2012 Patriot League Baseball Championship Preview

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Army first baseman Kevin McKague
Army first baseman Kevin McKague

May 17, 2012

2012 Patriot League Baseball Championship Preview (5.17.12)Get Acrobat Reader

2012 Patriot League Baseball Tournament Central

No. 1 Army (39-12, 18-2 PL) vs. No. 2 Holy Cross (32-20, 13-7 PL)
Doubleday Field, West Point, N.Y.
Game 1:
Sunday, May 20, Noon
Game 2: Sunday, May 20, 2:30 p.m.
Game 3:
Monday, May 21, 1 p.m.

— The top two seeds in the Patriot League Baseball Tournament took care of business in the semifinals, advancing to this weekend’s Patriot League Championship series in West Point, N.Y.

No. 1-seeded Army (39-12, 18-2 Patriot League) will host second-seeded Holy Cross (32-20, 13-7 Patriot League) in the best-of-three-game series on Sunday and Monday at Doubleday Field in West Point, N.Y. The championship will open with a doubleheader starting at noon on Sunday, and if a third game is necessary, it will be played at 1 p.m. Monday.

All three tournament games will be available to watch on the Internet on Patriot League All-Access. Highlights, post-game interviews and recaps will be available on www.PatriotLeague.org following the series.

Army enters the series having swept its second straight semifinal matchup in two years. Army swept Lafayette in 2011, but fell in three games to Navy in the championship series. The Black Knights swept the Leopards in the semifinals again this season, and now they’ll get the chance to win the title at home.

Holy Cross became the second team in Patriot League Tournament history to sweep a best-of-three-game series, taking down defending champion Navy in a pair of contests Saturday.

The Crusaders got strong pitching from Nate Koneski, Donny Murray and John Colella. Koneski went seven innings in Holy Cross’ 1-0 win over Navy in Game 1, holding the Mids to no runs on two hits and two walks, while striking out six. Colella came in to collect the save, pitching the final 1⅔ innings.

Colella pitched in Game 2, as well, picking up the 4-2 win in extra innings. He didn’t allow a hit in 1⅔ innings of work, getting the Crusaders out of a pair of jams. He followed a pair of strong performances from Murray and Matt Croglio. Murray, a freshman starter, lasted six innings, holding Navy to two runs on three hits. Croglio pitched 2⅓ innings of scoreless relief.

Army also had a closer come into both games as Gunnar Carroll shut the door in both victories on Saturday. He got the final six outs in Game 1, helping the Black Knights win 8-7 over Lafayette. In Game 2, he recorded the final two outs to pick up his eighth save of the season in a 6-3 win.

Carroll saved the first game for Chris Rowley, who during the regular season was the League’s best pitcher with a 1.26 ERA. He struggled on Saturday, though, walking three and hitting four batters in the first two innings, falling into a 5-0 hole. Lafayette made it 6-0 before the League’s top hitter, Kevin McKague, got the Black Knights on the board.

McKague, who owns the League’s best batting average at .394, has 42 RBIs and 35 runs scores scored, including a pair of runs in the comeback Saturday. His second run was scored on Mark McCants’ two-run homer in the sixth. J.T. Watkins, batting .308 on the season, hit a two-run homer later in the inning.

Starting pitcher Logan Lee, who earlier this season tossed the League’s 11th no-hitter, pitched 6⅓ innings against Lafayette in Game 2, holding the Leopards to three runs on 10 hits and three walks. Manny Fernandez added two shutout innings before Carroll recorded the save.

Army enters this weekend’s series looking for its sixth championship. Holy Cross is vying for its first title.

Army continued an impressive run of making the Patriot League Tournament by earning its sixth consecutive bid to the postseason. The Black Knights have earned the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the field in each of those seasons. Holy Cross is in the tournament for the fourth time in the last five years.

Since the format changed to best-of-three in 2008, Army has appeared in a pair of championship series, besting Lafayette in three games in 2009 and falling in three to Navy in 2011. Holy Cross fell in three games to Bucknell in the 2010 championship.

Army and Holy Cross have met 94 times previously in a series that began in 1911. The Black Knights hold a 63-29-2 lead in the all-time series following this year’s split of a four-game set that capped the regular season. Holy Cross is the only Patriot League team to have beaten Army this season, ending the Black Knights’ 17-game winning streak with a 6-3 win on April 28.

Holy Cross went on to win the third game of the series, 5-0 on April 29, before Army forced a split with a 4-3 win. Koneski pitched a gem in the shutout, holding the Black Knights to two hits and one walk in seven innings.

Army has won nine of the last 12 meetings and 11-of-15 against Holy Cross dating back to the 2009 Patriot League Tournament.

Pitching leads top two seeds
Army and Holy Cross have been the League’s best two teams all year for one reason — pitching. The Black Knights have a League-best 3.22 ERA, which ranks 38th in the nation. Holy Cross was second in the League with a 3.97 ERA.

In conference play, Holy Cross’ ERA was 3.83, including a shutout of Army. Nate Koneski, who delivered that two-hit shutout, has the League’s third-best ERA among starters at 2.12. With a 7-2 record, he leads the League with 77 strikeouts. His teammate, Tommy Marra, is 4-3 with a 3.25 ERA, and freshman Donny Murray, who pitched a great game against Navy on Saturday, had a 2.61 ERA in four regular-season Patriot League games. The Crusaders also boast the League’s top reliever in John Colella, who has a League-best 11 saves (tied for 19th in the nation). Colella is 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA in 27 appearances.

Army’s Chris Rowley, the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year, leads the nation with an 11-0 record. His ERA took a hit Saturday, jumping to 1.79, but he still leads the League and ranks 24th in the nation. He is second in the League with 71 strikeouts. Army also enters the championship with a pair of pitchers at 7-2, Logan Lee and Nick Dignacco. Gunnar Carroll has eight saves for Army with a 2.66 ERA.

Army sets League records in wins
Army won its 38th and 39th games of the season, advancing past Lafayette in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament. The 39 wins tie a record set by Army in 2005, and the Black Knights will have a chance to set the new League mark this weekend.

Army also won 18 Patriot League games in 2012, including a streak of 17 straight to start the season, falling one win shy of Navy’s record 19 wins in 1995. The Mids went 19-5 that season when the League was comprised of seven teams. Army’s League winning percentage of .900 is a new League record, as are the 17 consecutive League wins.

Colella shutting the door on opponents
Holy Cross junior reliever John Colella tied for a League-best 27 appearances this year, en route to being named a First-Team All-League reliever. He has a 2.13 ERA in 50⅔ innings of work, striking out 50 and holding teams to a .197 batting average.

Colella is first in the League with 11 saves and he has a 5-1 record. He’s helped close the door on four of Holy Cross’ seven shutouts.

The right-hander collected his 11th save of the season in Game 1 of the Patriot League semifinals on Saturday, and he rcorded win No. 5 in Game 2.

For his career, Colella has 20 saves, which ranks fourth all-time in Patriot League history.

Zach Price named Patriot League Scholar-Athlete
Army senior second baseman Zach Price was named the Patriot League Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Price becomes the seventh student-athlete from Army and the fourth consecutive Black Knight to win the prestigious Scholar-Athlete award. He also becomes a member of the Academic All-League Team for the second time in his career. He is joined by Bucknell’s David Duffett, Russell Seidell, Jack Boehm and Matt Lamore; Holy Cross’ Jordan Enos, Patrick Puentes and Nate Koneski; Lafayette’s Chris Boyce and Lehigh’s Cory Kent.

Price, a native of Cantonment, Fla., has a 3.732 GPA in systems engineering. He has been named to the Dean’s List every semester since arriving at West Point (earning 3.0 GPA or better each semester). He received the Superintendent’s Award (top 20 percent of his class) each semester and he’s currently ranked 157th of 1,037 cadets in the West Point senior class. Price was named a Distinguished Cadet (GPA of 3.67 or better) each semester and he’s a member of the New York Alpha Zeta Chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the National Honorary Mathematics Society.

He was a member of the inaugural All-Patriot League Baseball Academic Team and has been named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll each of his first three seasons. Price is a finalist for this year’s Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and he was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America District I second team each of the past two seasons.

Enos, a Second-Team All-League first baseman, has the Academic All-League Team’s second highest GPA with a 3.59 in mathematics and economics. Enos is a first-time selection. His teammate, Koneski, earns his second straight selection with a 3.40 GPA in chemistry. Puentes, a psychology and economics major at Holy Cross, has a 3.20 GPA. Both Koneski (starting pitcher) and Puentes (outfield) were named to the All-League First Team.

Bucknell led the League with four seniors named to the Academic All-League Team. Seidell, a mechanical engineering major, and Boehm, a civil engineering major, both have a 3.41 GPA. Lamore has a 3.40 GPA in biology and Duffett has a 3.35 GPA in mechanical engineering.

Kent, who was named an All-League Second Team pitcher, also becomes a two-time selection to the Academic All-League Team, posting a 3.36 GPA as a history and secondary education (social studies) major.

Boyce, a senior pitcher for the Leopards, rounds out the team with his 3.37 GPA in mechanical engineering.

Holy Cross posts best League season in school history
Holy Cross amassed its best Patriot League (13-7) record under fifth-year head coach Greg DiCenzo. The Crusaders finished the season with a program-best 13 Patriot League wins. Their winning percentage of .650 is the school’s best since the 1991 season when the Crusaders went 11-4 (.733). DiCenzo, who picked up his 100th career win earlier in the season, is 54-44 all-time in Patriot League play. DiCenzo will lead the Crusaders in the Patriot League Tournament for the fourth time in five seasons after making three straight appearances from 2008-10. In 2010, the Crusaders beat Lehigh in the semifinals to earn a trip to the championship series, where Bucknell won two of three games to win the title.

McKague, Price setting new League records
Army senior Kevin McKague has moved near the top of several Patriot League all-time record lists. He added to his Patriot League all-time hits record with four more in the Patriot League semifinals, pushing his total to 279. He moved to within five RBIs of tying Clint Moore (Army, 2008-11) for the top spot in RBIs at 185.

He’s currently tied for the Patriot League record in saves, after posting his 27th in a 6-2 win over Navy on March 30. He tied former Army reliever Milan Dinga, who had 27 saves from 2004-07.

He’s also second in doubles with 54 and he’s two away from tying for first place.

Army senior Zach Price also has etched his named into the League record book with his 125 career walks, pushing him into No. 1 all-time. He also moved into the top five in hits with 233.

Full speed Ahmed
Sophmore third baseman Mike Ahmed has been a leader offensively at the top of Holy Cross’ lineup, batting .303 on the season with a League-best seven home runs. During the League season, he led the League in batting with a .373 average. Ahmed has totaled 24 RBIs and 38 runs scored, while drawing 30 walks.

He also has made 12 appearances on the mound, going 2-1 with a 3.45 ERA. He has two saves in 15⅔ innings, holding opponents to a .185 batting average.

A East Longmeadow, Mass., native, Ahmed’s brother, Nick, played baseball at UConn as was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 2011 MLB Draft.

Price named Lowe’s Senior CLASS finalist
Army senior infielder Zach Price has been named one of 10 finalists for the 2012 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, it was announced by the organization on April 25.

Price is the first Army baseball player to become a finalist for the award, which annually honors a senior student-athlete with notable achievements in four areas of excellence — community, classroom, character and competition.

The finalists were chosen by a media committee from the list of 30 candidates announced in February. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to determine the winner. Army fans are encouraged to vote for Zach on the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award website through June 11. Fan votes will be combined with media and Division I head coaches’ votes to determine the winner. Fans are allowed to vote once per day.

Lowe’s, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, will announce the Senior CLASS Award winner during the 2012 NCAA College World Series, which will be held June 15-26 in Omaha, Neb. Price has excelled in all four areas since arriving at West Point.

A two-time All-Patriot League selection, Price currently ranks among Army’s all-time top 10 in runs scored (third with 163), base hits (fifth with 223) and stolen bases (tied for sixth with 48).

A native of Cantonment, Fla., Price was named to the Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-America District I second team each of the past two seasons. The Black Knights’ starting second baseman and leadoff hitter maintains a 3.732 cumulative grade point average as a Systems Engineering major.