Navy pitcher Ben Nelson
Feb. 20, 2012
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — An unseasonably warm winter has paved the way for a near seamless start of the NCAA baseball season.
Army, Bucknell and Navy all had three games scheduled for the opening weekend, and only one game was canceled as the League compiled a 4-4 record.
Navy, the defending Patriot League Champions, went 2-1 with a pair of players earning weekly awards.
Junior starting pitcher Ben Nelson, the 2011 Patriot League Tournament MVP, was named the Patriot League Pitcher of the Week and freshman shortstop David Wiedeman was named the Player of the Week.
Nelson started the season with a solid effort in Navy’s 3-1 win over North Carolina A&T on Friday. He pitched 6⅔ scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and no walks. He struck out six to start the 2012 season 1-0.
In that same win, Wiedeman went 1-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, which turned out to be much needed insurance runs for the Mids.
Wiedeman also collected a hit and a walk in the Mids’ 7-2 loss in the first game of a doubleheader against North Carolina A&T Saturday, and he provided a big boost in the 11-4 win in the second game, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
Army freshmen shortstop Alex Jensen was named the Rookie of the Week as the Black Knights opened the season 1-2. In Army’s 6-1 win over High Point in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, Jensen went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. He finished the week 4-for-11 with a pair of walks.
Bucknell opened its season with a doubleheader on Saturday falling to La Salle 3-1 and beating Niagara 8-4. The Bison’s contest against Davidson on Sunday was canceled.
Sophomore pitcher Ben Weigel had a solid outing for the Bison in their 8-4 win over Niagara, as he allowed one unearned run on four hits and a walk over seven innings of work. He finished with eight strikeouts and collected the win.
His teammate Bob Donato, a senior outfielder, also had a big game against Niagara, going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, three RBIs and a run scored.
All six teams will be in action this weekend as Holy Cross, Lafayette and Lehigh will open their seasons on Friday.
Patriot League Notebook
Navy, Bucknell tie for first in Patriot League Preseason Poll
Bucknell and Navy are tied atop the 2012 Patriot League Preseason Baseball poll released by the Patriot League on Feb. 15.
Both the Mids and the Bison received 39 points in the poll voted on by the League’s coaches and sports information directors.
Army narrowly missed being first, as well, earning 38 points, creating a log-jam at the top of the poll featuring the last three Patriot League Champions.
Defending champion Navy earned five first-place votes, while 2010 champion Bucknell picked up four. Army, which won the 2009 championship, had one first-place vote and Holy Cross nabbed a pair of first-place votes to collect 29 points and finish fourth. Lafayette (17) and Lehigh (16) rounded out the poll.
In 2011, the Midshipmen, who finished 33-25-1 overall and 12-8 in the League, defeated the Black Knights in the Patriot League Championship three-game series 2-1 to earn the bid to the NCAA Tournament. Army finished second in the League standings with an 11-9 record, 22-26 overall. The Black Knights took out Lafayette in the semifinals last season to advance to the championship series against the Mids, who defeated Bucknell in the semifinals.
Bucknell coach Gene Depew to retire after season
Gene Depew, a 1971 Bucknell graduate who has coached at his alma mater for more than 40 years, including the last 31 as head baseball coach, has announced his retirement following the 2012 season. One of the longest-tenured coaches in Bucknell history in any sport, Depew enters his final season with 570 victories, more than five times the amount of any other Bison baseball coach.
Only the fourth head baseball coach at Bucknell since World War II, Depew has been so well-respected by those that played under his tutelage that in 2003 the Bucknell varsity baseball field was renamed Eugene B. Depew Field in his honor.
The Bison have been especially successful over the last 16 years, finishing either first or second in the Patriot League eight times, including six regular-season titles and five Patriot League Tournament crowns. Additionally, Depew has guided Bucknell to five NCAA Tournament appearances over that span, highlighted by a memorable 7-0 victory over fourth-ranked Florida State in 2008.
Bucknell director of athletics and recreation John Hardt has announced that a national search for Depew’s successor will begin immediately, and that a new head coach is expected to be named prior to the 2012-13 academic year.
In 1993, as the evolution of the Bison football program allowed for more full-time assistant coaches, Depew was able to turn his full attention toward the baseball diamond. Just three years later, Bucknell won its first conference title of any kind since 1969 with a three-game victory over Navy in the Patriot League Championship Series. In 1996 the Bison also advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the first time, competing in Gainesville, Fla.
Depew later piloted Bucknell to Patriot League titles and NCAA appearances in 2001, 2003, 2008 and 2010. It was at that 2008 NCAA Regional in Tallahassee, Fla., when the Bison earned what is considered the biggest win in program history, the 7-0 shutout of a Florida State powerhouse that came in with a 48-9 record and a .350 team batting average.
The Bison nearly repeated the feat two years later when it led regional host South Carolina entering the bottom of the eighth inning. But the Gamecocks rallied for a 9-5 victory, and then went on to win the College World Series.
On an individual level, Depew has won the Patriot League Coach of the Year award four times (1993, 1996, 2003, 2009), has had four Patriot League Pitchers of the Year (Mike Tomko, 1996; Mike Anders, 1998; Kevin Miller, 2003; Ryan Ebner, 2011), four Players of the Year (Kevin Silverman, 1996; Frank Fresconi, 2000; Jason Buursma, 2008; Andrew Brouse, 2010) and two Rookies of the Year (Phil Futrick, 2003; Ben Yoder, 2007). Depew has also led 65 student-athletes to 101 Patriot League first- and second-team accolades. In the classroom, Bucknell baseball has had 11 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans since 1992.
Three Patriot Leaguers named to NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award watch list
Three Patriot League pitchers were named to initial watch list of the eighth annual National College Baseball Writers Association’s (NCBWA) Presason Stopper of the Year Award.
Army’s Kevin McKague, Bucknell’s Alex Cillo and Navy’s Joel Rinehart — all three are right-handed hurlers — were among 45 players named to the initial watch list for the award that is presented to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.
Rinehart recorded the final out in the Mids’ 2011 Patriot League Championship series against Army, striking out three in 1⅔ innings of work to collect his sixth save of the season and preserve the 5-3 win for Navy. Rinehart, as a sophomore, finished with an ERA of 1.81 in 23 appearances. He enters the 2012 season third on Navy’s all-time saves list with nine. He allowed just one run while striking out 20 in his final nine appearances (17 innings).
McKague is a senior at Army who is looking to return to the Black Knights’ bullpen after missing the majority of the 2011 season due to injury. He was very successful in 2010, converting all 13 of his save opportunities and finishing with a 1.33 ERA. The 13 saves were school and Patriot League single-season records. With 22 career saves, he is just five away from tying the League recorder holder, Army’s Milan Dinga, who had 27 saves from 2004-07.
Cillo went 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 46 innings last season, all in relief. He allowed just two earned runs in his final 16 appearances (43⅓ innings) and posted a 24-inning streak of not allowing an earned run, helping his ERA against Patriot League opponents round out at 0.56.
Nominations for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award were made by baseball sports information/media relations contacts. The initial list will be updated with a mid-season release the week of April 16, including the national saves leaders. At the conclusion of the regular season, the Division I national saves leader and four other relief pitching standouts will be selected as finalists and released Wednesday, June 6, prior to start of NCAA Super Regional tournament competition.
Patriot League Baseball Weekly Awards
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
DAVID WIEDEMAN, NAVY Fr., SS, Leawood, Kan.
Wiedeman batted .364 (4-for-11) last week, helping the Mids go 2-1 in a three-game series at North Carolina A&T. He started all three games totaling a team-best five RBIs and two runs scored. The freshman shortstop went 1-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in Navy’s 3-1 season-opening win on Friday and he was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored in an 11-4 win on Saturday. He also went 1-for-3 in the Mids’ only setback in the series, a 7-2 loss on Saturday.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK
BEN NELSON, NAVY Jr., P, Winter Springs, Fla.
Nelson, the 2011 Patriot League Tournament MVP, pitched a solid season opener for the Mids, tossing 6⅔ innings of scoreless baseball, striking out six. He allowed just three hits and walked none, picking up the win. Nelson is now 12-9 as a Mid after going 6-6 in 2011. This is his second career weekly award.
ROOKIE OF THE WEEK
ALEX JENSEN, ARMY Fr., SS, Charlotte, N.C.
Jensen, like his Army teammates, had a slow start to the season, going 0-for-6 in the Black Knights’ two losses to High Point, but in the third game of the series on Saturday, Jensen busted out with a 4-for-5 performance, driving in two runs and scoring another. He finished the week batting .364 (4-for-11). He also walked twice in the Black Knights’ 8-5 loss to High Point on Saturday.
BOB DONATO, BUCKNELL Sr., OF, Williamsport, Pa.
Donato went 3-for-7 in the Bison’s two games over the weekend, driving in three runs and scoring another. Donato was 0-for-3 in Bucknell’s 3-1 loss to La Salle on Saturday, but bounced back later in the day, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and one run scored in an 8-4 win over Niagara.
DAN WEIGEL, BUCKNELL So., P, Lancaster, Pa.
Weigel picked up the win for the Bison in their 8-4 win over Niagara on Saturday. The sophomore pitcher allowed one run — unearned — on four hits and a walk over seven innings of work. He struck out eight in the game with seven coming in the first four innings. His inning-ending punchout in the second inning stranded two runners and held Niagara to just one run in the inning.