Region Preview: New York

No. 8 Cortland, the perennial favorite in the New York Region, has missed the D-III World series for the last two years.
Cortland athletics photo by Darl Zehr

by John McGraw

The New York Region is comprised of 46 baseball-playing schools situated in New York and into northern New Jersey. The region nearly sent three teams to the World Series last spring despite Swarthmore (Mid-Atlantic) officially representing the region at the World Series. Oswego State advanced to Appleton out of the New England regional, rolling past host and top seeded UMASS Boston twice in soggy Harwich to grab the school’s second straight regional crown. Both Cortland and Ithaca fought their way to Sunday in the New York (Auburn, N.Y.) and Mideast (Adrian, Mich.) regionals respectively before coming up just a few wins shy of Appleton.

For the seventh year in a row, New York Region players were taken in the Major League Baseball Amateur Entry Draft. Stevens’ Charlie Ruegger was nabbed by the New York Yankees in the 33rd round after his junior season while the Atlanta Braves scooped up Houghton’s Victor Cavallieri in the 36th round. Cavallieri (100) and Ruegger (97) were first and second in the Empire 8 in strikeouts last spring.

Looking ahead to 2019, six different schools appeared on ballots for the Preseason Top 25 poll. Last year’s preseason number one SUNY Cortland was ranked eighth while conference rival Oswego State checked in at 14. Defending Empire 8 champion Ithaca, St. John Fisher, Union (NY) and New York University were among the schools that received votes in the poll. Union shortstop Colin Kelly, Oswego State’s Mike Dellicarri and Merchant Marine’s Andrew Spinneweber were tabbed for the Preseason All-America Team. The trio represents three of the region’s five conferences.

As the curtain rises on a new season, there is no clear-cut favorite in the region and so familiar faces will again vie with one another to be the Empire State region’s representative at the new World Series host site of Cedar Rapids. The 2019 conversation begins upstate in the middle of the region with national heavyweights SUNY Cortland and Oswego State. The Red Dragons have made 26 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament which is the longest current active streak in all of Division III. Meanwhile the Lakers were just one of two teams in Appleton last season that were able to make a repeat appearance, Concordia-Chicago was the other.

Should Cortland or Oswego falter, the next in line should be Ithaca. The defending Empire 8 champions have made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances and have been the only team to win the Empire 8’s automatic bid in the league’s brief Pool A history. Union could slug its way into the top of the regional picture. The Dutchmen captured the Liberty League title last year and then made noise in the Mid-Atlantic regional in York, Pa.

Looking downstate, Merchant Marine came up one win short of the NCAA tournament in 2018. Pitching looks to propel the Mariners into the regional conversation this spring. Not too far from Kings Point, another regional party crasher could be New York University. The Violets made their debut in the regional rankings last year and ripped off a school record 28 victories. If they can navigate an arduous UAA slate, they’ll be in the small Pool B mix.

After that, regional contenders come in the form of St. John Fisher, Stevens, Rochester and Farmingdale State. All Pool A/C teams will have to win their conference this year as one of last year’s at-large selections turns into a Pool A bid between the NAC and the CUNYAC

New Faces

Karl Steffen retired in 2018 having led Rensselaer since
1985, posting an 852-470-3 (.644) record over 1,325

RPI athletics photo

Keith Glasser, Rensselaer: After 34 seasons at the helm, longtime Rensselaer head coach Karl Steffen retired in the fall. Steffen’s top assistant, Keith Glasser, was promoted to head coach in December, becoming RPI’s 16th head baseball coach. The Rensselaer, N.Y., native served under Steffen for five seasons and helped guide RPI to 105 victories in that time period. In his second season, Glasser was part of a coaching staff that mentored the Engineers to a conference regular season and tournament title and an NCAA tournament appearance. A four-year contributor as a catcher at Marist College, Glasser’s previous coaching experience includes three years as an assistant at nearby Siena and one year as a grad assistant at West Alabama.

Lance Ratchford, Cobleskill: Ratchford takes over a SUNY Cobleskill program that is looking to make noise in its second season back on the diamond following a 10-year hiatus. Last year’s Tiger team went 3-28 under the since departed Robert Fisk. Ratchford brings an impressive resume to Cobleskill with coaching stops in Division I, Division III and with the Cape Cod League’s Brewster Whitecaps. He spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Division I Marist and was part of three straight trips to the postseason. The Oneonta, N.Y., native has worked at the Division III level as an assistant at SUNY Oneonta and Keystone.

Thomas Seay, New Paltz :Seay returns to the Hudson Valley as the new falconer for the Hawks. He previously worked in the region at Division I Marist as an assistant coach. Seay most recently was an assistant at Virginia Wesleyan where he was part of a Marlins staff that piloted the team to the championship round of the Mid-Atlantic Regional. A coach since 2005, his vast experience includes stints at Louisburg (N.C.) College, Slippery Rock (Pa.) and Young-Harris (Ga.). Seay played collegiately at Randolph-Macon.

Games to Watch in 2019

No. 8 Cortland at No. 23 Salisbury (February 23-24): After opening with two games against perennial powerhouse Trinity (Texas) in San Antonio, the Red Dragons continue their difficult early season schedule facing off against yet another ranked team on the road. Cortland plays its first eight games against 2018 NCAA tournament teams.

No. 6 Rowan at Stevens (February 24): Another challenging schedule awaits the Ducks. Here, one of the top teams in the NJAC travels to Hoboken for an early season clash. A win over one of the top teams in the Mid-Atlantic would go a long way for the Ducks.

No. 14 Oswego at No. 23 Salisbury (March 2): Mike Dellicarri and the Lake Show open their season on the road in Maryland against a 2018 NCAA tournament squad.

Ithaca at No. 25 Shenandoah, (March 3): Ithaca travels south to meet the Hornets before embarking on a week-long trip to California that will include games against Redlands and nationally-ranked Chapman.

St John Fisher vs 9 Mass Boston (March 7-9): The Cardinals had one of the top strengths of schedule in the region and in the nation last spring. Less than a week after taking on reigning OAC champ Baldwin-Wallace in Florida, the Cardinals will have a three-game series against the Beacons.

Merchant Marine at Farmingdale State, (March 23): The Skyline preseason favorites go on the road to tangle with last year’s league regular season champions. USMMA’s 2018 season ended on Farmingdale’s diamond in the conference title game. The winner should get an inside track to the top of the conference standings.

St John Fisher at Ithaca (April 13-14): Empire 8 rivals square off in a series that has in the past determined who has hoisted the league’s regular season title.

No. 8 Cortland at Ithaca (April 9) Ithaca at No. 8 Cortland (April 24): Route 13 rivals collide in a home-and-home series pitting two potential regionally ranked teams against one another.

No. 14 Oswego State at No. 8 Cortland (April 19-20): Oswego beat Cortland twice in the SUNYAC championship round last year at Cortland’s Wallace Field. The Lakers make their return to the Red Dragons’ lair for what should determine the conference regular season title.

Union vs Skidmore, Clarkson vs. St Lawrence, Bard at Rochester, RIT at RPI (May 4-5): Percentage points separated first and second and then third through sixth in the Liberty League standings at the end of last year. Again, it will all come down to the final weekend of conference play.

Conference Preview

The Ithaca Bombers will open their season at
Virginia Wesleyan on February 23.

Ithaca athletics photo

Empire 8: The race to the top should be a three-way chase between Ithaca, St. John Fisher and Stevens. Ithaca (30-17) appears to have the inside track with an overwhelming majority of last year’s NCAA tournament squad returning for 1,100 game winner George Valesente. The IC skipper is entering his 41st season as head coach on South Hill. The Bombers will be balanced with a strong offense and an experienced pitching staff. Offensively, seven of nine regular starters are back from a team that reeled off 38 runs in four games in the Empire 8 tournament. The Little brothers, Sam (.362, 38 RBI, 14 DBL, 59 H), a first team all-region selection, and Webb (.341, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 46 R) again will be the core of Ithaca’s offense and both are among the top hitters in the region. The Blue and Gold also will bring back three other players that drove in at least 20 runs paced by 36-RBI man Andrew Bailey (.289, 48 H) and all-region catcher Adam Gallagher (.289, 29 RBI, 9 CSB). While the heart of the order remains intact from 2018, new table setters will be needed at the top of the order for the big bats to drive them in. Defensively, the Bombers will look to strong-armed starters Jake Binder (6-3, 3.36 ERA, 85.2 IP, 53 K) and Tyler Hill (3-5, 3.59 ERA, 57.2, 49 K), returning as a grad student, to top the pitching rotation. Robby Buffis (1-2, 4.81 ERA, 28 K) and Emmett Dunn (5-1, 5.18 ERA, 41.2 IP, 35 K) could slot in as a third starter or pitch in long relief with Tom Cosentino (4-0, 1.26 ERA) back as the best bullpen arm.

St. John Fisher (29-16) played one of the toughest slates in the region last year, ranking 26th in the season-ending strength of schedule. The Cardinals missed the NCAA tournament but were regionally ranked down the stretch and reached the Empire 8 tournament championship round. Anthony Brophy (3-3, 2.99 ERA, 69.1, 55 K) is one of the top individual arms in the conference and was the ace of a young pitching staff in 2018 that boasted a pair of rookie arms in the weekend rotation. Those two freshmen, Tim Geissel (4-1, 4.81 ERA) and RJ Kuruts (5-1, 5.89 ERA) return with Brophy to give the Cardinals youthful experience. Kyle Chambers (4-2, 3.66 ERA) and Dillan Wilkinson (2-0, 3.38 ERA, 16 APP) will be the first options from the bullpen. For Fisher to return to the NCAA tournament, the pitching staff must improve upon last year’s 5.56 ERA with only one slinger boasting an ERA below 3.00 Like rival Ithaca, Fisher returns the bulk of its offensive firepower with six position players back though there will be big hole in the line-up with the graduation of all-region masher Scott Eisenmenger (.346, 12 HR, 56 RBI). Brandon Potter’s offense dug the long ball last spring with 49 home runs. Those 49 belts were good for first in the region and fourth in the nation. Thomas Pasquale (.348, 29 RBI, 57 H, 42 R), Justin Graham (.345, 39 RBI, 69 H), Allen Murphy (.324, 7 HR, 26 RBI), Stephen Edgett (.311, 5 HR, 27 RBI) and Ryan Simmons (.307, 6 HR, 30 RBI) comprise Fisher’s stout returning offensive outfit.

While Ithaca and St. John Fisher opened last spring as the Empire 8 favorites, it was Stevens (26-17) that won its first Empire 8 regular season title. Looking ahead, the Ducks have to replace the Empire 8 Player of the Year Alex Detweiler (.380, 52 RBI, 63 H, 40 R) and eight other seniors. In addition, the Ducks lost junior strikeout artist Charlie Ruegger (8-2, 2.58 ERA, 97 K, 80.1) to the MLB Draft last June. Ruegger’s move last spring from closer to starter helped the Ducks dominate from the bump with a strong three-man starting rotation. Ruegger’s 80.1 innings were the most of any Stevens starter last spring. Even with the losses, the cupboard isn’t bare on Castle Point. Coming off a summer in the Cape Cod League, Danny Poidomani (2-2, 3.58 ERA, 77 K, 65.1 IP) takes over as the Stevens’ ace. At the plate, more offense will be needed while the pitching staff sorts things out. Last spring, the Hoboken nine logged a .276 batting average even with home games at the hitter friendly Dobbelaar Field. Donny Gherardi (.364, 32 RBI, 13 DBL) and Tommy Baronner (.299, 22 RBI) each socked at least 50 hits and drove in at least 20 runs. They project to top the offense along with returning Empire 8 Rookie of the Year Thomas Paulich (.257, 26 RBI).

The Highlanders will be looking to make it two
conference tournaments in a row in 2019.

Houghton athletics photo

Houghton (16-17) qualified for the Empire 8 tournament last spring for the first time since the league went to its current four-team playoff format behind great performances from now departed seniors Victor Cavallieri, an all-region pitcher, and Tage Johnson. Coming off their first over .500 season (16-15) since re-starting baseball in 2012, the Highlanders have their sights set on returning to the conference tournament. Of Houghton’s four returning position players, two are all-conference choices David Wessells (.359, 17 RBI, 37 R) and Ben Closson (.349, 24 RBI). Elsewhere, Elmira (9-28) moves into its fifth season of baseball having just graduated its first senior class in 2018. Those 12 graduated seniors comprised a bulk of Elmira’s firepower at the plate and on the mound last spring. Reliever Andy Reed (3-3, 3.47 ERA, 46.1 IP, 12 APP) was chosen all-conference honorable mention last spring. Thirteen rookies are part of Elmira’s 2019 roster.

Completing the Empire 8 line-up card for 2019 are SUNY Canton (9-27) and Utica (12-17). The Roos missed the conference tournament but earned victories over regionally-ranked Ithaca and Stevens as well as Marietta. Returning ace Jake Vierno (3-3, 4.35 ERA, 49.2 IP, 49 K) went at least six innings in those wins and he logged a 10-strikeout performance against Elmira. Down Route 12 from Canton in the Mohawk Valley, the Pioneers will have 13 seniors in 2019 with four of those seniors back after all-league campaigns in Tim Quinlan (.340, 6 HR, 27 RBI), Matthew Fitzgerald (.370, 18 RBI), Christian Tiffin (.341, 15 RBI) and Ryan Palmer (.365, 20 RBI). 

Favorite: Ithaca

SUNY Athletic Conference: Oswego State beat SUNY Cortland twice in the SUNYAC tournament last year at Cortland’s Wallace Field to claim the conference’s throne outright after weather cancelled the SUNYAC postseason in 2017. Oswego’s victory marked the first time since the mid 1990’s that Cortland went back-to-back years without winning the league’s tournament title. While the Lakers and the Red Dragons are both nationally ranked in the Preseason Poll, both have large holes to fill in the batting order and on the hill as each lost 12 seniors. Most important; each school must replace its two top starting pitchers.

Oswego State (30-14), having summited the SUNYAC mountain, begins its run to a three-peat with four returning position players, one starting pitcher and 19 overall newcomers under head coach Scott Landers. Preseason All-American Mike Dellicarri (.351, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 55 R, 1.034 OPS) is looking to join former teammate Eric Hamilton as a two-time winner of the SUNYAC Player of the Year Award and keep the prize in Oswego for the fourth-straight year. Dating back to 2003, only one other player has won the award twice, Cortland’s Jason Simone (2009, 2010). Dellicarri’s help in the line-up will come from New England Regional MVP Ryan Enos (.345, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 14 DBL), Brandon Nicholson (.298, 6 HR, 37 RBI) and Lukas Olsson (.274, 17 RBI). The four returnees combined to club 19 of 34 Laker long ball launches last spring. JUCO transfers Casey Gruarin (Niagara County) and Jake Terrill (Herkimer) project to step into the line-up right away. From the bump, Robert Donnelly and Reston Petit and their over 134 innings of work from last spring will be hard to replace. Brian Nolan (7-2, 2.98 ERA, 45.1 IP, 40 K) takes over as the staff ace. Relievers Matt Bowman (3-3, 3.08 ERA, 2 SV, 26.1 IP) and Nick Demarco (4-0, 2.96 ERA, 24.1 IP, 24 K) should slot in behind Nolan in the starting rotation. Coach Landers is hoping that a talented group of newcomers and transfers meshes well with his experienced veteran core.

SUNY Cortland (35-12) has won at least 30 games 14 years in a row and 24 times in the last 25 seasons under current head coach Joe Brown and previously Steve Owens. And, the Red Dragons notched their 20th SUNYAC regular season title in the last 21 years last spring. Cortland won with pitching and defense, ranking 8th nationally in ERA (2.97) and 3rd nationally in fielding percentage (.976). While Cortland lost 12 seniors to graduation, eight players overall with starting experience are back in 2019. However, the Red Dragons, with an infusion of 20 newcomers, will look much different in 2019. Those newcomers will need to mesh quickly as Cortland’s first eight games are against 2018 NCAA tournament squads. SUNYAC Rookie of the Year Antonio Pragana (.355, 14 RBI, 37 R), Colin BeVard (.306, 2 HR, 27 RBI, 34 BB, 46 R) and Marcus Perivolaris (337, 3 HR, 19 RBI) comprise the core of returning starters for Cortland in the batting order. In addition to those four, returnee Joe Tardif (.400, 16 RBI) cracked out 36 hits and a 1.024 OPS in 90 at bats. The Red Dragons will look to improve on offense after recording a .301 team batting average which was good for second in the SUNYAC but was the lowest for a Joe Brown skippered team. The 2017 Red Dragons hit .331 as a unit. Transfers Scott Giordano (Westchester, .467 BA, 1.385 OPS) and Sam Kippen (Olivet Nazarene, .322 BA) should bolster the offense. Those two swatters project as a part of the Red Dragons’ every day line-up along with several returning underclassmen that will need to take the next step. On the mound, Cortland’s top starting arms back are Jake Casey (4-2, 3.55 ERA, 50.2 IP, 49 K) and Isiah Hudson (7-1, 2.42 ERA, 48.1 IP, 42 K); they’ll be among those that will look to replace graduated all-conference pitchers Mike Harrington and Christian Dufresne. Relievers Steven Salisbury (4-0, 1.57 ERA, 2 SV, 28.2 IP, 24 K) and Matt Valin (1-0, 3.43 ERA, 21.0 IP, 34 K) are the top returning bullpen arms. Thirteen different pitchers made at least seven appearances for Cortland last spring. With the addition of several new arms, the Red Dragons project again to have a deep pitching staff according to Brown. Those newcomers include Mitch Cavanaugh (9-1, 2.37 ERA, 64.2 IP, 53 K), a 2017 All-SUNYAC first team selection at Oswego, Siena transfer Dan Hobbs and Zack Durant from NJCAA Herkimer. Durant was an all-star last summer in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.

Brockport's Tom Kretzler has been a model of
consistency with a .291 career batting average.

Brockport athletics photo

After Cortland and Oswego, Brockport and New Paltz will battle for the conference’s third spot. At Brockport (18-20), Justin Beach has built a consistent SUNYAC winner. Under Beach, the Golden Eagles have qualified for the tournament nine times in the last 10 seasons it has been held. Overall, Brockport has played in 15 of the last 16 SUNYAC tournaments. Brockport stumbled overall last year but still won 18 games as Beach became the school’s all-time baseball wins leader. The Golden Eagles project to return seven position player starters paced by all-conference performer Tom Kretzler (.309, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 12 DBL), Nicholas Pastore (.299, 19 RBI) and Anthony Eaton (.278, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 13 DBL). Brockport’s pitching staff will be buoyed by its bullpen which projects to return its top three arms, all with sub 3.00 ERA’s in Casey Piazza (2-0, 2.29 ERA, 19.2 IP, 11 APP), Chris Cramer (2-2, 2.33 ERA, 17 APP, 27.0 IP, 20 K) and Trevor McCarthy (1-0, 2.83 ERA, 28.2 IP, 28 K). The Golden Eagles will also bring in a sizable class of newcomers to join the returning veterans.

New Paltz (17-18) finished the 2018 regular season in the SUNYAC’s top four and competed in the conference tournament for the first time since 2013 under SUNYAC Coach of the Year Arlan Freeman. After losing a heartbreaker to Oswego in the opening round, the Hawks won an extra-inning thriller over Brockport to register their first SUNYAC tournament victory since 2001. However, 2019 will be a season of change with a new coaching staff. Under manager Thomas Seay, the Hawks will look to fly even higher in the SUNYAC aviary. Seay believes his pitching staff will light the path early in the season as he has just four position player starters back. Last year’s staff spread out innings with no arm going above 40.0 frames. Justin Stybel (4-1, 2.56 ERA, 34.0 IP, 30 K) and Michael Delio (2-3, 4.29 ERA, 35.2 IP, 34 K) are the top returning pitchers while relievers Ryan Votpyka (2-2, 4.68 ERA, 32.2 IP, 33 K) and J.T. Carroll (2-0, 2.89 ERA, 18.2 IP, 25 K) were strikeout specialists from the bullpen. Fairleigh Dickinson University transfer Bobby Ramsey projects to be a key addition to the staff. The New Paltz offense will be a work in progress with no returning hitters above .300. Ryan Frost (.295, 33 H, 8 RBI) and Danny Campbell (.283, 12 RBI) are the top two returning swingers. Division II transfer Matt McGee (Saint Leo) should bolster the middle the Hawk batting order. 

Fredonia (17-13), SUNY Oneonta (12-22) and Plattsburgh (12-26) complete out the conference. In southwestern New York, the Blue Devils are coming off a 17-win campaign, their first winning season since 2013. However, head coach Matt Palisin must replace seven graduated senior starters. Durable pitching ace Luke Kuczewski (6-1, 3.50 ERA, 54.0 IP, 40 K) could be one of the top pitchers in the league this season after garnering first team all-conference accolades as a junior. In replacing the graduated seniors, Fredonia will look to a group of 19 newcomers with five JUCO transfers and a mix of returning sophomores to shoulder the load. Oneonta will boast one of the more experienced teams with 10 seniors on the opening day roster. The returning group includes all-conference shortstop James Ceprano (.277, 9 RBI) and slugger Dominic Lamonica (.308, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 19 BB). Chris DiDomizio (0-2, 2.61 ERA, 19 APP, 20.2 IP) and Takoda Sitar (2-4, 4.89 ERA, 38.2 IP, 48 K) are the top returning pitchers. Plattsburgh will also have an older team with 18 combined juniors and seniors and just five freshmen. The Cardinals are led by the Bryant brothers, Patrick (.412, 12 RBI, 1-6, 9.09 ERA, 32.2 IP) and Steven (.243, 24 RBI, 33 H) as well as top returning hitter Jon Craft (.320, 40 H, 14 RBI). Patrick was an all-conference designated hitter and part of the Cards starting rotation last spring. Steven led Plattsburgh in RBI. Head coach Kris Doorey, entering his 18th season, will look to get a boost from new assistant coach Sam Quinn-Loeb who joins the coaching staff after assisting last year at Salve Regina on a team that won 25 games and made the CCC championship series.

Favorite: Cortland

Colin Kelly improved enough in the 2018 season to
be named a 2019 preseason

Union athletics photo

Liberty League: The Liberty League has had four different regular season champions in the last four years though three of those four first place squads went on to claim the postseason tournament title. It was not that way in 2018 as while Rochester finished first at the end of the regular season, conference heavyweight Union slugged its way to a third Liberty League crown in five years under skipper Paul Mound. Percentage points separated Union and Rochester in the fight for first place while .024 separated third-place from sixth place with the final postseason spots up for grabs into the final weekend.

Hopes are high in Schenectady as Union  (31-13) looks to repeat as league champion and win back-to-back titles for the first time in program history. Union had one of the top offenses in the nation last year with a whopping .345 team batting average which ranked 5th in Division III. Three Dutchmen eclipsed the .400 mark and eight swingers in Garnet batted .316 or higher. Union returns six position players and seven pitchers with two 2018 All-Americans back in Jack Koch (.433, 50 R, 27 SB) and Collin Kelly (.396, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 65 H). The sluggers will be supported by returning starters Sean Cullen (.422, 40 RBI, 70 H), Andy Labeck (.350, 7 HR, 36 RBI) and Joe Ganim (.316, 22 RBI, 16 SB). The loss of 2018 All-American Jake Vesling (.407, 33 RBI / 8-1, 2.15, 71.0 IP, 69 K) along with a host of senior arms will sting and Union’s offense may have to overwhelm teams to allow the Union pitching staff time to gel. Dominic Nardone, a hard-throwing southpaw from Siena, may help right away along with several first years.  Head coach Paul Mound opens the season just 13 wins away from 200 as a head coach. He has compiled six straight winning seasons and last year’s Schenectady squad set a program record for wins. 

Rochester (19-17) projects to be Union’s top foil once again after the teams were separated by percentage points in the 2018 standings. The Jackets have back a strong core of last year’s team with eight returning starters in the field that include seven All-Liberty League selections. All-region honorees Aiden Finch (.392, 34 RBI, 18 DBL, .638 SLG) and Steve Pickering (.389, 17 RBI, 56 H) along with all-league first team catcher David Rieth (.313, 13 RBI, 8 CSB) and honorable mention standouts Jack Herman (.336, 3 HR, 38 RBI) and Aaron Craig (.325, 23 RBI)  were six of Rochester’s top seven batsmen, all return. Rochester will also benefit from a healthy Jake Hertz (.286, 13 RBI – 2018) who played only six games last year due to injury. The Yellow Jackets should be able to hit but as with Union, pitching depth will be needed after U of R carved out a 5.33 team ERA last spring. Workhorse Jack Denzer (6-3, 4.87 ERA, 61.0 IP, 30 K) will take the lead in the weekend rotation after eating up a team best 61.0 innings over 11 starts in 2018. Garrett Renslow (2-1, 2.82 ERA, 22.1 IP, 26 K), who holds the lowest ERA of any returning pitcher, will move from the bullpen into the starting rotation.  Rochester advanced to the Liberty League championship round but came up a win shy of the NCAA tournament. 

Rochester and RIT (20-17-1) dueled on the final weekend of the regular season in a home-and-home for playoff positioning. U of R’s rivals in the western suburbs of Henrietta again will be in the thick of the Liberty League championship chase. A determined group of Tigers prowl back in the Brick City with RIT looking to make its fourth conference tournament in five years. Last spring, a strong RIT staff pitched the team to 20 wins and a conference tournament showing. RIT’s defense produced a league best .970 fielding percentage. The Orange and Black piled up 10 all-conference selections last spring, seven are projected to be back in 2019. The Mylott twins, Patrick (.381, 12 DBL, 13 RBI) and Joey (.285, 17 RBI) combined for 73 hits and 38 runs. Daniel Zenglen (.240, 5 HR, 24 RBI / 3-2, 2.72 ERA, 39.2 IP, 24 K) led the Tigers in home runs and RBI while also leading all Tiger starters in ERA. Other returning all-conference choices are Jason Shulz (.259, 3 HR, 22 RBI), Stevie Branche (2-3, 5.27 ERA, 42.2 IP, 41 K) and Daniel Capra (.264, 14 RBI, 30 R). 

In his final campaign of 34 at Rensselaer (19-21), Karl Steffen guided the Engineers to the Liberty League playoffs. Steffen’s top lieutenant, Keith Glasser takes the reins of the Engineers in 2019 and will look to return ‘Tute to the postseason. RPI will have experienced and durable starting pitching  in the conference with returnees Brendan McNerney (2-2, 2.60 ERA, 55.1 IP, 71 K), Christopher Palmiero (5-1, 2.96 ERA, 67.0 IP, 65 K) and Erik Zecha (4-5, 3.22 ERA, 58.2 IP, 48 K). The Cherry and White finished second among all conference clubs in strikeouts (295) last spring. Rensselaer’s strength will be on the mound while at the plate, Keith Glasser must replace five regular starters. Austin Lawrence (.281, 14 RBI, 27 R) and Jack Vaccari (.298, 13 RBI) are the best returning bats.

Vassar (18-19) has made the playoffs each of the last two years under head coach Matt Righter. Heading into 2019, the Brewers have six players returning that have amassed all-conference accolades under Righter’s two-year leadership. Brewer batsmen Bryan Rubin (.353, 20 RBI), Jake Doyle (.342, 9 RBI) and Evan Trausch (.330, 20 RBI) are VC’s most dangerous sticks. Tanner Blough (.358 OBP, 16 BB) and Matt Schwartz (.283, 17 RBI) were all-conference honorable mention in 2018. 6-4 lefty Max Spencer (3-4, 3.45 ERA, 47.0 IP, 30 K) and Mitch Mullock (2-2, 3.09 ERA, 43.2 IP) top Vassar’s pitching staff.

Ryan Riley is the top returning pitcher for Clarkson
in innings pitched in 2018.

Clarkson athletics photo

RPI edged out engineering school rival Clarkson (16-16) by a half game for the final 2018 Liberty League playoff spot. The Golden Knights nearly pitched their way into the postseason last spring behind two now departed all-conference arms including Liberty League Co-Pitcher of the Year Will Coleman. Up front, only Mark Connor (2-3, 3.82 ERA, 33.0 IP, 33 K) and Ryan Riley (3-2, 4.15 ERA, 39.0 IP, 35 K) worked more than 30 innings last spring. Tech’s strength should be at the plate with a several big bats projected back in belters Brad Pearson (.333, 2 HR, 21 RBI) and Vincent Granuzzo (.318, 2 HR, 20 RBI). Like Clarkson, Bard was in the playoff chase until the very end with the Raptors falling short on the final weekend of the regular season against local rival Vassar. The Annandale-on-Hudson fans watched the Raptors notch 13 wins at picturesque Honey Field and set a program mark with 15 overall victories. Frontline hurlers Evan Richardson (4-3, 2.80 ERA, 54.2 IP, 64 K) and Kyle Zigner (3-2, 2.86 ERA, 50.1 IP) should lead the Raptors in 2019 as part of a 10-man senior class that has grown up along with the Hudson Valley program. On offense, Rory Maglich (.317, 14 RBI, 11 SB) and Chris Blake (.314, 15 RBI) are among six starters back.

Skidmore (15-22) and St. Lawrence (7-26-1) complete the Liberty League line-up. The Thoroughbreds from the Spa City doubled their league win total from 2017 and improved with five more wins overall. Skipper Ron Plourde has seven starters back which include his top three hitters. Will Potter (.333, 15 RBI, 42 H, 20 BB) Patrick Geiger (.294, 2 HR, 16 RBI) and Jake Hardy (.293, 17 RBI, 11 DBL) were the ‘Breds top three bats with Matt Chipkin also returning after hitting .343 with two home runs and 11 RBI in the opening 11 games before missing the rest of the season. Spencer Anderson (2-3, 3.75 ERA, 50.1 IP, 47 K) again will pace the Thoroughbreds pitchers. St. Lawrence graduated just four seniors in 2018 and despite recording seven wins, the team improved as the season went along. Four of SLU’s six league victories came over the final two weeks of the regular season. The Canton crew should be led in 2019 by returning all-conference performers Brendan Frank (.345, 22 RBI, 15 SB) and Anthony Butler (.268, 15 RBI). Head coach Pete Hoy also believes shortstop James Cronin (.333, 26 RBI, .418 OBP) will be a big contributor again this spring.

Favorite: Union

Skyline Conference: Seven-time Skyline champ Farmingdale State charged to the top of the Skyline regular season standings, but it was St. Joseph’s (Long Island) that soared higher and won the conference tournament. The Golden Eagles made the NCAA playoffs for the second time in three seasons. On a whole, the upper floors of the Skyline were filled to the brim in 2018 with five 20-game winners, seven teams with at least 19 overall wins and just four games separating first place from seventh place in the standings. The regular season ended with a two-way tie for second and a three-way tie for fourth. The theme for 2019 might be pitching as the conference contenders all have great frontline starters.

When the sun dawns again over the Skyline, it will shine first on Long Island’s North Shore on the Kings Point campus of the United States Merchant Marine Academy (28-14). The Mariners just missed going to the NCAA tournament last year, falling in the Skyline finals to St Joseph’s (Long Island). Last spring was just USMAA’s second in the Skyline and overall USMMA set a program record with 28 wins. Pitching will be the biggest plus for the Mariners in 2019. Merchant Marine has the top 1-2 punch in the conference of Preseason All-American Andrew Spinneweber (7-3, 1.73 ERA, 67.2 IP, 99 K) and Skyline Rookie of the Year Joey Raab (7-3, 1.93 ERA, 70. IP, 77 K). The duo struck out 176 batters, combined for 10 complete games and logged 137.2 innings last spring. Combined with long reliever Quintin Heck (3-0, 2.47 ERA, 40.0 IP) and closer John Kelly Jr (3 SV, 14 APP, 23.0 IP, 3.52 ERA) along with new pitching coach Lou Bernadi, formerly of Division I Iona, USMAA is deep on the mound. The offense may be just as dangerous. Merchant Marine was among the national leaders last year with 133 stolen bases and the Mariners hit .308 as a team. Seven different sailors stole at least 10 bags last year and USMMA has back six of eight starters that batted .300 or higher. Jesse Reinebold (.358, 30 RBI, 48 H), Vincenzo Alteri (.356, 26 RBI, 17 SB) and Alex Mezaros (.325, 25 RBI, 37 R, 12 SB) are USMMA’s three top returning bats.

Nick Attardi, the 2016 Skyline Rookie of the Year and
former All-New York Region player, returns from an
injury in 2018.

Farmingdale State athletics photo

What had been a youth movement for a few years at Farmingdale State (24-14) has turned into a veteran and deep ball club for 14th year head coach Keith Osik. Seven of the Rams top eight hitters last year were underclassmen and overall 10 players with starting experience will dot the FSC line-up card in 2019. The Rams will also be behooved by the return of 2017 starting outfielders Nick Attardi and Cam Alfano who both missed last year with injuries. Tyler Schrimpf (.314, 15 RBI) and Vincent Rice (.333, 2 HR, 9 RBI) were earned all-league nods in 2018 and they’ll be back with Shawn Blasberg (.304, 14 RBI) and Ernie Geraci (.328, 16 RBI) on offense. Transfers Michael Amandola (Stony Brook) and Steven Burke (Saint Rose) should compete for starting spots on opening day. All-Skyline twirler Matthew Constantine (5-1, 1.68 ERA, 24 K) will lead the pitching staff while shutdown relievers Ryan Mallon (13 APP, 1.37 ERA, 21 K, 19.2 IP) and Logan Hicks (15 APP, 1.57 ERA, 28.2 IP) will back the bullpen. Constantine will need help in the pitching rotation with no other returning pitcher having made more than two starts last year.

Head coach Richard Garrett has turned St. Joseph’s (Long Island) (27-18) into a consistent top of the table contender in the Skyline. The Golden Eagles have won at least 20 games in four-straight years and back-to-back 25-win campaigns were followed by last year’s 27-victory side that dispatched NESCAC champion Amherst in the NCAA tournament. While the Golden Eagles lost two of their four top starting pitchers due to graduation, Anthony Papa (5-2, 2.33 ERA, 54.0 IP, 47 K) and Jimmy Murphy (6-1, 2.17 ERA, 58.0 IP, 54 K) should still eat up innings and strikeouts at the top of the pitching rotation. All-region first baseman Paul Britt (.404, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 11 DBL) is a conference Player of the Year candidate and the region with SJCNY also aiming to bring back three over swingers that hit .300 or better. The Golden Eagles though will need to find depth behind their stars to fly high above the Skyline.

Two years ago, Maritime (23-13) tied SJCNY for the league’s regular season championship and then marauded through the league tournament to claim the program’s first NCAA bid. The Privateers returned to the conference tournament in 2018, boosted by a 16-6 home record, but bowed out in the opening round to USMMA. This despite producing numbers similar to the 2017 team including a 3.70 team ERA which smashed the program’s previous low. Skipper Charlie Barbieri, off a summer coaching in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, projects to return four starters in the field including three of last year’s seven all-conference selections in Travis Zurita (.402, 32 RBI, .500 OBP), Phil Russo (.349, 25 RBI, 44 H) and Shane Sullivan (.282, 21 RBI). 2017 Skyline Rookie of the Year Travis Bruinsma (2-2, 3.54 ERA, 28.0 IP) and A.J. Ammirati (2-1, 3.75, 36.0 IP, 24 K) will try to fill the shoes of departed all-league ace Anthony D’Ancona. Closer Skylar Graff (1-0, 4.05 ERA, 13.1 IP, 14 K) was among the league’s leaders with six saves last year. The Throggs Neck school has made seven postseason appearances in a row.

Old Westbury (19-16-1) and Mount Saint Mary (22-12-1) completed the conference tournament field last spring. The Panthers offense was one of the best in the loop, finishing in the top three in most offensive categories including first in batting average (.331). The bulk of that group with Skyline Player of the Year Jesse Russo will not return. John Condon (.398, 35 RBI, 11 DBL) and Mike Manetta (.370, 21 RBI, 11 SB) are the two big returning batsmen. The pitching staff utilized 17 different hurlers in 2018 with no pitcher going more than 33.0 innings. OW will look for a boost in 2019 from 13 newcomers. A deep run in the 2017 Skyline Conference tournament by Mount St Mary spring-boarded the Blue Knights onto a 13-win turnaround in 2018 for the program’s first winning record since 2012. The Newburgh, N.Y., school improved in nearly every statistical category least season with the biggest jumps in batting average (up 30 points), fielding percentage (up 20 points) and ERA (two runs lower). Head coach Steve Sosler was named Skyline Coach of the Year. MSMC lost its two best players to graduation and this year’s team features a lot of youth with 22 combined freshmen and sophomores. Anthony Rizzo (.333, 13 RBI), Jack Goodwin (.305, 11 RBI) and John Santana (.317, 15 RBI) are the top returners. No pitcher with more than 23.0 innings is back.

One game in the standings separated Purchase (19-17) from the postseason last year. A trio of all-conference performers are all back for the Panthers in Dylan Flynn (.361, 21 RBI), Jackson Hill (.360 BA) and Patrick Wallace (.322, 24 RBI). Much like Mount Saint Mary, Purchase experienced a huge turnaround in 2019 with a 10-win improvement. The Panthers project to return most of their starters in 2019. St. Joseph’s (Brooklyn) (7-28) will look to rebound back into the playoff picture in head coach Peter Blumenauer’s second season. He’ll have six returning position players headlined by Adam Schwartz (.373, 43 H, 14 SB) and Anthony Palermo (.317, 3 HR, 25 RBI). In the Bronx, the Dolphins of the College of Mt St Vincent (8-29) will open 2019 with 24 combined freshmen and sophomores (13 frosh) as third-year coach John Muller continues to rebuild the program.

Favorite: Merchant Marine

The Staten Island Dolphins compiled a .949 fielding
percentage with 59 errors on the season in 2018.

Staten Island athletics photo

CUNY Athletic Conference: Initially, the road to an automatic bid for the CUNYAC began with the addition of affiliate members Maine-Presque Isle and Finlandia to the collection of five baseball playing schools in New York City’s five boroughs. But, with Maine-Presque Isle’s move to the NAC and Finlandia entering the WIAC in what has become the annual conference shuffle, that left the CUNYAC two members shy of the required seven for an automatic bid. A solution came in the form of an agreement with the NAC, Maine-Presque Isle’s new home. The champions of the NAC and CUNYAC will meet in a best-of-three series with the winner getting an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament beginning this spring per both conference offices.

While the Dolphins, Bearcats, Bloodhounds, Beavers and Lighting will still compete for the league championship, a much larger prize will await in a trip to the NCAA regionals. Four-time defending CUNYAC champ Staten Island (18-16) claimed its 20th conference crown last spring, fighting out of the losers’ bracket to beat upstart John Jay College twice in the championship round. Three CSI juniors were named to the conference’s all-league team in 2018. Those juniors combined with one of the largest incoming classes in program history have the Dolphins looking to stay the course, atop of the Big Apple. John Jay (16-17) was CSI’s strongest challenger last year. The Bloodhounds finished a half-game back of the Dolphins in the regular season and then advanced to the championship round for the first time since 2008. Though it will be difficult for the Bloodhounds to repeat, having to replace nine seniors lost to graduation.

All-region honoree and CUNYAC Player of the Year David Rodriguez (.449, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 53 H) was the top offensive standout for a Lehman (15-21) offense that was the best in the CUNYAC in batting average, home runs, hits, doubles, RBI and runs scored. Under skipper James Cisco, Lehman has led the league in dingers four-straight seasons. The majority of last year’s team is projected to return with only five seniors lost to graduation. For Baruch (11-21), a run of nine straight years in the CUNYAC championship game (two CUNY titles) ended last spring with a 6-6 conference finish. The Bearcats should return the bulk of last year’s club which featured all-region pick Michael McGroarty (.404, 20 RBI, 40 H), CUNYAC Rookie of the Year Liam O’Gara (.308 BA) and strikeout ace Paul Sirakowski (6-3, 3.95 ERA, 71 K, 51.0 IP). City College of New York (12-21) finished a half-game back of pace setters Staten Island and tied with John Jay for second in the Big Apple. The Beavers swept CSI during the regular season one year after the Dolphins ended CCNY’s 2017 season in the CUNY playoffs. CCNY graduated four seniors and like Baruch, looks to return a sizeable portion of its 2018 roster. Projected returners include all-conference hitters Stephen Peters (.383, 21 RBI, 44 H) and Rob Mandich (.295, 23 RBI).

Favorite: Staten Island 

Independents : NYU (28-12) continues to be a program on the rise under head coach Doug Kimbler. The Violets reeled off their fourth-straight season with at least 20 wins last spring, set a program single-season record for victories (28) and made an appearance for the first time in the regional rankings. This came four years after essentially starting the program from scratch after it was dropped in 1974. All-New York selections Coleman Hendershot (.370, 8 HR, 61 RBI) and Coltrane Tait (.356, 4 HR, 45 RBI) along with 2018 all-region choice Jack Walter (.292, 15 RBI) return to power an offense that led all UAA schools with a .300 batting average and 352 runs scored. The only other New York independent is the second-year program at the College of New Rochelle. The Blue Angels went 12-28 in their maiden flight and picked up 11 of their 12 wins over the final month of the regular season. More than 20 players from last years team are slated to return and that group will embark on an ambitious schedule which includes 2017 national champion Cal Lutheran and reigning Skyline champ St. Joseph’s (Long Island).