Army Picked to Repeat in Patriot League Baseball
Center Valley, Pa. - Defending Patriot League Baseball champion Army has been selected by coaches and sports information directors to claim the crown again in 2010, as the Black Knights were picked first in the League’s preseason poll announced on Wednesday.
Army garnered 46 points and eight first-place votes to take the spot in the poll. The Black Knights were followed by Bucknell, which had 39 points and the remaining four first-place votes. Holy Cross was picked third with 35 points, and followed in order by Navy (27), Lafayette (21) and Lehigh (12). Patriot League Baseball head coaches and sports information directors voted in the poll, and were not eligible to vote for their own teams.
The Black Knights had one of the best seasons in Patriot League history in 2009, sharing the Patriot League regular-season title with Bucknell before winning the League Tournament and advancing to the finals of the NCAA Regionals against Texas. Army became the first Patriot League team to win two games in the regionals before falling to the No. 1 overall seed Longhorns in a competitive final contest.
Army returns most of its core from last year’s championship team, including five of six players that earned First-Team All-League honors. Junior Ben Koenigsfeld was the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year as well as the Tournament Most Valuable Player, and earned First-Team recognition as a starting pitcher and outfielder. Koenigsfeld batted .342 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs last year, and went 8-4 with a 4.89 earned run average. Three First-Team All-League performers return on the infield, including junior Clint Moore (.395, 11 HR, 65 RBI) at shortstop and classmate Kevin McKague (.389, 6 HR, 44 RBI) at first base. Sophomore Zach Price (.355, 59 runs) was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year at second base. Joey Henshaw (.383, 13 HR, 75 RBI) completes the returning First-Team All-League picks after setting the Patriot League record for single-season RBI last year. Senior Matt Fouch (7-5, 4.70 ERA) also returns on the mound to form a 1-2 punch with Koenigsfeld.
The Black Knights went 36-21 overall last year and 13-7 in the Patriot League before defeating Holy Cross and Lafayette in the League Tournament. Army set League single-season records for runs, home runs and batting average, and returns 72 percent of its run production and pitchers who claimed 28 of the 36 victories.
Bucknell was every bit Army’s equal during the Patriot League season, finishing tied with the Black Knights at 13-7 in League action to help veteran manager Gene Depew earn the Patriot League Coach of the Year. The Bison notched eight All-League selections a year ago, and five of those players return to the fold in 2010. Senior outfielder Andrew Brouse (.330, 10 HR, 57 RBI) and catcher B.J. LaRosa (.320) were First-Team choices, while junior first baseman Doug Shribman (.360, 6 HR, 42 RBI), senior second baseman Ben Yoder (.323, 7 HR, 35 RBI) and junior starting pitcher Trey Frahler (6-4, 4.34 ERA) made the second team. The Bison have 26 letterwinners returning, including six starters in the field and 12 pitchers. Bucknell fell to Lafayette in last year’s Patriot League Tournament Semifinals.
Holy Cross finished in a tie with Bucknell and Army in the loss column in League play with an 11-7 mark before falling to the Black Knights in a three-game semifinal series. The Crusaders return the 2009 Patriot League Player of the Year at third base, as senior Matt Perry had one of the top batting averages in League annals at .423 and also hit seven home runs with 37 RBIs. He has returning company on the infield with first baseman Eric Oxford (.280, 10 HR, 45 RBI) and second baseman John Sills (.283, 6 HR, 31 RBI). Brendan McCrea (.304, 22 RBI) is back in the outfield and three pitchers with starting experience return to the rotation, including 2008 Patriot League Pitcher of the Year senior Matt Shapiro. The Crusaders lost only five letterwinners overall, and have seven positional starters and eight pitchers returning.
Navy missed out on the Patriot League Tournament last season, but has nearly its entire team back to make a run in 2010. The Mids return all eight positional starters and eight pitchers, including three starters, among 21 letterwinners after missing the Tournament by one game with an 8-12 League mark a year ago. Among that group are key players from the 2008 squad that made a run to the League title series. Seniors Michael Speciale (.350, 10 HR, 47 RBI) and Kendall Bolt (.328, 48 RBI) return along with junior Mike Guadagnini (.374, 42 runs), and will be joined by Second-Team All-League catcher Steven Soares (.309, 7 HR, 23 RBIs) in the batting order. Luke Roberts (2-0) earned First-Team All-League honors out of the bullpen last year, and Zach Sipe, Sam Long and Wes Olson are all back in the rotation.
After finishing fourth in the regular season, Lafayette made it to the Patriot League Championship series last year before bowing out to Army. The Leopards bring back 23 letterwinners in 2010, with seven positional starters and three starting pitchers among nine returnees on the mound. Outfielder Rob Froio led the team with a .367 batting average, while Matt Hall also returns in the outfield after posting a .307 batting average with a team-high 8 HR and 38 RBIs last year. Junior Corey Shea (4-3, 4.81 ERA) was a Second-Team All-League choice last year, while classmate Zach Fritz and senior Jeremy Atkins also return to the rotation.
Lehigh will try to get back on track with six starters returning in the field and all four in the rotation. Junior outfielder Andy Russell (.348, 7 HR, 38 RBIs) was a First-Team All-League selection after leading the team in all three triple-crown categories, while classmates Billy Goldman (.333) and Kevin Mihalick (.313) also batted over .300. Corey Kent went 4-2 with a 3.76 ERA on the mound.
The first Patriot League teams hit the field this weekend, with Army, Navy and Bucknell all heading south to open their seasons. The remaining three squads have their opening contests next weekend. The Patriot League season begins on the weekend of April 3-4, with the League Tournament semifinals set for May 15-16 and the Championship series on May 22-23. The Patriot League Tournament will once again include four teams and feature a best-of-three series at home sites for the semifinals and Championship.
2010 Patriot League Baseball Preseason Poll
1. Army – 46 points (8 first-place votes)
2. Bucknell – 39 points (4 first-place votes)
3. Holy Cross – 35 points
4. Navy – 27 points
5. Lafayette – 21 points
6. Lehigh – 12 points