Feb. 23, 2010
Center Valley, Pa. - The Patriot League's service academies are each off to their best starts in over 20 years, with Navy at 3-0 for the first time since 1981 and Army holding a 2-1 mark for the first time since 1989. For their efforts, the rivals took home the first set of Patriot League Baseball weekly awards on Tuesday.
Patriot League Baseball Release - 2.23.10
Patriot League Player of the Week
Kevin McKague, Army Jr., 1B, Fayetteville, N.C.
McKague belted three home runs, drove in five and batted .500 to help lead Army to its best start since 1989 with a 2-1 record against Atlantic 10 preseason favorite Dayton and ACC member Wake Forest over the weekend. In the weekend finale against the host Demon Deacons, McKague hit two home runs and had three RBIs and came on the ninth inning to earn the save in a 5-2 victory. The home runs gave Army a 3-0 lead by the fouth inning. McKague hit one of Army's four home runs in the 14-6 win over Dayton in Friday's opener. McKague now has 12 career home runs, and is already halfway to last year's total of six. The returning First-Team All-League selection at first base, McKague earns the Player of the Week award for the second time in his career.
Patriot League Pitcher of the Week
Wes Olson, Navy Jr. P, Indianapolis, Ind.
Navy's pitching staff dominated to lead the Mids to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1981 over the weekend, and Olson had the best performance of the group with seven scoreless innings to lead the Mids past Iona, 7-2, on Saturday. He allowed just three hits in the game and struck out two in his 83-pitch outing. Olson let up just one hit and one walk in his final four innings. Olson wins the Pitcher of the Week honor for the first time in his career.
Patriot League Rookie of the Week
Ben Nelson, Navy Fr., P, Winter Springs, Fla.
Nelson picked up a victory in his first collegiate appearance on Friday, as he came out of the bullpen to fire 4.2 scoreless innings as the Mids defeated Delaware State, 13-3, in their season opener. Nelson allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out four in the outing, and did not give up a base hit in his final three innings of work.
Honorable Mention Performances Last Week
Michael Speciale, Navy
Sr., OF, Pearland, Texas
Speciale batted .267 while hitting a pair of home runs and driving in 10 to help Navy to a perfect 3-0 mark over the weekend.
Ben Koenigsfeld, Army
Jr., P, New Port Richey, Fla.
Koenigsfeld got the win in Army's 5-2 triumph at ACC member Wake Forest, pitching 5.1 innings and giving up just two solo home runs with no walks and five strikeouts.
Patriot League Notebook
Academies Start the Season Out Strong
Half of the Patriot League's six teams opened their 2010 campaigns last weekend, and two are off to their best starts in over 20 years. Navy opened 3-0 for the first time since 1981, while Army is 2-1 for the first time since 1989. Army went to Winston-Salem, North Carolina and beat Atlantic 10 preseason favorite Dayton before splitting with host Wake Forest on Friday and Saturday. Navy earned three easy wins in the Eagle Baseball Classic, defeating Delaware State, 13-3, on Friday, Iona, 7-2, on Saturday, and host North Carolina Central, 9-2, on Sunday. Bucknell also opened its year, as the Bison were swept in a three-game set at VMI.
Full Slate Ahead for the Weekend
Every Patriot League Baseball team will play multiple games this week, with nearly all of the action coming over the weekend. Navy has the lone mid-week game, and will try to build on its strong start by hosting Maryland-Eastern Shore on Wednesday and playing Air Force in Savannah, Georgia over the weekend. Army, Lafayette, Bucknell and Holy Cross all play the visitor role for their games. The Black Knights have a three-game series at UMBC, the Leopards play three at VMI, the Bison have a four-game weekend set at Old Dominion and Holy Cross plays at Georgia Southern in the first three of a seven-game trip that also includes stops at College of Charleston and Charleston Southern. Lehigh plays four contests in Wilmington, North Carolina, facing host UNC-Wilmington on Friday before playing one game against Liberty and two versus Morehead State to close out the weekend.
Army Takes First Place in Preseason Poll
Defending Patriot League Baseball champion Army was selected by coaches and sports information directors to claim the crown again in 2010. Army garnered 46 points and eight first-place votes to take the spot in the League's preseason 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.
Plenty of Top Returnees Around the League
Each Patriot League squad has reason for optimism with at least one returning player that earned All-League honors last season. Army returns five of its six players that earned First-Team All-League honors a year ago, while Bucknell has five of its eight All-League players back. Holy Cross, Navy, Lafayette and Lehigh all have at least one All-League player from a year ago. Ten of last year's 12 First-Team All-League players are back in 2010, and 16 of the 25 return overall. The major award winners are all back, too, with Patriot League Player of the Year Matt Perry manning third base for Holy Cross, Pitcher of the Year Ben Koenigsfeld still on the mound and at the plate for Army and Rookie of the Year Zach Price back on the Black Knights' infield.
Keeping Their Average Up
Army's junior class has already helped the program to the 2009 Patriot League Baseball Championship and back-to-back regular-season crowns. Now, the group of four players that all earned First-Team All-League recognition a year ago is creeping up on categories in the Patriot League record book. Shortstop Clint Moore (.373) is fifth and first baseman KevinMcKague (.364) is eighth in League annals in career batting average, while designated hitter Joey Henshaw (.353) is just outside the top 10 as all three players move up on more career lists soon.
Patriot League Tournament
The Patriot League Baseball Tournament will include four teams and be played over two weekends for the third straight season. The best-of-three semifinals will be at the site of the top two seeds on May 15 and 16, with the best-of-three Patriot League Championship at the site of the highest remaining seed on May 22-23.
Army The Black Knights are off to their best start since 1989 after beating preseason Atlantic 10 favorite Dayton and splitting with host Wake Forest over the weekend in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Black Knights hit four home runs in a 14-6 win over the Flyers in Friday's first game, then fell to Wake Forest, 6-2, in the nightcap. Army earned a 5-2 win over the Demon Deacons in Saturday's weekend finale as Kevin McKague had two home runs and three RBIs and Ben Koenigsfeld allowed just two solo homers in 5.1 innings. Koenigsfeld, McKague and fellow juniors Clint Moore and Joey Henshaw all belted homers in the win over Dayton, marking the first time in their careers that the returning First-Team All-League selections had homered in the same game. Henshaw also earned the win against Dayton with five solid innings. Patriot League preseason favorite Army plays a three-game series at UMBC this weekend.
Bucknell The Bison got off to a slow start over the weekend as they were swept in a three-game series at VMI. Bucknell dropped the first two games, 9-4 and 6-5, in a Saturday doubleheader before falling, 8-2, on Sunday. The games were moved to Prince George, Va. because of unplayable field conditions at VMI. B.J. LaRosa batted .500 for the weekend, while Andrew Clarke threw three scorless innings. The Bison have five of their eight All-League selections from last year back in 2010, and were picked second in the Patriot League preseason poll. Bucknell has another tough road set with a four-game series at Old Dominion over the weekend.
Holy Cross The Crusaders open their season on Saturday, when they begin a three-team, seven-game road trip at Georgia Southern. Those squads will also match up on Sunday and Monday, while Holy Cross then goes to the College of Charleston for two contests and wraps up with a doubleheader at Charleston Southern on March 6. Patriot League Player of the Year Matt Perry is back in the Holy Cross infield, and the Crusaders were selected to finish third in the League's preseason poll.
Lafayette After making the Patriot League Championship series a year ago, the Leopards have been selected to finish fifth in the Patriot League this season. Lafayette opens its 2010 schedule with a three-game series at VMI over the weekend. Lafayette has a pair of Second-Team All-League selections back in starting pitcher Corey Shea and outfielder Matt Hall.
Lehigh The Mountain Hawks are picked sixth in the Patriot League after placing in the same position last year, though they do have a top player in the fold with First-Team All-League pick Andy Russell returning in the outfield. Lehigh will try to get its 2010 season off to a good start with four games over the weekend in Wilmington, N.C. The Mountain Hawks play host UNC-Wilmington on Friday before facing Liberty and Morehead State on Saturday and Morehead State again on Sunday.
Navy The Mids are off to a 3-0 start for the first time since winning their first eight games in 1981 after sweeping contests from Delaware State, Iona and North Carolina Central over the weekend. They earned dominating victories in all three contests in the Eagle Baseball Classic in Durham, beating Delaware State, 13-3, on Friday, Iona, 7-2, on Saturday and host North Carolina Central, 9-2, on Sunday. Michael Speciale clubbed two home runs and had 10 RBIs in the three games. The senior is up to 17 home runs in his career, tied for third in school history. Ben Nelson, Wes Olson and Zach Sipe earned the victories without giving up an earned run on the mound. Nelson came out of the bullpen to throw 4.2 innings against Delaware State, while Olson threw seven scoreless against Iona and Sipe allowed just an unearned run in six innings against North Carolina Central. The Mids are picked fourth in the Patriot League preseason poll, with two All-League players back and multiple performers who had strong seasons to lead the team to the 2008 League Championship series. Navy tries to continue its perfect start this week at home against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Wednesday and with a three-game set against Air Force in Savannah, Ga. over the weekend.