Holy Cross, Army Share Preseason Favorite Role in Patriot League Baseball

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Army's Chris Rowley is the 2013 Patriot League Baseball Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
Army's Chris Rowley is the 2013 Patriot League Baseball Preseason Pitcher of the Year.

Feb. 13, 2013

2013 Patriot League Baseball Preseason Poll and Awards Get Acrobat Reader

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - Holy Cross and Army staged a memorable Patriot League Baseball Championship series in 2012, with the Black Knights prevailing in three games for their sixth League title. Coaches and sports information directors expect the teams to be just as competitive in 2013, placing the Crusaders and Black Knights tied at the top of the sport's preseason poll announced on Wednesday.

Holy Cross and Army shared the top spot with 45 points, with the Crusaders collecting six first-place votes to five for the Black Knights. Holy Cross has never won a Patriot League regular-season or Tournament title, while Army has been crowned regular-season champion eight times with the six Tournament crowns. The Black Knights have finished in first place in the regular season in four of the past five seasons.

Navy claimed third place in the poll with 32 points, while Bucknell followed with 29 points and the remaining first-place vote, Lafayette totaled 15 points and Lehigh had 14.

Preseason individual awards were handed out for the first time, and again it was Holy Cross and Army leading the way. Holy Cross junior third baseman Mike Ahmed was named Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year, while Army senior starting pitcher Chris Rowley took home the Preseason Pitcher of the Year honor. Ahmed was a first-team All-Patriot League pick last season, while Rowley earned the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year award in 2012 while also being named an All-American by multiple outlets.

Holy Cross took half of the spots on the inaugural preseason All-Patriot League Team. Along with Ahmed at third base, the Crusaders dominated the field positions with senior Jordan Enos at first base, senior Alexis Maldonado at shortstop and senior Patrick Puentes and junior Brandon Cipolla in the outfield. Senior John Colella earned the relief pitcher nod to give the Crusaders six preseason All-League selections.

Rowley filled one of the starting pitcher spots, and Army also placed sophomore Mark McCants on the preseason All-League squad as the designated hitter. Navy senior Ben Nelson took the other starting pitcher nod while his classmate, Greg Dupell, represents the Mids in the outfield. The team also includes Lehigh junior Joe Abeln at catcher and Lafayette senior Kevin Casey at second base.

Six of the honorees were first-team All-Patriot League selections last year, while another five made the second 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 had a memorable 2012 season as it went 41-15 overall and 18-2 in the Patriot League. The Black Knights swept Lafayette in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament before beating Holy Cross in three games in the Championship series. They set the Patriot League record for overall wins as well as consecutive League victories (17). To do it all again, they will need to replace some key pieces with All-Patriot Leaguers Kevin McKague, J.T. Watkins, Zach Price, Logan Lee and Cody Murtle all departed. Rowley will be expected to lead the way on the mound after earning preseason All-America honors from National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Collegiate Baseball. Rowley went 11-1 with a 2.40 ERA last season to earn his postseason honors, and was unbelievable in Patriot League play by going 5-0 with a 0.51 ERA and recording four shutouts. Gunnar Carroll is back in the bullpen after going 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA and eight saves last season. The lineup features a strong group of sophomores, as second baseman Harold Earls batted .341 last season, shortstop Alex Jensen hit .264, outfielder Daniel Cortes was .273 and McCants batted .246 with two home runs and 28 RBIs. Head Coach Joe Sottolano is in his 14th season, and has led the Black Knights to five Patriot League titles in his tenure.

Holy Cross finished 33-22 overall and 13-7 in the Patriot League last season, recording its most overall and League victories in program history. The Crusaders will look to their core group of preseason All-League selections to break through for their first Patriot League title in 2013. The top five hitters are all back, as Puentes batted .343 with three home runs and 22 RBIs, Cipolla was .323 with five home runs and 28 RBIs, Enos hit .305 with two home runs and 23 RBIs, Ahmed was .295 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs and Maldonado hit .292 with 23 RBIs. Colella had another great season in the bullpen with a 6-1 record, 2.32 ERA and 11 saves, while Donny Murray (4-1, 3.12 ERA) and Tommy Marra (4-3, 3.72 ERA) are back in the rotation. Head Coach Greg DiCenzo is in his sixth season, and has led the Crusaders to four Patriot League Tournament berths and two League Championship appearances in the past five years.

Navy tries to get back on track with key players remaining from a team that won the Patriot League regular-season and Tournament titles in 2011. The Mids were 23-29 overall and 9-11 in the Patriot League last season, and bowed out to Holy Cross in the semifinals of the League Tournament. Nelson led the Patriot League in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts as a sophomore in 2011, and went 3-3 with a 3.72 ERA last season. Johnny Schoberl went 5-4 with a 4.45 ERA and teams with Nelson in the rotation. Dupell batted .319 with five home runs and 44 RBIs, while Brad Borosak returns after hitting .310 last season, Brandon Beans batted .307 and Kash Manzelli hit .283 with two home runs and 32 RBIs a year ago. The Mids are tied with Army for the most Patriot League titles with six.

For the first time in its Patriot League history, and more than 30 years overall, Bucknell will be led by someone other than Gene Depew. Scott Heather was promoted from his assistant position to take over for the retired head coach, and inherits a team that missed the Patriot League Tournament last year for the first time since 2007. Bryson Hough and Dan Wiegel each posted ERAs under 4.00 in the rotation last year, while Travis Clark batted .293 with two home runs and 25 RBIs. Matt Busch hit .317 last season, while Rob Krentzman hit .284 and Robby Scott was at .282. The Bison have won two of the past five Patriot League titles, claiming the crown in 2008 and 2010.

Lafayette made its second consecutive Patriot League Tournament trip and third in the past four seasons last year, bowing out to Army in the semifinal round. Casey was the lone All-Patriot League selection for the Leopards after hitting .330 with three home runs and 17 RBIs in 31 games last season. Andrew Santomauro (.277 BA, 1 HR, 21 RBIs) also returns to the lineup, with Toby Schwartz as the top returning starting pitcher after posting a 3.59 ERA last season. Head Coach Joe Kinney enters his 14th season at the helm, and led the Leopards to the 2007 Patriot League title.

Lehigh had five All-Patriot League selections last year, but only two return to the lineup in 2013. Abeln hit .289 with two home runs and 25 RBIs while Tyler Brong batted .319 with 17 RBIs last season. On the mound, Mike Burke and Tom O'Malley return after posting ERAs under 5.00 last season. Sean Leary is now the dean of Patriot League head coaches as he enters his 18th season at Lehigh.

The 2013 baseball season opens this weekend, with the first Patriot League series starting on March 30. 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 11-12 and at the highest remaining seed for the Championship series on May 18-19.

2013 Patriot League Baseball Preseason Poll
1. Holy Cross, 45 points (6 first-place votes)
1. Army, 45 points (5)
3. Navy, 32
4. Bucknell, 29 (1)
5. Lafayette, 15
6. Lehigh, 14

Patriot League Baseball Preseason Player of the Year: Mike Ahmed, Holy Cross (Jr., 3B)
Patriot League Baseball Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Chris Rowley, Army (Sr., SP)

Preseason All-Patriot League Team
SP: Chris Rowley, Army (Sr.)
SP: Ben Nelson, Navy (Sr.)
RP: John Colella, Holy Cross (Sr.)
C: Joe Abeln, Lehigh (Jr.)
1B: Jordan Enos, Holy Cross (Sr.)
2B: Kevin Casey, Lafayette (Sr.)
SS: Alexis Maldonado, Holy Cross (Sr.)
3B: Mike Ahmed, Holy Cross (Jr.)
OF: Brandon Cipolla, Holy Cross (Jr.)
OF: Greg Dupell, Navy (Sr.)
OF: Patrick Puentes, Holy Cross (Sr.)
DH: Mark McCants, Army (So.)