New York Regional Preview

Top ranked Cortland could be the team to close out Appleton's run as D-III World Series hosts. photo by Ryan Coleman

by John McGraw

The New York region continued to flex its’ muscles in 2017. Oswego State represented the region at the Division III World Series in Appleton while Cortland was one win away from sending two Empire State sides to the World Series for the second year in a row.

For the second year in a row, three New York region players were selected in the Major League Baseball draft: All-American Will Gorman (Arizona) of R.I.T., Farmingdale State’s Matt Seelinger (Pittsburgh) and Jon Ghyzel (Cincinnati) of the University of Rochester. The trio made up one fourth of the 12 total Division III players drafted in 2017.

The tarp comes off the field for the 2018 campaign with three New York squads in the Preseason Top 25 led by preseason national number one Cortland. Defending regional champion Oswego State placed 11th and Empire 8 powerhouse St. John Fisher copped 24th in the hot stove poll. NCAA tournament teams from a year ago Ithaca and R.I.T. are also receiving votes.

It’s no surprise that national number one Cortland (43-8) opens as the preseason favorite amongst Empire State ballclubs. The Red Dragons have made 25 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament, the longest active streak for any Division III school and third longest in NCAA baseball behind Division I programs Cal State Fullerton (26) and Florida (40). Joe Brown’s Red Dragons have gone to the World Series 10 times over the last 18 years though Cortland finds itself in an unfamiliar spot as the new season begins with Oswego State as the defending SUNYAC champion. The last time Cortland did not represent the SUNYAC as the conference’s automatic qualifier in the NCAA tournament, the Red Dragons won the next six conference tournament titles in a row (2011 – 2016).

Oswego State will be eager to get back to the
D-III World Series n 2018. photo by Steve Frommell

Oswego State (32-11), fresh off their first World Series appearance in school history, still has the taste of smiting the Red Dragons last season. The Lakers have a core group of veterans that has put together five straight winning seasons and most recently back-to-back 30-plus win campaigns in the Port City. If the Lakers can carry over last year’s confidence, they’ll give the Red Dragons a fight for the region’s spoils.

St. John Fisher (30-12) made its second straight NCAA tournament last spring and the Cardinals are only two years removed a school record 39-win season and a berth in the World Series. St. John Fisher has two of the top players in the Empire 8 and the region along with a young and talented group that buoyed the team to an Empire 8 regular season title as freshmen. Ithaca (30-13) will challenge rival St. John Fisher both in the Empire 8 and the regional rankings. The Bombers return a loaded pitching staff and a talented offense that should vault the defending E8 tournament champs back into the NCAA tournament.

Like Ithaca, RIT (33-9) has a veteran pitching staff that should be one of the tops in the region with every arm back from last year’s Liberty League winner that reached the NCAA tournament. If the Tigers offense can reclaim last year’s pop, the Brick City should again be Baseball City. Another veteran team that will contend amongst the best in the region is Union. The Dutchmen have been to NCAA tournament two times in the last four years and a balanced team in Schenectady should make a run back to the regional round.

A trio of downstate schools should provide for interesting conversations come rankings time. Among Pool A contenders, SUNY Maritime (26-13) won the Skyline last year and the Privateers open the new season as the conference favorite. Meanwhile, both NYU (23-13) and Staten Island (27-11-1) appear to be serious Pool B possibilities. The Violets have a trio of talented stars and a veteran group that has increased the program’s wins each year since the program was re-started. Staten Island pushed into the regional rankings last year and the Dolphins are looking to continue their swim upstream.

New Faces

John Poss, Wilson: Wilson College will become the 10th baseball-playing member of the NEAC in 2019. This past summer, Wilson tapped John Poss to be the program’s first head coach. Poss arrives in Chambersburg after compiling an impressive 123-28 record and two Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference championships over six seasons at St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Annapolis, Md. He was previously an assistant at private Washington D.C. powerhouse DeMatha Catholic. Poss played five seasons professionally in the Frontier and Atlantic Leagues after a collegiate career that included stops at Maryland-Baltimore County and Winthrop. 

Peter Blumenauer, St. Joseph’s (Brooklyn): Blumenauer is the fourth head coach in the 10-year history of the St. Joseph’s (Brooklyn) program which is entering its third season in the rugged Skyline Conference. Blumenauer spent 11 seasons as the head coach at Islip High School on Long Island where he guided the school to two Long Island championships, two New York State finals appearances and one state crown. A three-time winner of Suffolk County Coach of the Year, Blumenauer also brings collegiate coaching experience to the Clinton Hill campus from Division II Adelphi (N.Y.) and Suffolk Community College. He played collegiately at UCONN and Molloy College. 

Tommy Cannella will be New
Rochelle's first skipper.
New Rochelle athletics photo

Marty Craft, Yeshiva: Craft inherits a Yeshiva program that is looking to climb out of the cellar in the Skyline Conference. He takes over a program that was previously led by Frankie Delgado for three seasons. Craft brings a wealth of baseball experience to Yeshiva including a five-year stint as a pitching coach at Division I Saint Peters College and nearly 15 seasons as a video analyst for Big League Systems which provided analysis for Major League Baseball teams. Craft played professionally for several seasons in Australia following a collegiate playing career at Chabot (Calif.) College and Cal State Hayward.

Tommy Cannella, College of New Rochelle: On the inaugural flight of the Blue Angels, Tommy Cannella is the first skipper in school history. He worked previously as a hitting coach at Queensborough (N.Y.) Community College where he helped guide the Tigers to back-to-back NJCAA Division II Region XV playoff appearances. Canella also spent five seasons at Salesian High School and he has coached at the summer collegiate level.

Games to Watch in 2018

Feb. 17-18: Cortland at Salisbury – First nationally-ranked Red Dragons open their season with a two-game series at 18th ranked Salisbury.

Mar. 4: Cortland at Johns Hopkins – Early season top 10 match-up on the third day of Hopkins’ Baltimore Invitational tournament that also includes Rutgers-Camden and Frostburg State.

Mar. 5: St. John Fisher vs. Concordia (Chicago) – One of four games for the Cardinals against teams ranked in the top 10 of the Preseason Top 25.

Mar 11, Mar 13: RIT vs. UMASS Boston – Defending Liberty League champs  with an early season non-region test.

Mar. 25: SUNY Maritime at St. Joseph’s (Long Island) – Preseason favorites in the Skyline square off.

Mar. 30-31: Ithaca vs. St. John Fisher – Last regular season showdown between top Empire 8 schools in Ithaca’s final year in the Empire 8.

Mar 30 - 31: RIT at Union – The two top teams in the Liberty League collide after not meeting in the regular season last year due to the league’s unbalanced schedule.

April 27-28: Cortland at Oswego State – Two SUNYAC favorites square off likely with the regular season championship on the line at Oswego’s Laker Field.

May 5-6: The final weekend of Liberty League competition is headlined by rivalries with a quartet of home-and-home match-ups on tap in a conference where slots three through seven in the standings were separated by just three games in 2017. R.I.T. and Rochester get together for a rumble in the Lilac City while on the other end of the New York State Thruway, R.P.I. and Union square off as Capital District clubs collide. Clarkson and St. Lawrence go head-to-head in the North Country while the Hudson Valley is no different when Bard and Vassar get together

Conference Previews

Derek Jentz limited batters to a .183 batting
average in 2017 for the Staten Island Dolphins.

Staten Island athletics photo by Brian Wong

City University of New York Athletic Conference: With the addition of affiliate members Maine-Presque Isle and Finlandia last spring, the CUNYAC began its road to becoming an automatic bid conference. Both the Lions and Lions, eligible for CUNYAC postseason play, are members of the American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) which does not sponsor baseball. Maine Presque Isle however will be joining the NAC for the 2018-19 school year. Conference heavyweight Staten Island (27-11-1), a regionally-ranked team in 2017, has the conference’s best shot at going to the NCAA postseason. The three-time defending league champions won 27 games last year and captured their third CUNYAC tournament title in a row. It was the school’s 19th overall. Five-time CUNYAC Coach of the Year Mike Mauro nearly returns just about everyone from last year’s team including two major award winners, CUNYAC Pitcher of the Year Derek Jentz (4-2, 2.16 ERA, 41.2 IP, 44 K) and Rookie of the Year Jett Nouvertne (.362, 35 RBI, 18 SB) as well as two other all-conference selections.

Baruch (17-20), the last team to unseat Staten Island from the top of the conference, should again be a main foil for the fish. Head coach Jose Torres is counting on a a deep pitching staff and an improved defense to boost the Manhattan school. Top tossers Matthew Fazio (51 K) and Paul Sirakowski (40 K) both finished among the top five in the league in strikeouts. The Bearcats though will have a slight adjustment with 16 incoming freshmen and transfers. John Jay (13-25) and CCNY (11-22) rounded out the league’s top four last spring. John Jay won 13 games for the second consecutive season and upset Staten Island in the opening round of the league playoffs. CCNY boasted the biggest improvement in the conference going from five to 11 wins and earning a victory in the preliminary round of the league tournament. Lehman (11-25) featured New York City’s most exciting offense as the Lightning struck for a region high 38 home runs or 1.06 per game, the sixth most in the nation.

TEAM TO BEAT: Staten Island

Empire 8: The Empire 8 awarded its first ever automatic bid to the NCAA tournament last spring. Ithaca claimed its third Empire 8 tournament title in a row and 15th E8 championship overall. However in 2018, the Bombers will be competing for their last Empire 8 title as the school plays one final season in the conference before transitioning the baseball program into the Liberty League where the majority of the school’s sports teams already reside. Ithaca began competing as a Liberty League member in other sports this past fall. SUNY Canton will also be departing the Empire 8 after this season en route to the North Atlantic Conference which is primarily based in northern New England. This spring, familiar foes Ithaca and St. John Fisher will again clash atop of the Empire 8 with a new face looking to challenge the status quo.

If Ithaca (30-13) and St. John Fisher (30-12) are familiar with one another, that’s because both teams return many of their players from last season, one where St. John Fisher and Ithaca finished 1-2 in the league standings. Both clubs return 25 players from 2017. Ithaca’s starting pitching staff projects to be one of the toughest in the region with Jake Binder (9-1, 2.90 ERA, 77.2 IP), Robby Buffis (6-2, 4.52 ERA, 63.2 IP), All-Liberty League transfer Emmett Dunn (3-2, 4.79 ERA, 41.1 IP) from St. Lawrence and Jack Morello (2-2, 3.33 ERA, 48.2 IP). Ithaca also gets back another workhorse arm in Tyler Hill (5-7, 3.31 ERA, 81.2 IP, 46 K) who missed all of 2017 due to injury. The starters will be counted upon to eat up innings with dual threat Webb Little (0-1, 1.69 ERA, 4 SV, 10.2 IP) the only IC reliever to post a sub 4.00 ERA last spring. The Little brothers, Webb (.321, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 53 H, 41 R) and Sam (.347, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 52 H, 42 R), again should be the heart of Ithaca’s offense along with Adam Gallagher (.309, 2 HR, 24 RBI). The biggest question marks for the Blue and Gold will be in the infield, with the loss of three of four position players and the lead-off slot in the batting order. Head coach George Valesente is entering his 40th season at the helm of the Blue and Gold and he is nearing 1,100 career victories.

Scott Eisenmenger has a .992 field average in
his previous three seasons with St. John Fisher. photo by Steve Frommell

St. John Fisher, coming off head coach Brandon Potter’s fifth 30-or-more win season in eight years overall, has perhaps both the best pitcher and hitter in the E8 in 2017 Rookie of the Year Anthony Brophy (9-1, 1.54 ERA, 70.0 IP, 56 K) and All-American Scott Eisenmenger (.381, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 61 H, 25 BB). Though the Cardinals will be more than just Eisenmenger and Brophy. The Cardinals should be balanced overall with the ability to pitch and hit well according to Brandon Potter. On paper, the pitching again appears stout with Jim Dawson (6-2, 3.86 ERA, 67.2 IP, 31 K), a key part of Fisher’s World Series team in 2016, and relievers Dillan Wilkinson (4-1, 1.82 ERA, 15 APP, 29.2 IP, 20 K), Kyle Chambers (1-2, 2.48 ERA, 5 SV, 29.0 IP, 36 K) and Loukas Brigham (0-1, 8.10 ERA, 6 APP). Brigham saved 13 games in 2016 and carved out a 1.73 ERA in 24 appearances.If he returns to his earlier form, the Cardinals will be birds of prey in the region. Justin Graham (.361, 21 RBI, 52 H) and Ryan Fahy (.328, 5 HR, 25 RBI) should protect Eisenmenger in the Fisher line-up though the Cardinals will need to replace a handful of position players.

After heavyweights Ithaca and St. John Fisher, relative newcomer Elmira (16-19) is hoping to crash the party. The Soaring Eagles, entering their fourth year as a program, have made improvements each season with a school best 9-9 Empire 8 record in 2017 that included a regular season win over Ithaca and a co-third place finish in the conference. With many veterans and returners, the Soaring Eagles have a great opportunity to take the next step. Connor Barwiec (.346, 13 RBI / 4-2, 4.14 ERA, 50.0 IP, 49 K) is one of the top two-way players in the conference. Tommy Fogarty (.304, 19 RBI) is another player to watch in the Twin Tiers.

Stevens (19-23-1) rounded out the Empire 8 tournament field last spring. In a league that projects to have strong pitching, Stevens will be right in the mix. All-region arm Danny Poidomani (6-4, 2.94 ERA, 82.2 IP, 91 K) and Quinn DiPasquale (3-4, 3.60 ERA, 60.0 IP, 57 K) are each coming off all-league laurels over the summer in the Costal Plain and Northwoods League’s respectively should anchor the pitching staff. The Empire 8’s saves leader in Charlie Ruegger (2-1, 4.30 ERA, 8 SV, 20 APP, 37.2 IP) also returns. While the Hoboken nine must replace three of their top four hitters, Alex Detweiler (.393, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 42 H) should provide the biggest stick in Hoboken.  

One game separated Utica (18-18) from a potential spot in the Empire 8 tournament. The Pioneers finished a game back of Elmira and Stevens. Though things are looking up in the Mohawk Valley as Utica doubled its win total from 2016. A large group of upperclassmen and a favorable schedule will benefit the Pios this spring with home series against Elmira, Ithaca and St. John Fisher. UC will rely on its bats with six of its top seven hitters coming back led by two-time all-league choice Tim Quinlan (.375, 3 HR, 43 RBI, 48 H).

SUNY Canton (10-27) and Houghton (14-21) round out the conference. Wilson Matos (.336, 5 HR, 46 RBI, 13 DBL) will be Canton’s best player after the school graduated a 10-man senior class. Houghton fielded a young team last year that should be improved albeit the Highlanders will still move forward with 18 combined freshmen and sophomores. The benefit of last year’s youth movement for the Highlanders will be a group of six returning starters with a group of three – David Wessells (.368, 3 HR, 30 RBI), Ethan Duryea (.349, 4 HR, 25 RBI) and Tage Johnson (.342, 4 HR, 26 RBI) that combined to smash 11 home runs and collect 71 RBI.


Brett Bouchard earned All-Liberty League honors
in 2017 for the Rochester Tech Tigers.

RIT athletis photo

Liberty League: A conference with traditionally tight races in the league standings turned into a runaway in 2017 as RIT slugged its way to a 22-1 league mark, a school record 33 victories, a Liberty League tournament title and a first ever NCAA tournament appearance. The Tigers broke up RPI and Union’s monopoly on the Liberty League that had lasted four years from 2013 through 2016. As the snow melts away from Liberty League diamonds, RIT looks to be the favorite to defend its crown though Union may stand in the way.

RIT opens the spring as the conference favorite though the Tigers may rely more on pitching with the graduation of All-American Will Gorman (.367, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 34 BB, 58 H). In 2017, RIT’s team ERA was over 1.00 lower than anyone else in the conference. Liberty League Pitcher of the Year Brian Reed (8-2, 2.18 ERA, 66.0 IP, 69 K) paces a Tiger contingent that returns five all-conference arms. Reed, Daniel Zeglen (6-0, 2.70 ERA, 46.2 IP, 3 CG) and Brett Bouchard (5-2, 2.22 ERA, 6 SV, 42.2 IP, 33 K) were all first team all-conference picks while Jameson Moran (6-0, 1.79 ERA, 55.1 IP, 56 K) and Stevie Brache (4-1, 3.80 ERA, 45.0 IP, 64 K) were All-Liberty League second team. Four of the five spun ERA’s under 3.00 for the Orange and Black. RIT’s offense clubbed out 146 extra-base hits last season and averaged over seven runs per contest. A veteran group is six returning starters will provide RIT’s offense though three of the top four bats from last year’s 33-win team graduated. Dom Scialabba (.327, 17 RBI, 33 H), dual threat Daniel Zeglen (.324, 2 HR, 30 RBI) and Nevada Waterman (.302, 23 RBI, 48 H) are the top returning Tigers. With a veteran team, RIT has a good chance of repeating and with strong pitching depth, the team could do damage in the regionals.

The Tigers top challenge should come from the Electric City in the form of a deep Union team. Head coach Paul Mounds believes this year’s edition of the Dutchmen may be one of his strongest and deepest teams what with all but a few players returning from last year’s Liberty League second-place squad. Overall for the Garnet, eight position players, four pitchers and two relievers are back. Union has a great 1-2 utility punch of Jake Vesling (.404, 21 RBI, 40 H / 5-3, 3.79 ERA, 57.0 IP, 39 K) and Andy Labeck (.333, 2 HR, 24 RBI). Labeck, coming off surgery, racked up a 1.73 ERA in 41.2 innings as a freshman in 2015. Vesling topped the Dutchmen in batting average, innings pitched and complete games last spring. Reliever Nick Williams (1-1, 1.88 ERA, 3 SV, 24.0 IP, 28 K) anchors the bullpen. Another boost will come from catcher Harrison Glatt (.321, 16 RBI - 2016), an all-conference selection from 2016 that missed most of last year due to injury. While RIT had the best power numbers in the conference, Union’s overall team offense led the loop with a .317 team batting average. If the Dutchmen offense doesn’t miss a beat, the road to the Liberty League title could run through Schenectady.

Chasing RIT and Union atop of the league with be technical school rivals Clarkson and RPI. Clarkson (18-18) reached the conference tournament for the fourth straight year in 2017 and 12th time in 15 years despite not having all-conference performer Will Coleman (.323, 10 RBI / 0-1, 18.00 ERA, 4.0 IP) for a majority of the season. While the Golden Knights lost a fair amount due to graduation, Coleman’s dual threat ability will provide a big boost. Coleman and Mike Bubiniak (4-3, 5.04 ERA, 44.0 IP) should make up two-thirds of Tech’s conference rotation. Coleman, Ben Knauf (.306, 18 RBI) and Brad Pearson (.273, 15 RBI) are Clarkson’s best returning swingers. RPI (18-21) was the only team to beat RIT during the conference regular season in 2017. The Engineers are looking to get back on track and steam into the conference tournament after missing out last spring. RPI will have all three weekend starters back on the bump led by inning eaters Christopher Palmiero (3-2, 2.40 ERA, 45.0 IP, 47 K), Brendan McNerney (2-4, 4.17 ERA, 49.2 IP, 42 K) and Aaron Kalish (2-5, 4.20 ERA, 40.2 IP, 37 K). The veterans, along with several promising freshmen, should buoy the Cherry and White on the bump. At the plate, All-Liberty League outfielder Ethann Meister (.356, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 48 H) is one of four RPI starters returning.

Rochester (12-18) finished outside of the playoff chase last spring with largely a young team. With seven starters and three position players returning, the Yellow Jackets are looking to rebound back into the league’s top four. UR’s seven leading hitters all return to the River Campus with Tyler Schmidt (.324, 13 RBI) at the front of the pack. Jack Denzer (3-4, 2.65 ERA, 54.1 IP, 28 K, 3 CG) leads Rochester’s pitching rotation which must replace strikeout standout Jon Ghyzel (3-2, 4.25 ERA, 42.1 IP, 50 K) who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. UR should get a boost from Luke Meyerson (0-2, 7.58 ERA, 18.1 IP) who missed part of last season due to injury. Meyerson was one of Rochester’s top arms in his first two seasons.

HC Matthew Righter guided the Brewers to the
conference playoff in his first year as head coach.

Vassar athletics photo

In his first season at Vassar, Matthew Righter guided the Brewers back to the league tournament for the first time since 2014. Much of last spring’s team returns with nine position players back on a club that featured 12 players that started at least 16 games. The core of the team was young with the top three hitters all freshmen or sophomores. Of the nine position players back, Liberty League Rookie of the Year Evan Trausch (.362, 19 RBI, 38 H) heads up a group of four returning all-conference selections: Taylor Smach (.337, 19 RBI, 32 H), Matt Martino (.320, 2 HR, 19 RBi) and Bobby Kinne (.286, 2 HR, 15 RBI). Kinne was one of the top hitters in the conference as a freshman in 2015. On the mound, relievers Bryan Rubin (3-1, 2.66 ERA, 2 SV, 20.1 IP, 19 K) and John Madsen (1.46 ERA, 17 APP, 12.1 IP) make up one of the tougher bullpens in the league.

St. Lawrence (11-21) finished only a half-game behind Rochester last spring. The Saints lose four all-conference selections but bring back all-league catcher Anthony Butler (.274, 11 RBI) and a handful of starters. Bard (9-28) begins its fifth season in the conference looking to try and take the next step and compete near the head of the table. Strikeout artist Evan Richardson (2-6, 4.94 ERA, 47.1 IP, 57 K) is Bard’s best returning player on a team that will have 21 combined juniors and seniors. Skidmore (10-24) brings back a strong 1-2 punch of all-conference selections Will Potter (.406, 5 RBI, 28 H) and Patrick Geiger (.313, 4 HR, 21 RBI) along with staff ace Jacob Berish (2-3, 2.72 ERA, 39.2 IP, 1 CG). The Thoroughbreds could race their way into the top four as a spoiler.

TEAM TO BEAT: Rochester Tech

Skyline Conference: Since Old Westbury ended Farmingdale State’s run of seven straight Skyline championships in 2015, three different schools has won the conference title over the last three years: Old Westbury, St.  Joseph’s (Long Island) and SUNY Maritime. The parity atop of the conference may be short lived with the Privateers being stocked full for another run at Skyline supremacy.

In three short years, Charlie Barbieri has SUNY Maritime (26-13) sailing the right direction. The skipper has guided the Privateers to back-to-back seasons of 20 wins or more, both school records, and steered the program to its first ever NCAA tournament. This spring, the Privateers now look to keep their spoils in a crowded Skyline Conference with a veteran team that has grown up under Barbieri. Maritime returns the core of an offense that topped the loop in nearly every offensive category including team batting average (.328), runs scored (316) and home runs (37). While the graduation of Skyline Player of the Year Brian McLaughlin (.450, 9 HR, 51 RBI, 63 H) will sting, all-region DH Stephen Semler (.402, 6 HR, 43 RBI), Matt Costleigh (.375, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 47 R, 15 RBI) and Skyline Tournament MVP Chris Deddo (.397, 7 HR, 40 RBI, 51 R, 27 BB) should anchor a balanced batting order. The entire pitching staff is also still aboard topped by Skyline Rookie of the Year Travis Bruinsma (8-3, 4.13 ERA, 61.0 IP, 43 K, 4 CG),  three-year starter Anthony D’Ancona (5-2, 4.36 ERA, 64.0 IP, 43 K) and closer Skyler Graff (2-0, 2.20 ERA, 2 SV, 16.1 IP, 17 K).

Anthony Papa returned to his home town,
transferring from Coastal Carolina to play
for the Golden Eagles.
Photo by James Escher

Pitching and defense help win championships. St. Joseph’s (Long Island) (25-14) was first in the Skyline in fielding percentage (.959) and second in team earned run average (3.66) in 2017. Sure, the Golden Eagles lost their two top twirlers but reinforcements come in the forms of Division I transfer Anthony Papa (Coastal Carolina) and Joseph Murphy, both standout pitchers on Long Island in high school that should contribute right away. Returning arms Nick Clemente (5-2, 4.09 ERA, 44.0 IP) and P.J. Martino (2-3, 1 SV, 3.29 ERA, 38.1 IP) round out the starting pitching rotation which could be one of the best in the league. The offense should be powered by Skyline Player of the Year candidate Lou Doria (.361, 9 HR, 42 RBI, .722 SLG). Doria, a left-handed power hitting first baseman launched a co league high nine home runs and drove in 42 runs last season.

Should St. Joseph’s (Long Island) falter, seven-time conference champion Farmingdale State could be the one to challenge Maritime for the top of the Skyline. The Rams are much more experienced after spending two seasons undergoing a youth movement. Vincent Rice (.413, 15 RBI, 45 H) became the second straight Farmingdale frosh to lead the team in batting average after Nick Attardi did so in 2016. Both Rice and Attardi (.250, 7 RBI) return along with Tyler Schrimpf (.352, 14 RBI) and Nicholas Soriano (.353, 18 RBI). The overall offensive output could be determined by have fast several transfers mesh into the line-up as Keith Osik’s opening day card could feature as many as four newcomers. The graduation of 2x Skyline Pitcher of the Year Matt Seelinger (4-1, 1 SV, 1.39 ERA, 69 K) leaves a big void at the top of the rotation that should be filled by David Otero, Jr. (1-0, 1.16 ERA, 31.0 IP, 35 K) and Joe Marino (2-1, 1.65 ERA, 27.1 IP), both of whom posted ERA’s under 2.00 in an offensively-minded Skyline circuit.

Old Westbury continues to be one of the fastest and most aggressive teams in the Skyline Conference. The Panthers swiped a league high 86 bases last spring and totaled 106 extra-base hits, among the most in the league.  Speed, according to head coach Rod Stephen, will again be a key for Old Westbury led by all-region infielder / outfielder Jesse Russo (.399, 22 RBI, 21 SB, 59 H, 40 R) who will be one of the top players in the conference. OW will also count heavily on a large group of newcomers with only 12 players back from a 20-win squad. Among the best additions are all-conference catcher John Condon (.432, 34 RBI, 54 H, 12 DBL) from league rival St. Joseph’s (Brooklyn) and Division I transfer Matthew Bohenek who made 13 appearances for LIU Brooklyn last spring.

After the top four, the picture gets cloudier as teams vie to break into the higher floors of the conference. Mount St. Mary (15-28) shocked the Skyline last spring as the fifth seed in the conference tournament. The Blue Knights upset Old Westbury in the opening round and downed defending tournament champ St. Joseph’s (Long Island) in the semifinals before succumbing to Maritime in the title challenge. Mount could again play the role of spoiler with nearly everyone back led by Christopher Introcaso (,359, 4 HR, 24 RBI) and Blake Keenan (3-5, 6.43 ERA, 49.0 IP, 30 K), two key components of last year’s conference tournament run. Like Mount St. Mary, Merchant Marine (15-19) pulled an opening round conference upset though the Mariners were outlasted in extra innings by Maritime and then stopped by MSM. USMMA, in its first Skyline season, finished sixth in the loop behind a 9-9 record. Merchant Marine projects to return two all-conference selections in Michael Barnes (.333, 20 RBI, 39 H) and Kyle Cunningham (.290, 13 RBI) as well as offensive leader Wyatt Wilson (.325, 23 RBI, 40 H).

St. Joseph's (Brooklyn) was picked to finish
ninth in the 2018 Skyline coaches poll.

St. Joseph's (Brooklyn) athletics photo

St. Joseph’s (Brooklyn) (14-19) made its second straight Skyline tournament last spring. 2018 will be a season of change for the Bears with a new skipper, the loss of three all-conference players as well as the school’s all-time wins leader and just 13 players are back on Clinton Hill. No returning pitcher threw more than 18 innings last spring while offensively, the Bears lost a quintet of .300 hitters. Kevin Lintz (.291, 23 RBI, 39 H, 39 R) and Adam Schwartz (.254, 2 HR, 25 RBI project to the be this year’s offensive standouts. Looking to break into the playoff picture will be SUNY Purchase (9-18). The Panthers return five starters and three pitchers from last year’s club including Brian Cunningham (.320, 11 RBI). 


State University of New York Athletic Conference: Cortland’s near 20-year reign atop of the regular season standings in the SUNYAC came to an end last April as Oswego State claimed the conference regular season crown with a 15-3 league record. Poor weather cancelled the conference tournament and the Lakers were selected to represent the SUNYAC in the NCAA tournament marking just the third time in the last 20 years a school other than Cortland was the SUNYAC’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA playoffs.

While the Lakers are the defending conference champions, Cortland appears to be ready to reclaim its crown and return to Appleton for what would be the program’s 15th trip to the Division III World Series. With head coach Joe Brown at the helm, the Red Dragons have won an astounding 15 conference titles in 18 seasons. Brown, closing in on his 700th career win at Cortland, believes he may have one of his deepest teams yet. Ten players return with at least 19 games started. While all-conference performer Steven Figueroa (.406, 38 RBI, 67 H, 48 R) graduated, the Red Dragons have a horde of seven .300 hitters with big belters in Patrick Schetter (.377, 37 RBI), Justin Teague (374, 28 RBI), Nate Budge (.363, 26 RBI) and Jack Massa (.328, 6 HR, 28 RBI). On a whole last year, the offense was 13th nationally in batting average (.331). In addition, a standout group of incoming talent could usurp the veterans. Division I transfers Frankie Vesuvio (West Virginia) and Wyatt Myers (Buffalo) should challenge for playing time right away as could Ricky Sisto (Monroe CC/Miami). The bigger question marks come on the mound where Cortland graduated two-thirds of its conference rotation; one of the departed is All-American in Alex Weingarten (7-1, 1.83, 54.0 IP, 56 K). Patrick Merryweather (5-1, 3.83 ERA, 56.1 IP, 55 K) is the only weekend starter back in 2018. Relievers Anthony Viscounte (2-1, 1.76 ERA, 15.1 IP, 20 K) and Jake Casey (4-0, 2.23 ERA, 32.1 IP, 33 K) form a formidable punch from the bullpen along with newcomer Kyle Naugle (Onondaga CC). Should the Red Dragons rotation come together, nicely, along with a bevy of southpaws, Cortland should be the team to beat.

Oswego State made its first ever Division III World Series last spring after coming out of the Syracuse, New York regional. While the Lakers graduated 11 players from last year’s World Series participant, the team returns a solid nucleus of talent that they’ll build upon to look for a return to Appleton. The graduation losses included two time SUNYAC Player of the Year Eric Hamilton (.435, 5 HR, 39 RBI, 73 H, 42 R) and SUNYAC Pitcher of the Year Tim Cronin (9-2, 2.97 ERA, 72.2 IP). Offensively, the Green and Gold gets back three of its top four swingers in Mike Dellicarri (.358, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 49 H, 13 DBL), Zach Whelan (.369, 8 RBI) and Lukas Olsson (.317, 7 RBI). Add in a healthy Myles Kutscher (.256, 1 HR, 4 RBI), a 2016 All-New York selection, and the versatile John Barnes (.298, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 42 H), and the Laker offense should continue to sail along. Oswego should also get help from Division I transfer Brandon Nicholson (Canisius). The offense may need to carry the load early while the Lakers recover from losses in the pitching department. Robert Donnelly (2-4, 3.60 ERA, 2 SV, 40.0 IP), Reston Petit (2-0, 5.40 ERA, 40.IP, 32 K) and Brian Nolan (4-1, 4.33 ERA, 43.2 IP, 34 K) should make up the top of the rotation though Oswego loses 136.2 innings and 17 wins with the departed Tim Cronin and Mitchell Cavanaugh (8-0, 2.37 ERA, 64.2, 53 K). Reliever Bobby Zywicki (3-0, 1.88 ERA, 24.0 IP) led the Lakers in ERA and he will hold down the Laker bullpen.

Lou Miceli batted .292 in his first year playing
for the Brockport Easles.
Brockport athletics photo

While the national accolades go to Cortland and Oswego, Brockport State has quietly amassed nine straight seasons with at least 20 victories under Justin Beach. The Golden Eagles were the only team in the conference last year to defeat both Cortland and Oswego in SUNYAC competition. All-conference hitman Avery Brooks (.371, 24 RBI, 46 H, 12 DBL) is one of six position players back for the Green and Gold along with Tom Kretzler (.297, 16 RBI), Lou Miceli (.292, 2 HR, 14 RBI) and Luke Gilbert (.291, 9 HR, 32 H) however the Golden Eagles will have to replace four .300 hitters. The frontline pitching will be potent with Mark Giallanzo (0-2, 2.50 ERA, 39.2 IP, 24 K) and Sam McCumiskey (4-1, 3.58 ERA, 27.2 IP, 5 GS). McCumiskey was Brockport’s ace in 2016.

First year head coach Arlan Freeman guided New Paltz (17-17) to a top four finish for the first time since 2013. Three all-conference starters and a strong core of returners should have the Hawks again on the prowl for a top four finish. Ryan Vopytka (4-1, 1.67 ERA, 32.1 IP, 30 K) was one of the top relievers in the SUNYAC last season while the NP offense was powered by the duo of Justin Ganca (.343, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 37 H) and Chris Moran (.294, 4 HR, 20 RBI). The Hawks also boast a pair of former SUNYAC Rookies of the Year in Justin Stybel (1-4, 7.23 ERA, 23.2, 16 K) and Jake Williams (.283, 12 RBI). If Stybel can return to his freshman form, he and lefty Brian Lorusso (2-5, 2.78 ERA, 2 SV, 45.2 IP, 22 K) should lead the pitching rotation with Vopytka at the back end.

Fredonia State (16-20) looks to build upon a large recruiting class with 15 incoming freshmen. Of the players back for the Blue Devils, Patrick Sheehan (.329, 2 HR, 12 RBI) and Steve Zaprowski (.310, 10 RBI) are the top upperclassmen. Like Catskill Cup rival New Paltz, SUNY Oneonta welcomes back three all-conference selections in pitcher Thomas Bond (5-3, 4.44 ERA, 50.2 IP) and swingers Dalton Beatty (.342, 2 HR, 19 RBI) and Brandon Torres (.279, 19 RBI). The Red Dragons will also have the benefit of returning their entire starting pitching rotation and slugger second leading hitter Mickey Mullins (.316, 2 HR, 19 RBI). While Plattsburgh (13-23) did not qualify for the conference tournament last spring, the Cardinals posted a seven-win turnaround overall and improved by three wins in league play. Plattsburgh engineered its turnaround with a line-up that regularly featured five freshmen. Patrick Bryant (2-3, 2.77 ERA, 48.2 IP, 29 K / .269, 14 RBI) should be one of the top utility players in the conference.

TEAM TO BEAT: Cortland

Independents: As the conference scramble continues, the number of independents for the 2018 season has dropped to two with the addition of the College of New Rochelle and the fourth-year program at NYU, a member of the University Athletic Association. Alfred State, an independent last year, joined on for 2018 as a member of the Alleghany Mountain Collegiate Conference. New Rochelle added men’s varsity sports beginning in 2016-17 and this spring will be the first for the baseball team. The Blue Angels will fly into the season with 20 freshmen and a schedule that includes only five home dates. Since re-starting baseball in 2015, NYU (23-13) has strung together three straight 20-win seasons and last year finished 10 games over .500. A trio of All-New York selections, Jonathan Iaione (.447, 44 RBI, 59 H, 15 DBL), Colman Hendershot (.392, 5 HR, 51 RBI, 51 H) and Jack Walter (.377, 30 RBI, 25 SB) have NYU ready to take the next step in competing for an NCAA tournament bid. Hendershot was fourth nationally with 1.55 RBI per game last spring while Iaione was 10th nationally in batting average. The Violets averaged over eight runs a game and were among the regional leaders with 99 stolen bases in 36 games.