Baseball Begins 2012 Season with Three-Game Set vs. Merrimack at Wilson Field on Saturday
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - New Castle, DE
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“Our expectations are to get back to regionals again this year. Our goals every year are to win the conference and get back to the regionals.”
Heading into his eighth year at the helm of Wilmington University’s baseball program, head coach Brian August wants his team to improve upon their 0-2 performance in the NCAA Division II East Regionals last year and feels he has the team that can exceed expectations.
The Wildcats return a bulk of their starters from a team that went 37-12 last year, winning the CACC Tournament and advancing to regionals for the third time in five years. They welcome back five starters in the field and two primary pitchers including All-American catcher Mike Godwin, All-Region outfielder Jordan Oncay and Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) and American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Rookie of the Year Jamie Treml.
The heart of the batting lineup is going to be the focal point of the 2012 team, and could be as strong an order as anyone in the East Region. August will have three seniors in the middle of the order, all who have produced huge numbers in the past.
Joe Harbach, selected to the 2011 CACC All-Tournament Team, batted .265 while starting all 49 games last year. He scored a team high 44 runs, hit a team high 10 triples, stole a team-high 21 bases and knocked in 25 runners last season and will start the triple threat from the three-hole.
Classmate Godwin will return to the cleanup role where he excelled last year, earning the CACC Player of the Year title on his way to a National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Honorable Mention All-American selection. He was also named First Team NCBWA All-East Region and Second Team ABCA All-East Region after batting .355 with a team high 20 doubles, two home runs, and 45 RBI’s in 48 games as the team’s catcher.
Fellow senior Oncay was another First Team All-CACC but was also named to the First Team of the ABCA, NCAA Daktronics and NCBWA All-East Region teams. Oncay played in all 49 games last season, hitting .351 with a team best 87 total bases. He was second on the team in hits (60), runs (43), doubles (15), triples (6), and third in RBIs (33). He is also the team’s closer, not allowing a single run last year in 15 innings. He was 2-0 with six saves, striking out 14 batters while only allowing one walk.
“Our 3-4-5 hitters are going to be one of the toughest in the region,” August continued. “But if our strength is in our lineup, then our worry has to be in the starting rotation only because of who we lost. Our depth is greater on the mound than in year’s past.”
The Wildcats lost the CACC Pitcher of the Year Joe Harris to graduation, but welcome back the CACC and ABCA Rookie of the Year in Jamie Treml to the staff. Treml will head the rotation that will see first-year transfer David Hatt, Godwin, Ryan Lally and Justin DeLong all compete for the starting job. Hatt joins the Wildcats from Burlington Community College while Godwin will return to the hill after having to the entire year last year. Senior lefty Lally and sophomore lefty DeLong will also see time in conference and weekend starts.
Young arms such as sophomore Tim Racek and newcomer Ray Gambone can also start but will fill the long reliever role out of the pen. The back end of the pen will finish with Oncay once again but start with freshman Tyler Fries in the seventh and either Harbach (LHP) or sophomore Nick Marics (RHP) in the eight as the bridge to the closer. Rob Gore, James Fallers, Kyle Hithens, and Frank Samluk will also fight for innings out of the pen for August this season.
Going around the diamond, the outfield returns a ton of experience as Dundalk Community College transfer Jordan Johnson and Brandon Payne will battle it out for the starting role in left field. Payne played in 21 games as a sophomore while Johnson hit .364 for the Lions in 2011. Harbach will start each game in center while Oncay will roam the grass in right.
Junior BJ Janney will play the hot-corner for the Wildcats and set the table in the lineup for the power hitters. Janney played in 38 games last year, hitting .224 with 26 hits and 15 RBI’s. Jonathon Rodriguez returns to the shortstop position after playing in 47 games (46 starts) a year ago. Rodriguez contributed a team out 108 assists last year, while only committing 10 errors for a .945 fielding percentage.
Moving to the right side of the infield, the only other position battle to open the year is at second base as Hitchens and newcomer Brandon Fallers will compete for the majority role. Hitchens played in 25 games as a junior, hitting .255 with 13 hits while Fallers starred at the local St. Elizabeth’s High School.
Senior Adam Soley will move to take over the primary job at first base following the departure of Matt Umba. Soley batted .197 in 32 games last year, knocking in nine runs on 13 hits. Joe Marciano will also fight for playing time at first, as the sophomore hit .137 in 34 at-bats with seven runs last year as a freshman.
A luxury the Wildcats did not have last year will be Matt Lopes as the backup catcher. Unable to come out from behind the play last year, Godwin will look to get back on the mound this year. Lopes, a freshman from Deerfield Beach, Fla., will pick up the load as Godwin toes the rubber.
Senior Bryan Miller and first-year transfer Joe El-Bisi will start as the teams’ designated hitters and will look to knock in the power hitters after they reach base from the 3-4-5 holes.
“We are going to score a lot more runs than last year,” August said of his lineup. “We have a lot more team speed with this group. Our game plan isn’t going to change. We will bunt when we need to bunt; play small ball when we need to play small ball but our approach hasn’t changed.
“We want to keep knocking on the door at regionals and one day we will eventually advance to the World Series,” the coach said of this year’s expectations. “But that being said, we still have to take it one game at a time. We have a lot of pitching depth and we have a great group of core players coming back, so this is going to be an exciting year.”