February 13, 2009

2009 Baseball Preview

The Bloomsburg University baseball team enters the 2009 full of high expectations. From a baseball standpoint, the Huskies have a solid lineup from one through nine and a healthy pitching staff. The health of the pitchers was a problem for the Huskies last year with two key players, Dusty Johnson (Sunbury/Shikellamy/Volunteer State C.C.) and Joe Agnoni (Montgomery/Montgomery) , out all of 2008 and several others missing time during the season. The other area that is a bright spot for the program in general are the upgrades to Litwhiler Field.

For 2009, players and fans will see new dugouts, new fencing with less foul territory down the first base line, and a new backstop and seating for fans. All these improvements have coach Mike Collins anxiously awaiting the first game.

"The field upgrades were needed and I am happy for both our players and fans," said Collins. "From a baseball perspective, we have a lot of talent from top to bottom. The key for us in 2009 will be keeping our pitchers healthy. If we can keep our top throwers on the mound, then we have the talent to compete for a spot in the PSAC playoffs, something that has been our goal since my arrival four years ago."

Catcher: The Huskies lost Richie Letts to graduation, but rebound nicely thanks to Kutztown transfer Scott Kacelowicz (Orwigburg/Blue Mountain/Kutztown Univ) . Kacelowicz hit .298 in 2007 as a Golden Bear while scoring 38 runs and driving in another 19. "He will be one if the league's top catchers," said Collins. "He's a great all-around player." Junior college transfer Corey Eisenhart (York/Dover/Hagerstown CC) and freshman Chris Haagen (Doylestown/CB West) will also vie for time behind the plate.

First Base: Senior Kevin Ward (Clifton Heights/Monsignor Bonner) returns to anchor the Huskies infield. Ward has started 131 games in his Bloomsburg career, and is coming off a 2008 season where he hit .261 and scored 37 runs with a team-high 29 RBI. "Kevin had a little bit of a down year last year, but is a capable hitter. We will count on him for solid production," noted Collins. Tyler Gansner (Lancaster/UNC Charlotte) will play first when Ward is the designated hitter.

Second Base: Junior Mike Austin (Dallastown/NW Shoals JC) will man the middle. Austin is a transfer from NW Shoals JC in Alabama, one of the premier junior college programs in the nation. In his two years with the Patriots, Austin hit .321 with eight home runs and 81 RBI.

Shortstop: Junior Tony Donofry (Newtown/Council Rock North) is the key player in the middle infield. Donofry is coming off of a season where he hit .329 and led the team with 53 hits and 33 runs scored. "Tony is the leader of our infield. He's gotten stronger since last season and really swings the bat well," noted Collins. Freshman Keith Meyer (Richboro/Council Rock South) will also see time at shortstop. Meyer is capable of playing all four infield positions, and is an instinctive base stealer..

Third Base: Then Huskies will be young at this corner. Freshman Jarrod Kramer (Orwigsburg/Blue Mountain) will make an early impact. Kramer was named third team all-state as a senior last year, and possesses great power at 6-2, 215. Sophomore Carlos Medina (Lititz/Manheim Twp.) will see time at third when not in left field.

Outfield: The Huskies return all three starters from last season. Junior Chris Tressler (Lewistown/Lewistown) returns in right. The second team All-PSAC selection led the Huskies in batting average (.333), slugging percentage (.486) and on-base percentage (.409). "Tressler has tremendous ability and speed. He brings a lot to the lead-off spot," said Collins.

In center, sophomore Anthony Forman (Richboro/Council Rock South) returns after a strong freshman campaign where he hit .305 and scored 36 runs. "Anthony can put a lot of pressure of defenses with his speed, which keeps defenses honest. He can cover a lot of ground in the outfield as well," said Collins. In left, Medina returns after starting 42 games as a freshman last season. "Carlos has a lot of potential at the plate. We really are hoping for a big improvement," said Collins.

Freshman J.A. Brosious (Sunbury/Shikellamy) , Nick Ferdinand (Bensalem /Archbishop Ryan) and sophomore Billy Phillips (Shahola/Delaware Valley) will also contribute. Phillips is the team's fastest player and is a capable pinch-runner. Brosious brings a powerful left-handed bat, and Ferdinand could start at all three outfield positions.

Pitching: Expect Dusty Johnson and Grant Kernaghan (Upper Darby/Upper Darby) to lead the conference rotation. Kernaghan earned second-team All-PSAC last season, leading the Huskies with a 2.60 ERA in 11 appearances. Johnson carried a 3.65 ERA in 2007 and led the team with 45 strike-outs. Tressler and freshman Vinny Voorhees (Lakask/Solebury School) round out the top four. Tressler led the team in strike-outs with 28, while Vorhees was the Huskies top pitcher during the fall, winning the fall Cy Young award.

Junior Mitch Troy (Elkton, MD/Cecil College) and red-shirt freshman Trent Patton (Athens/Athens) will also start games during the non-conference schedule. Troy is a transfer from Cecil College, while Patton red-shirted as a freshman last season. In the bullpen, the Huskies have a wealth of left-handers. Sophomore Mike Rossetti (Phillipsburg, NJ/Phillipsburg) emerged as a true freshman as the Huskies most reliable reliever. He appeared in a team-high 16 games last season, allowing only 29 earned runs. Senior Mike Griggs (Jersey Shore/Jersey Shore) , who was forced into starting duty last season, will move back to the bullpen. Sophomores Matt Kline (Sugarloaf/Hazleton Area) , Seth Pauling (Allenwood/Montgomery) and Chris Carter (Pocono Mountain/East Stroudsburg Univ.) will also figure into the relief rotation.

Outlook: "I really like the character of this team. We have talented people who want to compete. Last season, we had tough luck with injuries, but a lot of our best players were sophomores. I think that says something about the talent level of this team," said Collins. The Huskies will take their annual spring break trip to face some of the top teams in Division II, Including Newberry, Shepherd and Benedict.

Collins hopes that the early non-conference challenges will prepare this team for an ever-toughening conference slate. "The PSAC has more parity that any point since I've been coaching here. There used to be a discrepancy between the teams at the top and the bottom, but now every team presents a challenge. Our goal is to reach the conference tournament, and to get there we need to stay healthy.