Releases

For Immediate Release: February 16, 2004
Contact: John Hartrick (hartrick@binghamton.edu)
Phone: 607-777-6800

Season Preview
Newcomers should give baseball team boost in 2004

Head coach Tim Sinicki has brought in a dozen new faces - including several impact recruits - who will be counted on to reverse the fortunes of a 10-40-1 season last spring and push Binghamton closer to a post-season conference berth.

“We’ve been looking forward to 2004 ever since the final out was made in 2003. The players and coaching staff are excited about the core of players we return, as well as the influx of talented newcomers. Together we’re hoping to improve on last season’s performance and challenge for a spot in the conference tournament.”

Sinicki addressed the team’s biggest need with five additions to the pitching staff. His 2003 unit allowed an average of nearly seven and a half runs per contest, and the 12th-year skipper knows that figure must go down for the team to be competitive in the America East Conference.

“I knew we were a little short in the pitching area heading into last season. The bottom line was that we needed to get better ... and I think we did - a lot better.”

Senior transfer Andy Hutchings, a record-setting closer for the College of Charleston early in his career, returns home for this final collegiate season, and will instantly move into the weekend starting rotation. Drafted in the 27th round by Houston in 2000, Hutchings held down a 2.91 earned run average for the Cougars last spring, and will bring a package of pitching skills and leadership to a young staff. He was a pre-season All-American for the Cougars in 2002, and was tabbed as the 15th most significant transfer by Baseball America this season. The publication also listed Hutchings as the top newcomer to the America East.

“Andy hasn’t pitched an inning for us yet, but has made an immediate impact. His work ethic, commitment to success, and willingness to spend time with the other pitchers has been tremendous. However, my expectations for Andy on the mound are the same as they are for every other pitcher - to put the team in a position to win the game.”

Six-foot-3 junior college transfer David Lind is another impact recruit on the mound, and should join Hutchings near the top of Sinicki’s rotation. A first-team all-conference performer at Skyline College, Lind throws in the mid-upper 80s, and has great command of his pitches.

“Simply stated, David’s a pitcher. Location, change of speeds and movement are David’s greatest strengths. However, he does have the ability to get his fastball past hitters if he needs to.”

Senior J.D. Brink is the team’s returning No. 1 starter, and will continue to be a reliable and durable conference starter in 2004. Brink, who can run his fastball to 90 mph or better, logged a team-high 63.2 innings last spring and led the team in wins. He also registered five complete games in 11 starts - and went at least five innings in each of his last eight starts.

“J.D. is ready for a big senior season. He’s is coming off a solid year in the highly-regarded Coastal Plains Summer Collegiate League, and has worked really hard to lock-in on his mechanics. He is committed to proving he’s a #1 type starter in our conference.”

The staff’s lone lefty is junior Mike Weglinski, who led the staff in strikeouts a year ago, and impresses Sinicki with his work ethic and competitiveness. He has four wins and three saves in his first two collegiate seasons, and should continue to play a pivotal role in the rotation.

Other pitching options include junior Chris Darling and Tom Gaube, sophomores Adam Shatkun and Chris Shores, and freshmen Zach Groh, Mike Van Gorder and Matt Hawkes.

Darling, who led the staff with a 4.05 ERA in eight appearances last spring, will see time at both catcher and pitcher. Shatkun returns after a year off while recovering from Tommy John surgery, while the 6-foot-3 Shores showed promise in his first collegiate campaign once he recovered from a severe case of tendonitis.

“It’s as deep and talented a pitching staff as I’ve had here at Binghamton since we’ve moved to Division I status. The depth gives us a lot of options, and the talent gives us a chance to become one of the better staffs in the conference.”

Return of Boyer will bolster offense

Not only does Sinicki return his top three hitters from 2003, but he also welcomes back junior first baseman Jamie Boyer - one of the best hitters in program history who missed the entire 2003 season with a wrist injury. Without Boyer in the heart of BU’s lineup last spring, the Bearcats managed just over four runs per game.

“Jamie’s return is not only important because of his physical skills, but emotionally it’s great to have the team see one of their captains return from an injury.”

In 2002, Boyer earned all-conference honors after leading the team in five offensive categories, including average and home runs. His left-handed bat should anchor BU’s offense from the middle of the order. Boyer is also is a solid defensive first baseman.

Across the diamond, senior third baseman Jay Balback returns for his second season in a Bearcats uniform. The power-hitting junior college product led the team and entire America East with 13 home runs, and ranked second in the conference in runs (45) and third in total bases (101). Sinicki expects more of the same in 2004.

“Jay has legitimate home run power to all fields. He’s one of the best - maybe the best power hitter in the conference.”

For the second year in a row, Sinicki has been hit hard by a pre-season injury to a starting infielder. One year after Boyer was lost to injury, sure-fielding sophomore Justin Smucker has suffered a torn labrum and is likely lost for the season. Smucker started 50 games as a freshman, and committed just 12 errors in 180 chances (.933).
In Smucker’s absence, the second base job will be up for grabs among veteran infielders Matt Caputo and Brian Lindsay, and newcomer Matt Simek.

Caputo and Lindsay made 38 combined starts in 2003. Caputo, a senior, earned 28 starts at second, while Lindsay, a junior, earned 10 starts, primarily at shortstop. Simek is a hard-nosed freshman who will push for playing time at both second and designated hitter.

Junior college transfer Keith Ford will step in to the starting shortstop position. Ford has great range up the middle, and put up impressive offensive numbers from the third spot last spring, including swiping 31-of-33 bases. His experience at Coffeyville - which competes in the highly-regarded Kansas Jayhawk Conference, should allow for an easy transition to the Division I level.

All-conference duo lead talented outfield

A vastly talented outfield unit should provide BU with an offensive boost and at the same time, offer Sinicki one of his most reliable defensive groups in recent years. Highlighting the six-man group is 6-foot-4 senior all-conference player T.J. Kowalchuk, who drove in a team-best 41 runs last year en route to first team America East honors. Kowalchuk has raised his offensive production in each collegiate season, and is poised to conclude his career in fine fashion. Sinicki will move him over from center to right field in 2004, and expects his veteran to continue to drive in runs from the middle of the lineup.

“T.J. is a four-year starter who has improved each and every year. His work ethic and desire to succeed should have him ready to finish his collegiate career with an outstanding senior season.”

Another senior outfielder with pop at the plate - Joe Costello, will start the season in left field. Costello earned second team all-conference honors last season after hitting .313 with 21 extra-base hits and 35 RBI.

“Joe is the strongest young man I’ve ever had in the program. He has the ability to drive the ball to all fields with legitimate home run power. The ball really jumps off his bat.”

Junior college transfer Whitney Powell is slated to start in center field, where his exceptional speed and defensive ability have Sinicki already tabbing him as the best defensive outfielder he’s ever had in the program. Powell, a .342 hitter and all-star at Dundalk Community College last spring, should also create some havoc on the base paths.

But among a talented core of newcomers, Sinicki’s most prized recruit may wind up being left-handed slugger Brendon Hitchcock, who should immediately jump into the starting lineup at designated hitter. Hitchcock, who can play left field and first base, won his league’s batting title all four years in high school, and has advanced skills for a college freshman.

“Brendon is a pure hitter. He has a tremendous understanding of how to hit to all fields. His approach at the plate is way beyond what I expect from a freshman. Brendon’s a young man who should be penciled in to the middle of the lineup this spring and not move for four years.”

Freshmen Junior Mejia and Jeff Monaco round out this talented group. Mejia is a speedster who is being groomed for the center field-leadoff role, and Monaco is a gifted local athlete with outstanding power potential.

Darling heads talented trio of catchers

Junior Chris Darling, who saw time as both a catcher and pitcher last year, has the inside track on the starting role behind the plate in 2004. He started 23 games last spring, and was adept at handling the pitching staff as well as swinging the bat. He is joined by second-year player John Hark and freshman Pat Haughie. Hark made 16 starts as a freshman, while Haughie is a durable 6-footer with outstanding defensive skill. The trio gives Sinicki more depth and provides more options than he’s ever had behind the plate.

52-game schedule begins in Virginia

Binghamton’s 52-game slate begins with a four-game series at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., February 27-29, and features a season-opening 22 road games before the Bearcats host New York state rival Cornell University on April 6. Soon thereafter, BU opens its 21-game America East segment - three-game series’ against the other seven league members.

Highlights of the non-conference slate include three games against NCAA Regional participant Le Moyne College - which BU split with last season, three games against perennial Atlantic 10 East contender St. Bonaventure, four games at Lehigh University - which advanced to the Patriot League Tournament last spring, and three games at Virginia Military Institute - which posted a program-best 16 wins last season in Southern Conference league play.

Bridging gap in conference standings a priority

The Bearcats are all but assured of improving upon last spring’s 2-20 league record, but how quickly the team closes the gap will depend on the impact of Sinicki’s newcomers and the level of improvement to the pitching staff. With top conference team Maine, Northeastern Vermont and Stony Brook each stocked again, BU’s goal of earning a top-four position and post-season berth may be a challenging one. But the 2004 Bearcats will most certainly field a team better equipped to face that challenge.

“Being on the road for 32 of our first 34 games will certainly be a challenge. But I really feel good about the talent, makeup and chemistry of this team. I think they are ready for any challenge that presents itself this spring.”

##

Releases

Links: BU Home Page | BU Athletics Page | Marketing and Promotions | Join the BU Athletic Club | Hall of Fame | Physical Education | Campus Recreation | Facilities | Press Releases | Schedules and Results | Staff List | Tickets | Summer Camps | Junior Bearcat Club | Cheer Team and Mascot | Visitor's Guide and Quick Facts | Feedback

Sports Men:
Baseball | Basketball | Cross Country | Golf | Lacrosse | Soccer | Swimming and Diving | Tennis | Track and Field | Wrestling |

Sports Women:
Basketball | Cross Country | Lacrosse | Soccer | Softball | Swimming and Diving | Tennis | Track and Field | Volleyball |

Copyright © Binghamton University. All rights reserved.
No portion of this site may be reproduced or duplicated without the permission of Binghamton University.