Emory Baseball 2010 Season Preview
With 19 returning players from last year's 24-18 team, and 14
new faces added to the mix, the Emory University baseball team is
preparing for a 2010 season that the coaches and players are
optimistic will bring a return to the NCAA Tournament.
Emory last made the tournament during the 2007 season, making a run all the way to the Division III Championship game before falling short of the title. Despite compiling a 49-29-1 record and a University Athletic Association Championship in the two seasons since, the Eagles have missed the tournament during each of the last two campaigns.
However, Emory head coach Mike Twardoski has compiled a squad in 2010 that bears a number of similarities to the Eagles' 2007 team. Emory's seven rising seniors in 2010 are the most since their 2007 senior class, and will be aided by an additional 11 juniors. Twardoski hopes that the team's experience, along with a strong work ethic, will be enough to guide them back to the NCAA Tournament.
"It will not be these kids fault if they are not ready," said Twardoski. They have done everything that the coaching staff has asked, they have wanted to be down at the field, and these kids are going to be ready to play. Whatever happens, happens, but the team has done everything in its power to get ready to play this year."
The Eagles will be returning the middle of their infield from last year's squad, as junior and two-time all-UAA player Andrew Cohn (.304, 40 runs scored, 24 RBI) and sophomore Kevin O'Connor (.262, 30 runs scored) will handle the duties at shortstop and second base, respectively. At first base, sophomore Jay Page, who hit .269 with 12 RBIs in 14 starts in 2009, will have the tough task of taking over the starting role from graduating all-region third teamer Steve Bralver. The Eagles will turn to youth at third base, as freshman Andrew DeYoung, who redshirted at Division I Ball State University last season, will man the hot corner.
"Our infield defense has been a strength of the team so far, both in the fall and the start of the spring," said Twardoski.
Unlike last season, the Eagles have added considerable depth to the infield in 2010. Sophomore Jonathan Reilly, a transfer from Broward College, looks to see time both in the field and in the designated hitter role. Adding to Emory's options around the diamond are returning sophomore first baseman Will Vaughn, junior transfers Ryan Jones (Truett McConnell College) and Evan Plys (South Georgia College), and freshmen Mark Lindemann and Robbie Wodarczyk. Returning senior third baseman Marc Terranova, who hit three home runs last season, will be a valuable contributor to the team, in both an offensive role and as a newly-discovered pitcher for Emory.
"The great part about our infield this year is that we have options. We have a number of infielders with the four spots, so if somebody is hot or playing well defensively, we can plug them into the lineup."
Emory will return its core group of catchers from 2009, including juniors Jeremy Bolian and Scott Schwartz, who will most likely platoon at the position to start the season. Bolian finished his 2009 campaign with a .282 batting average, including a .362 mark during his final 19 games of the season. Schwartz will begin the season as a .379 career hitter during his first two years on the team. Also in the mix for playing time are junior Matt Fennell and freshman J.B. Smith.
"We have four catchers, and it would not surprise me to have any of the four play in a certain game," said Twardoski. "I think right now, Scott (Schwartz) and Jeremy (Bolian) are the two we are probably going to center on from the start, but we can have all four play this year."
Senior Dan Molnar will begin his fourth season as the Eagles' starting right fielder, following a 2009 campaign during which he hit .319 with three home runs, 32 runs scored and a team-best .492 on-base percentage, in addition to breaking the school's single-season record with 49 walks. Gabe Shivers, a junior transfer from Young Harris College, will be the Eagles' opening day starter in centerfield, while junior and Brevard Community College transfer Patrick Riebsame will take over for graduating all-region player David Hissey in left field. Returning junior Mark Mazur and sophomore Blake Pindyck will provide experience off the bench, while freshmen Ben Schmidt, Jake Eisenberg, and Maxim Sankey will look to make an impact during their inaugural campaign with Emory.
"I feel very, very strong about how well our outfield play is going to be this year," said Twardoski.
Senior Matthew Katten will try to anchor the starting rotation for the second-straight season, after finishing 2009 with a team-best six wins (a 6-3 overall record) and an ERA of 4.03. Junior southpaw Elliott Coor, who pitched to a 0.47 ERA in his final six appearances (four starts) in 2009, will also be a major factor for the Emory starting rotation. Junior Chris Monaco and senior Adam Genn will add depth to the rotation, which will be rounded out by Paul Schwendel, who, despite not playing in 2009, recorded a perfect 6-0 record with a 5.01 ERA in 2008. Sophomore Connor McGuiness will likely see time as both a starter and a reliever during the year.
Leading the back end of the bullpen will be senior closer Zeb Heidt, who was a second-team all-region and all-UAA player last season. Heidt finished the season with a 1.35 ERA and a team-best seven saves. Seniors Will Gumm and Brian Cournoyer, along with freshman Caleb Long, will also provide help out of the bullpen for Emory.
"The exciting part about our pitching staff is that we are a veteran staff. We have five seniors and three juniors, and they have been in the system a long time. We may not have the preseason all-American, but we are going to be strong from top to bottom. We have been throwing a lot of strikes and holding people on. The great part about our pitching staff is that they work hard every day, and that's how you get better."
The Eagles will open their season on Friday, February 12th at Oglethorpe University, before playing in their home opener at Chappell Park against Oglethorpe on Saturday and Sunday. The Eagles will participate in the North Carolina Wesleyan/ Coldwell Banker Tournament of Champions from February 20th - 21st and host the Rawlings Southern Classic from February 26th - 28th, before heading off to Sanford, FL for the annual University Athletic Association Championship Tournament. Other highlights from the Eagles' schedule include a March 5th matchup against Denison University, now coached by former Eagles assistant Mike Clark, and road trips to North Carolina to face Guilford and Methodist, and Montogomery, AL to take on Huntingdon College.
After receiving two votes in the d3baseball.com preseason poll, the Eagles will look forward to the start of the season, and, if all goes according to plan for Twardoski and his squad, a revival of the success that the team experienced just three years ago.