same effect on Ursinus.
|Matt Hardy led the Mighty
Macs in all offensive categories and was named to the First Team
All-CSAC in 2012.
Immaculata athletics photo
Colonial States Athletic Conference: Keystone enters the 2013 season expected to once again dominate the CSAC, and as always, contend for a national title. The Giants went 17-1 last season and despite a hit from graduation, should be in the Top 25 throughout the year and be playing late into May. The Giants return starter Rob Rogers who went 7-1 as a junior last season and should be the favorite to win CSAC Pitcher of the Year. Gwynedd-Mercy will once again look to uncrown the Giants as they have come in right behind Keystone the last few seasons. The end of the Keystone era could be coming soon as the Griffins are returning almost all of their high powered offenses. The team’s top two pitchers return in Andrew Schaefer and Jamey Minnemeyer. The offense is filled with underclassman so look for a lot of the Griffins to make names for themselves throughout the season and beyond. Neumann and Marywood will also be contenders in the CSAC as the Knights bring back All-American Russ Gilliam to anchor a team that went deep into last years Mid-Atlantic Regional. Don’t forget about the Knights offense either as the team batted an impressive .308 last season. Centenary (N.J.) will look to improve on the their 13-23 record last year and key to their success will be Joe Forcellini, coming off an impressive freshman season. Cairn lost 3/4 of their infield and will depend on a trio of transfer players (Daniel Rendon, Caleb Lang, and Kenny Searle) to replace them. Immaculata's fortunes has been improved by Matt Hardy. The All-Region first baseman hit .445, leading the team in every major offensive category.
Drew closer Pat Rock saved six games in 2012 to go
with his seven wins.
Landmark Conference: Arguably the biggest surprise to last year’s season in the Mid-Atlantic was Drew, who finished 9-9 in conference play yet managed to win the conference championship and make a small run in the Mid-Atlantic Tournament before falling to Kean. With the Rangers graduating a lot of key players from that magical run, the team will have a lot of holes to fill to repeat as conference champions. Scranton returns six position players in 2013. Sophomore first baseman Ross Danzig will be reporting late as he is averaging 16 points per game for the Royals basketball team. Moravian is another team that will likely be going through a rebuilding year. Gone is Brendan Close, the reigning Landmark Pitcher of the Year who helped the team go 14-4 in conference play as well as key hitters Blake Shortall and Dave Zubia. With the Greyhounds losing three of their best players to graduation it’s fair for one to say that the Landmark is a toss-up with two of its better programs on the rebound this season. Tell that to Catholic or Merchant Maine. Both teams are in prime position to dominate the conference as the Cardinals return a fair amount of pitching, and Merchant Maine returns the bulk of their line-up for last season. With Catholic having that Cinderella run in the Mid-Atlantic regional a few seasons ago, you have to wonder if this is the Cardinals year they go to Appleton.
|Alvernia head coach Yogi Lutz
needs 13 wins in 2013 to get to 700 for his
Alvernia athletics photo
MAC Commonwealth: It seems like every year Alvernia coach Yogi Lutz finds a way to keep his team towards the top of the standings. This year Lutz has one of his best teams to date as his squad returns senior power hitter Chris Ray (.405, 21 RBI) to lead a talented lineup. What’s been the Crusaders weakness the past few seasons is their inability to win the regional, as they’ve either been knocked out early, or fell in the finals. This year Lutz’s team features enough young talent to be relevant on the national level for a while. Lebanon Valley, Messiah and Elizabethtown should all look to challenge Alvernia in the Commonwealth as all three return lineups that could threaten the Crusaders chances. Messiah is a team to keep an eye on with first year head coach Pat Lightle taking the reigns this season. Lightle inherits a team that finished third in the conference standings last season and returns enough pieces to give Lightle some early success at his new job. Albight is under going a youth movement. Five of nine position players and most of the starting rotation are sophomores. None better than Max Dundore. The first team All-Commonwealth outfielder led the Lions in hits (48), runs (34) and stolen bases (16).
|DeSales's Brian Mauro will
take up the DH duties in 2013 for the Bulldogs.
DeSales athletics photo
MAC Freedom: The MAC Freedom always seems to be a tough call each season with Misericordia, FDU-Florham, and DeSale all solid contenders in the conference. Misericordia returns a stellar pair of senior pitchers in Matt Karabin and Evan Robaczewski as leadership atop the mound is something coaches can’t have enough of. Misericordia also returns senior outfielder Kenny Durling who has been torturing pitchers the past three seasons and will likely pick up where he left off last season. DeSales has always been a school known for their pitching and it continues this year with Colby Pacillo (6-1, 2.92 ERA), Dan Gayeski (2011 Freedom Conference Pitcher of the Year), and David Drinks (5-5, 4.30 ERA) forming one of the better rotations in D-III. Trevor Connors (5 saves) will provide some relief on the back end as DeSales pitches their way to a postseason run. FDU-Florham brings plenty of firepower at the plate as Frank LaGuarina will look to turn some heads to anyone who sleeps on the Devils this season.
|Senior outfielder Dave Jacob,
a 2013 D3baseball.com Preseason All-American, set a program record
last year when he pounded out 82 hits.
Ramapo athletics photo
New Jersey Athletic Conference: The NJAC is one of the country’s top conferences as it produces multiple top 25 teams and title contenders year after year. However this coming season more than most is one where it’s tough to tell who exactly is the favorite to win the conference. The Kean Cougars, who have been conference champions the past few seasons, have taken a hit from graduation, both to their pitching staff and hitters. The team still has senior Kevin Herget who has been one of the country’s top pitchers the first few seasons as well as junior outfielder Shane Alvarez, a Gold Glove winner and solid bat for the Cougars lineup. Coach Neil Ioviero has always found a way to keep the Cougars in contention and this year should be no different. Look for some of the Cougars underclassman to step up this year. The team to look out for this year is the Ramapo Roadrunners as they bring back most of their starters including senior arm Travis Zilg and power hitting third baseman Christian Spurr. The Roadrunners have been improving each of the past few seasons in both the regular season and postseason. With a ton of returning of starter’s, 2013 may be Ramapo’s year.
|Junior outfielder William
Bissell was the NEAC Player of the Year in his
first two years at Gallaudet.
Gallaudet athletics photo
Rowan returns five position starters including third baseman Kevin McMenamin (.381, 25 RBI). The biggest hole to fill from the 2013 graduation class will that that of Marc Magiaro. Dan Lang and Rich Powelson are expected to compete to be the Profs' starting shortstop. Montclair State is another team worth looking at this year as the Red Hawks return the bulk of their offense despite losing some pitching due to graduation. The Red Hawks return the majority of their infield which is led by senior third baseman Stephen Nappe. If the Red Hawks young pitchers can get the job done, Montclair will definitely be a threat both in the conference and in the region. William Paterson boasts a huge class filled with young talent including junior pitcher Josh Jenson. The team is a solid sleeper pick in the conference as they have a ton of potential to turn some heads. Meanwhile keep a look out for NJCU as head coach Jerry Smith will enter his second year as head coach as well as Rutgers-Camden where accomplished high school coach Steve Barth will begin his career with this season.
North Eastern Athletic Conference: The agreement with the North Atlantic Conference for an automatic bid was not renewed for 2013 so the automatic bid will go to just the teams in the NEAC as the North Atlantic Conference will find themselves in Pool B. While Penn State-Abington and Penn State-Berks are your usual favorites, look for Gallaudet to continue its rise as a conference power. The squad found success with the coaching of Curtis Pride now returns a loaded lineup lead by junior William Bissell. Bissell will likely own every offensive record by the time he graduates next year, and has already established himself as the greatest hitter in school history. With Bissell now being an upperclassman and more of a leader in the dugout now, look for Gallaudet to take the next step forward this season both in the regular season and the post season.