Feb. 17, 2010
Bucknell-VMI Live Statistics
Patriot League Baseball Preseason Poll Release
LEWISBURG, Pa. - While much of the Mid-Atlantic is still blanketed in snow from the heavy storms earlier this month, it has not stopped baseball season from arriving. In fact, the Bucknell baseball team kicks off its 2010 campaign this weekend at VMI with the first three contests of its 52-game regular-season schedule.
Originally slated to be a Friday-Saturday-Sunday four-game set at VMI's Gray-Minor Stadium, the weekend series will now consist of three games played only Saturday and Sunday. A doubleheader will be played either Saturday or Sunday, but which day is still to be determined by field conditions.
Bucknell will enter this weekend's non-league series as one of the favorites to win the Patriot League in 2010. The Bison were picked second in the league's preseason poll, which was announced on Wednesday afternoon. Bucknell garnered 39 points and four first-place votes, behind only the 46 points and eight first-place votes that defending Patriot League Tournament champion Army received. Holy Cross (35 points), Navy (27), Lafayette (21) and Lehigh (12) rounded out the poll behind Army and Bucknell, the two teams that shared last year's regular-season title.
Two years ago Bucknell won the Patriot League Tournament title and upset nationally ranked Florida State in the NCAA Tournament. Last spring the Bison tied for the Patriot League regular-season crown and earned the No. 1 seed in the postseason tournament. Even with that recent success, Bucknell 29th-year head coach Gene Depew thinks this could be the year the team really shines.
Bucknell returns three of its four weekend starting pitchers, including Second Team All-Patriot League selection Trey Frahler
, while five of the team's top six hitters from last year will remain in the lineup, including outfielder Andrew Brouse
, who put together one of the best offensive seasons by a Bison in recent memory.
"We will be a balanced team this year and have plenty of experience," said Depew about the 2010 edition of the Bison. "We have a number of talented veterans who have played a lot over the last couple of years. We also have a number of newcomers who will battle for playing time."
There won't be much room in the starting lineup for the rookies as the only position players to graduate this past offseason were center fielder Dane Grandizio and second baseman Bret Sokirka. The pitching staff lost only three seniors that combined for less than one-third of Bucknell's innings in 2009.
One advantage for the Bison as they pursue their seventh Patriot League regular-season title since 1996 is that they will play three consecutive home Patriot League series in April. This year Bucknell will be playing on a brand new FieldTurf surface at Depew Field.
Bucknell has plenty of experience on its pitching staff as eight of the 11 hurlers who logged double-figure innings last year return, including three weekend starters who are all juniors (Frahler, Eric Jarrett, Dylan Seeley).
Frahler headlines the starters as he finished second in the Patriot League with a team-best 4.34 ERA last year. He was a stellar 4-0 with a 2.84 ERA opposite Patriot League opponents in the regular season.
"At the end of the year Trey was one of the better pitchers in the Patriot League," remarked Depew, who picked up his 500th career win last March. "He battled a little inflammation in the shoulder, took the summer off and we were cautious with him in the fall, but by the end of the fall he was throwing well and pain free."
Jarrett and Seeley were Bucknell's No. 3 and No. 4 starters a year ago behind Frahler and First Team All-Patriot League choice Chris Yamaguchi. Jarrett posted an impressive rookie campaign in 2008 with a 5-6 record and a 4.29 ERA, but he struggled with his control last spring and finished 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA. He had 42 walks in 2009, one more than his 2008 total in just over half as many innings.
"I expect Eric to bounce back this year," said Depew. "He is a hard thrower who should have a strong season."
Seeley was a durable starter who logged two nine-inning complete games and won four of five starts during Patriot League play. Overall, the lanky right-hander was 4-5 with a 6.83 ERA in 54.0 innings.
Those three juniors, along with the graduated Yamaguchi and Sean Driscoll, combined for 41 of Bucknell's 47 starts a year ago, meaning Depew and sixth-year pitching coach Scott Heather will have to plug a new face into the starting rotation. Among the leaders are tall junior Daniel Hart, junior college transfer Steve Carlin, sophomore Jack Boehm and seniors Andrew Clarke and Michael Dallanegra.
Hart has the most experience of the group, tying for the team lead with 15 appearances last year. He also made a start at Penn State after earning the starting nod once as a freshman. Boehm, Clarke and Dallanegra combined for 19.2 innings in 20 relief appearances a year ago, while Carlin missed most of 2009 at Arkansas-Fort Smith and is coming back from Tommy John surgery.
The bullpen does not have quite the experience as the starting unit, but a number of the faces will still be recognizable to Bison fans. Sophomores Russell Seidell and hard-throwing Alex Cillo were two of the team's busiest relievers a year ago, firing a combined 37.0 innings in 29 appearances. Cillo was 0-4, but picked up two key saves.
Fellow second-year players Cal Tracy and Ryan Ebner, who will focus solely on baseball after also playing time on the Bison basketball squad as a freshman, will provide depth, along with junior left-hander Matt Foley.
"We have a lot of options to choose from," mentioned Depew. "We will develop roles early and I think pitching in general will be a positive for us this year."
Senior B.J. LaRosa returns for his second year as a starter at catcher. After a two-year apprenticeship behind Shawn Hirsch, LaRosa shined in his first year as a starter. The First Team All-Patriot League selection hit .320 with 13 doubles and 23 runs batted in. While he was solid at the plate, LaRosa really made a name for himself behind the plate. In addition to handling the pitching staff with ease, he threw out an amazing 52.8 percent of potential basestealers, including 9 of 11 (81.8 percent) in Patriot League regular-season contests.
"B.J. is definitely one of the best catchers in the Patriot League," commented Depew. "He is solid on the field and is a strong leader for our team."
Senior Kevin Drozin and sophomore Scott Reed will serve as LaRosa's backups. Drozin started seven games a year ago.
After a freshman year where he was predominantly a pitcher, Doug Shribman moved into the starting lineup at first base last year as a sophomore. The tall right-hander was a Second Team All-Patriot League selection and was named to the Patriot League All-Tournament Team. He quickly became one of the team's top hitters, tallying a .360 average while hitting six home runs and driving in 42 runs. His 15 doubles led the squad and he ended the campaign with an 18-game hitting streak intact.
Pitchers Seidell and Ebner served as the durable Shribman's backups last year and will likely do the same this year.
Depew has little concern with his middle infield as seniors Ben Yoder (2B) and Ben Allen (SS) are slotted to start there.
Yoder started at second base in 2007 and 2008 and began the 2009 campaign there, but moved to third base a handful of games into the season and remained. He is moving back to the right side of the infield after posting a solid year with a .323 batting average, seven home runs and 35 RBIs. He also recorded a pair of two-homer contests and earned his second consecutive Second Team All-Patriot League nod.
Allen has started 83 consecutive games at shortstop and is a three-year starter who will move into the top 10 in program history in starts before Patriot League play begins. He led the team with a .366 average and scored a team-high 47 runs last year. Allen now ranks eighth in program annals with 103 runs scored.
"Our middle infield will be good this year with those two guys," said Depew. "It is nice to have veterans up the middle and I expect them to continue the success they have had the last three years."
A number of freshmen will serve as backups in the middle infield, including Scott Glass and Robb Scott.
Yoder and Sokirka held down the third base position last year, but Depew expects sophomore David Duffett to step into the starting role this spring. Third base and center field are the only two positions the Bison do not have a returning starter.
A tall right-handed hitter, Duffett appeared in 15 games a year ago, starting six. He drove in a season-high three runs in his first Patriot League appearance against Army.
Senior Andrew Brouse, who joined Yamaguchi and LaRosa on the All-Patriot League First Team last year, sophomore Bob Donato and junior Drew Constable are returning outfield starters, while sophomore Gerald Runyan was perhaps Bucknell's best hitter during the fall season.
Brouse, a two-year starter in right, put together one of the better seasons by a Bison hitter in recent memory as he hit .330 with 10 home runs and 57 RBIs and ranked in the top five in the Patriot League in five offensive categories.
"You know what you are going to get from Andrew," praised Depew. "He had a great year last year and we hope he can continue that success this season."
Donato and Constable split time in left field last year and both should see increased playing time this season. Donato was solid at the plate and hit for the cycle during the team's spring break trip to Florida. Constable hit .356 playing in left, at designated hitter and coming off the bench. The right-hander smashed a pair of home runs, drove in 15 runs and scored 19 in just 28 games.
Runyan saw limited action last spring, but Depew was impressed with the Milton, Pa., native's fall performance and sees a larger role for him in 2010.
A host of other players, including Mark Figgie, Matt Lamore and Joe DeMarzo, who missed last year with an arm injury, will vie for playing time in the veteran outfield.
- Bucknell is 9-12 all-time against VMI. The two teams last met to open the 2007 season. The scheduled four-game series was reduced to one game, which the Bison lost 10-2.
- Current Bucknell assistant coach A.J. Yoder is a 2009 graduate of VMI. He was a four-year letterwinner with the Keydets and ended his career ranked in the top 10 of 11 different categories in the VMI record books.
- Bucknell has not won a season opener since 2001 when it swept a doubleheader (13-10 & 9-6) at VMI on opening day.
- The Bison do not play a home game until March 23. They will then play 14 home contests in an 18-day stretch from April 10-April 27.
- Gene Depew won his 500th career game last year. He enters the 2010 season with 520 victories in 28 years in the dugout.
- Bucknell finished the 2009 season winning five of its last six road games. The Bison were 15-14 overall away from Depew Field last spring.