MAAC Preview

Without Le Moyne in the picture, Manhattan should rule the MAAC


Feb. 16, 2008

By Eric Sorenson

Special to CSTV.com

ERIC SORENSON
Eric Sorenson is a regular contributor to CSTV.com, covering football, basketball & baseball.
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Le Moyne and Manhattan were easily the class of the conference in 2007, going a combined 43-8. But Le Moyne bolted for independent status and there are many signs that this season the gap between the Jaspers and the crowd will be a lot closer. Maybe it's time the conference increases its post-season tournament to more than just four teams.

 

Favorite: Manhattan

Contenders: Canisius, Marist

Darkhorse: St. Peter's

 

 

Canisius (20-35, 13-12)

 

The Good News:

Went on an 11-4 run down the stretch to make the MAAC tourney. OF Ian Choy and C Kevin Reimer both hit .358 to lead the Griffs. All three weekend starters are back, led by Mike Goemans (3-4, 4.25).

 

The Bad News:

The team ERA (5.82) and opponent average (.301), though bloated by a tough early schedule, will have to improve.

 

The Intangible:

Not a lot of `pen help.

Canisius starters tended to go a long way last year, including nine complete games. Matt Weber (1-7) and Aaron Boag (4-4) will have to improve their numbers.

 

Schedule Note:

The pre-conference road trip is long again (first 24 away from home) but it's not as daunting as last season.

 

Fairfield (18-28, 12-14)

 

The Good News:

DH/OF Peter Allen (.380) and C Mike Weiner (.347) lead a team that welcomes back seven of nine starters. For a team with just 18 wins, the 4.62ERA was actually a positive to build from.

 

The Bad News:

Then again, Robert Gariano (3-7, 4.04) and Doug Ciallella (2-3, 3.57) are the only two pitchers remaining from '07.

 

The Intangible:

Get better hops.

 

As noted, the Stags didn't pitch bad, finishing third in the MAAC but the fielding was pretty poor, .943, which was ninth in the conference.

 

Schedule Note:

A tough finish. The Stags wrap up their schedule with conference top brass Canisius and Manhattan in the last two weekends.

 

Iona (16-35, 8-18)

 

The Good News:

1B Allie Abbateillo (.297-7-29) and OF Andre Passerelle (.258) are building blocks. Senior slingers Bobby DiNuzzo (2-5, 3.92) and Nick Stanziani (1-4, 4.87) are decent returning mound starters.

 

The Bad News:

Ace Marty Hand was leaned on most of the '07 season. Not a single Gael ended last year with a .300+ batting average as the team hit just .236.

 

The Intangible:

Does cork help aluminum bats?

 

Iona was the worst hitting team in the MAAC by a good 23 points. Though improvement in every area is necessary, the bats were the most egregious facet of the '07 team.

 

Schedule Note:

The Gaels won't play at home until April 2nd and are scheduled to play just 18 home games all season.

 

Manhattan (35-19, 21-5)

 

The Good News:

With Le Moyne gone, the Jaspers become the obvious favorite in the MAAC. The staff will be paced by Jesse Darcy (9-3, 2.19, 5CGs), Tom Costigan (8-3, 3.84) and Brian Pendergast (8-1, 3.05, 5svs). Ryan Masters (.297) hopes to stay healthy all season. The incoming freshman class was rated No. 2 in the Northeast by Baseball America.

 

The Bad News:

Only one player hit above .270 last season as the Jaspers only hit .274 as a team to begin with. The schedule starts off as a real ball-buster. Hopefully for the Jaspers, it's not a confidence breaker.

 

The Intangible:

It won't cost them this time.

 

Manhattan went 0-5 vs. Le Moyne last season, including in the MAAC tournament title game. Even though they do play three against the Dolphins, a loss won't keep the Jaspers out of the NCAA tournament.

 

Schedule Note:

Well say this, Manhattan isn't ducking anyone. The Jaspers will barnstorm on the road for games with Charlotte, South Alabama and VCU before they take on the MAAC schedule.

 

Marist (21-32, 14-12)

 

The Good News:

Three .300+ hitters come back, led by leading hitter OF Brian McDonough (.345) and slick SS Richard Curylo (.306). On the hill, starters Josh Rickards (6-4, 4.07) and Stephen Peterson (3-3, 4.77) will vie for All-MAAC honors.

 

The Bad News:

A terrible 2-15 start can't be repeated in '08. Manhattan had their number, as Marist went 0-4 against them. Exited ace RHP Erik Supplee was a staff mainstay. Three-time All-MAAC Pat Feeney will leave a huge hole as well, especially in the leadership department.

 

The Intangible:

Stay hot late.

 

After getting swept vs. Le Moyne in late April, the Red Foxes went 7-2 down the stretch to make the MAAC tourney field. That kind of confidence will help in MAAC play this season.

 

Schedule Note:

It may be a tough start again for the Foxes as they'll travel cross-country to UCSB to open the season. But the rest of the pre-conference schedule is workable.

 



 
 

Niagara (15-32, 3-21)

 

The Good News:

Wallace Award candidate OF Tim Alberts (.379-8-42) held the nation's longest hitting streak in '07 at 35 games. RHP Mark Wilson (4-9, 6.00, 76Ks) and Marcus Spaulding (3-1, 5.95) will lead an improved staff.

 

The Bad News:

The Purple Eagles were the worst pitching (6.89) and fielding (.939) team in the MAAC. SS Jason Cramer (.302) is the only other player to hit above .275.

 

The Intangible:

Tough times don't last.

 

You get the feeling that 2007 was a hiccup in the process. Niagara had been on an uptick, owning a winning mark in the MAAC each season since 2002.

 

Schedule Note:

Not sure if it'll help a lot, but the Purple Eagles will play a handful of conference bottom-feeders in the non-conference games, including Davidson, Coppin State, Wofford and Bucknell. At least the win total should increase.

 

 

Rider (20-29, 11-15)

 

The Good News:

Lots to like here as eight field starters are back for the Broncos, including top hitter Sean Olson (.315-6-42) and dual threat SS/P James Hayes (.281, 15SBs/1-2, 4.50, 11svs). All three weekend starters are back as well.

 

The Bad News:

When the Broncos lost, they tended to lose bad. Only three of the 29 losses were by a single run. The .950 fielding percentage must improve.

 

The Intangible:

Home cooking in the post-season.

 

The Broncos will act as the hosts for the MAAC post-season tournament, at the Waterfront Park in nearby Trenton, New Jersey.

 

Schedule Note:

Look for a late surge from the Broncos as their final three MAAC weekends are going to be against lower tier teams like Niagara, Siena and St. Peter's.

 

St. Peter's (23-29, 13-13)

 

The Good News:

Ahhhh. My personal favorite team of last year (I admit it). The Peacocks came on like gangbusters, winning 23 games and earning Derek England MAAC coach of the year honors. Seven starters return including top hitter OF Kevin Kallert (.376-6-29) and Dennis Alexander (.337). Top pitcher Eric Miksitz (4-3, 3.40) leads the arm corps.

 

The Bad News:

Considering what they came from, there's not a lot of bad news. I guess there is the Rodney Dangerfield factor as SPC gets no respect, being picked 7th in the MAAC pre-season. They made more errors than any other MAAC team (99).

 

The Intangible:

Keep the momentum going.

 

Prior to last season, SPC had won 23 combined games in 2004-05-06, though they still haven't had a winning MAAC record since 1997. I'm pulling for you Peacocks.

 

Schedule Note:

St. Peter's will be able to ease into conference play, starting with Iona, Siena and Fairfield. But trips to Marist and Manhattan will test their mettle later on.

 

Siena (12-33, 10-13)

 

The Good News:

Lots of experience returns, including C Gary DerHagopian (.330) who must stay injury-free in '08 and has Jason DeFilippo (.256, 13SBs) as a good table-setter.

 

The Bad News:

The Saints have had some good teams recently, but 2007 wasn't one of them, finishing 9th in both pitching and hitting in the MAAC. Matt Moberg (3-6, 3.51) is the only returnee with an ERA below 5.00.

 

The Intangible:

Take every team statistic with a grain of salt.

 

Once again, Siena will play an impossible pre-conference schedule, so when you see their stats looking under the MAAC average, keep in mind the competition they faced early on.

 

Schedule Note:

Here's the gallows-like road Siena will travel in February and March:

at Florida

at Virginia

at Arkansas

at UCF

 

 

 

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