Emory Baseball Ready for 2011’s First Pitch
With the 2011 season rapidly approaching for the Emory
University baseball team, the Eagles are optimistic that the new
year will bring their first trip to the NCAA Division III
Tournament since finishing second in the nation during the 2007
With six position players who started at least 30 games last season returning, including five who earned all-University Athletic Association (UAA) honors, and a talented, veteran pitching staff, head coach Mike Twardoski will be looking for a significant improvement from last year’s 19-20 overall record. Emory also finished third in the conference with a 3-2 record during the 2010 UAA Tournament.
The Eagles strength entering 2011 appears to be their infield, which will feature returning all-UAA honorees at all four positions. Senior Ryan Jones looks to be the early favorite at first base, after earning an all-UAA second team selection by hitting .372 last year. Adding depth at the position will be junior Jay Page, who will also see time as the designated hitter after notching two home runs and driving in 18 runs in 2010. All-UAA first team selection Kevin O’Connor led all Eagles with 37 RBIs and a .594 slugging percentage last season, and will return to play second base during his junior campaign. Junior Jonathan Reilly returns for his second campaign as the Eagles’ shortstop, after hitting .355 and matching O’Connor’s 37 RBIs, en route to earning all-UAA second team recognition. Rounding out the starting infield is four-year starter and three-time all-UAA selection Andrew Cohn, who had career highs with a .392 batting average and 32 RBIs at third base in 2010. Providing depth in the infield will be returning senior Evan Plys and sophomore Mark Lindemann, along with newcomer Ryan Toscano.
After carrying four catchers on the roster throughout the 2010 campaign, Coach Twardoski has narrowed his backstop options to two young players – sophomore J.B. Smith and freshman Jared Welch. Smith batted .322 with 15 RBIs in 21 games last season, and looks to be the primary option behind the plate for Emory in 2011.
Senior and all-UAA first team selection Gabe Shivers led all Emory players in 2010 with a .421 batting average, 34 runs scored and 10 stolen bases, and will return to centerfield for the Eagles this season, after not committing an error at the position all last year. Senior Patrick Riebsame will likely start in the outfield as well, after leading all Eagles with five home runs and driving in 33 runs during his junior campaign. Emory will also welcome back senior Tommy Dugan, a .285 career hitter with 31 stolen bases, who took the year off in 2010 to begin law school, and sophomore Andrew DeYoung (.329 with 21 runs scored and eight stolen bases), along with sophomores Maxim Sankey and Daniel Iturrey, and freshman Brandon Hannon.
The Emory pitching staff in 2011 figures to be a good mix of veterans and newcomers. Leading the way will be a trio of senior starters in Elliott Coor, Chris Monaco, and Paul Schwendel. Despite missing most of last season due to injury, Coor has a career 4-2 record with a 4.27 ERA over 13 career starts. Monaco and Schwendel each had a record of 2-3 last season, with the former recording a 3.00 ERA over his final three appearances in 2010, latter finishing second on the team with 36 strikeouts. Junior southpaw Connor McGuiness and sophomore righty Caleb Long will add experience to the pitching staff, while newcomers Keith Gordon, Alexander Castañeda, Ryan Toscano, Ben Hinojosa, Ryan Orlovsky, Mike Bitanga, Jason Edwards and Matt McMahon will provide depth.
Twardoski will begin his 12th season at the Eagles’ helm, during which he has led Emory to six NCAA Tournament appearances (including three berths to the championship round) and six University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships. His 337-148-1 career record is good for a .694 winning percentage, the highest mark among active UAA coaches, 15th-highest among all active NCAA Division III coaches, and 21st-best mark among Division III coaches all time. Assistant Coaches Bobby Perez, Brian Clark, and Greg McMichael will complete Coach Twardoski’s staff for the 2011 season.
Emory will open its season with a two-game home-and-home series against cross-town rival Oglethorpe University on February 12th and 13th. The Eagles will play seven of their first eight games at home, including matchups against Denison University and York (Pa.) College during the Rawlings Southern Classic from February 18th – 20th. Later in February, the Eagles will embark on their first extended road trip of the season, traveling to Memphis, TN to face Rhodes College, Maryville College, and 12th-ranked Marietta College.
The annual UAA Tournament will be held in Sanford, FL from March 10th – 14th, as the Eagles will look to improve on their third-place finish from last season, and attempt to win their first conference title since the 2008 season. Upon returning home from the UAA Championships, Emory will play 15 of its last 23 games of the season at home through the months of March and April, almost entirely against regional opponents.
If all goes according to plan for Twardoski’s squad, the Eagles hope their schedule will continue into May, for the NCAA Tournament regionals and championship rounds.