Feb. 6, 2014
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - For the second straight season, there is a tie at the top of the Patriot League Baseball preseason poll as both Army and Navy shared the top spot in the rankings announced on Thursday.
The Black Knights and Mids were even with 42 points apiece, with Army garnering five first-place votes to three for the Navy. Holy Cross was not far behind with 35 points and a pair of first-place votes, while Bucknell took home 31 points and the remaining two first-place votes followed by Lehigh (17) and Lafayette (13).
A pair of juniors claimed the individual awards, as Holy Cross outfielder Evan Ocello was named Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year and Navy's Stephen Moore claimed the Preseason Pitcher of the Year award.
Two-time defending champion Army, which went on the road to beat both Navy and Holy Cross in last year's Patriot League Tournament, led the way with five selections to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team as four juniors made the squad in starting pitcher Alex Robinett, shortstop Alex Jensen, third baseman Harold Earls and designated hitter Mark McCants and they were joined by sophomore outfielder Jacob Page. Seniors Andrew Barry (2B) and Brandon Cipolla (OF) joined Ocello on the team from Holy Cross, with senior first baseman Kash Manzelli also on the list from Navy. The preseason team also featured a pair of Lehigh seniors in relief pitcher Nick Cassell and catcher Joe Abeln.
Nine of the honorees were All-Patriot League selections a year ago, with Moore, Jensen and Ocello making the first team. Patriot League baseball coaches and sports information directors participated in the preseason poll and awards voting, and could not vote for their own team or student-athletes.
Army won its second straight title by rolling through the Patriot League Tournament with road sweeps of both Navy in the semifinals and Holy Cross in the championship. The Black Knights were 11-9 in the League in the regular season, but have key pieces back led by the quintet of Preseason All-League selections. Robinett finished with a 7-4 record and 3.43 ERA, while McCants (.314 BA, 24 RBIs), Jensen (.292 BA, 3 HR, 38 RBIs), Page (.307, 3 HRs, 35 RBIs) and Earls (.254 BA, 20 RBIs) each had strong years at the plate. Army also brings back senior first baseman Patrick Mescher (.341 BA, 2 HR, 40 RBIs), who finished second in the League in batting average last year, to a stacked lineup in 2014.
Navy shares the top billing in the poll after placing second in the Patriot League with a 13-7 record last year. Moore was a first-team All-Patriot League selection after going 4-3 with a 3.24 ERA for the season, while Manzelli was a second-team pick who hit .335 with two home runs and 30 RBIs for the year. Brandon Beans (.291 BA, 1 HR, 21 RBIs) and Robert Currie (.273 BA, 19 RBIs) return in the outfield while Anthony Parenti (3-4, 4.38 ERA) joins Moore on the mound.
Holy Cross finished in first place in the regular season at 15-5 in the Patriot League before falling to Army in the championship series, but the Crusaders have the most losses to overcome as four first-team All-Patriot Leaguers have departed from last season, including Player of the Year Jordan Enos and Pitcher of the Year John Colella. Ocello (.338 BA, 3 HR, 25 RBIs) is the lone first-teamer returning while Cipolla (.333 BA, 2 HR, 30 RBIs) and junior starting pitcher Donny Murray (7-3, 4.33 ERA) were second-team All-League picks. Barry (.286 BA, 27 RBIs) returns to the infield for the Crusaders.
Bucknell was led by its pitching staff last season, and that could be the case again with junior Bryson Hough (3-6, 4.28 ERA) returning to the rotation along with senior Dan Wiegel (2-8, 4.33 ERA) and sophomore Andrew Andreychik (4-3, 3.73 ERA), who was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year a season ago. Corey Furman (.291, 1 HR, 21 RBIs) was the first-team All-Patriot League designated hitter while catcher Justin Meier, second baseman Joe Ogren and third baseman Rob Krentzman all return to the infield.
Lehigh brings back the top hitter in the Patriot League from last year as Justin Pacchioli (.366 BA, 14 RBIs) was a second-team All-League pick for the Mountain Hawks. John Elson (.284, 2 HR, 29 RBIs) was a second-team choice at shortstop while Abeln (.311 BA, 28 RBIs) was at catcher. Tyler Brong (.278 BA, 2 HR, 23 RBIs) and Mike Garzillo (.273 BA, 16 RBIs) also return to the lineup, with senior Colin Gotzon (5-5, 3.56 ERA) leading the rotation.
Lafayette features senior outfielder Andrew Santomauro (.258 BA, 16 RBIs) and junior catcher Parker Hills (.241, 1 HR, 28 RBIs) in the lineup, with Tobey Schwartz (2-8, 4.96 ERA) back for the pitching staff.
The 2014 baseball season opens next weekend, with the first Patriot League series starting on March 29. The top four teams in the regular-season standings make the Patriot League Tournament, which will be played at the site of the higher seeds in the semifinal round on May 10-11 and at the highest remaining seed for the Championship series on May 17-18.
Patriot League Baseball Preseason Poll
1. Army, 42 points (5 first-place votes)
1. Navy, 42 (3)
3. Holy Cross, 35 (2)
4. Bucknell, 31 (2)
5. Lehigh, 17
6. Lafayette, 13
Preseason Player of the Year: Evan Ocello, Holy Cross (Jr., OF)
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Stephen Moore, Navy (Jr., SP)
Preseason All-League Team
SP: Stephen Moore, Navy (Jr.); Alex Robinett, Army (Jr.)
RP: Nick Cassell, Lehigh (Sr.)
C: Joe Abeln, Lehigh (Sr.)
1B: Kash Manzelli, Navy (Sr.)
2B: Andrew Barry, Holy Cross (Sr.)
SS: Alex Jensen, Army (Jr.)
3B: Harold Earls, Army (Jr.)
OF: Brandon Cipolla, Holy Cross (Sr.); Evan Ocello, Holy Cross (Jr.); Jacob Page, Army (So.)
DH: Mark McCants, Army (Jr.)