Immediate Release: February 14, 2007
Contact: John Hartrick (email@example.com)
baseball looks to ride returning all-stars, pitching depth to
picked second in America East, have strongest lineup in program's
Division I era
N.Y. - If ever the time was right for the Bearcats to make a
run at the America East championship 2007 appears to be
The Bearcats return 17 letterwinners from their most successful
team in the programs Division I era (27 wins), they have
a big senior class with an abundance of talent and leadership
and the pitching staff has never been better. The lineup showcases
three conference all-stars plus the reigning America East Pitcher
of the Year. The heart of the order features perhaps the best
pure hitter in the conference. Add to that a lefty hurler who
is all but a lock to be selected in the MLB Amateur Draft come
But as 15-year head coach Tim Sinicki knows all
too well, preseason optimism is high in many cities around the
league. And despite its record win total last spring, BU fell
one game short of advancing to the conference tournament. So
this years group will have a clearly defined goal.
Top to bottom, the conference is as good as its been in
many years, Sinicki said. I do believe, however,
we have both the personnel and experience necessary to make a
run at the America East tournament and ultimately reach our goal
of capturing the conference championship.
to rely on starting pitching strength
Binghamton returns perhaps the leagues best 1-2 starting
pitching duo in juniors Scott Diamond
and Zach Groh. Diamond is a durable
6-foot-2 lefthander who logged 75.1 innings in 2006. One year
after being named America East Rookie of the Year, Diamond won
five games and posted a 3.80 earned run average against conference
foes. In the summer, he was nearly unhittable in the wooden
bat Coastal Plain League (5-0, 0.50 ERA) and was ranked the No.
2 pro prospect in that league by Baseball America.
But the Bearcat who was voted America East Pitcher of the Year
was Groh, who led the entire nation in ERA for much of the spring
before settling on the 11th best figure in the country (1.85).
Groh dropped that number to a paltry 1.16 in league play, and
led the America East in strikeouts (10.09/game).
With Scott and Zach, its like having two legitimate
number one starters, Sinicki said. Both men have
worked extremely hard since they stepped foot on campus to become
two of the premier pitchers in the league.
Even with the formidable pair, the BU pitcher who enjoyed the
most success against conference opponents in 2006 was senior
Mike Van Gorder, who will occupy
the No. 3 spot in the rotation.
Van Gorder won a team-best six games (6-1, 2.79 ERA), including
a perfect 5-0 record in league play. In 51.2 innings of work,
Van Gorder allowed no home runs and just one triple. It was
his four-hit performance against Albany in the regular-season
finale that vaulted BU into what amounted to a play-in game for
the America East tournament.
Battling for the final spot in the weekend conference rotation
will be 6-foot 6 sophomore lefthander Jeff
Dennis and freshman righty Murphy Smith.
Dennis went 2-1 with a 4.43 ERA last spring and was a summer
all-star in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League. Smith is
a highly-touted rookie with a bright collegiate career ahead
Sinicki also has some reliable arms out of the bullpen, including
junior righthander Khalid Afify, who
will inherit the closer role. Afify is fresh from a stellar
summer season with Elmira of the New York Collegiate Baseball
League, where he earned all-star honors as a reliever.
Overall the pitching staff has a tremendous amount of talent
and depth, Sinicki said. Its as good as weve
had here at Binghamton in my 15 years.
catcher Haughie handles pitching staff
Handling the talented pitching staff behind the plate is senior
captain Pat Haughie, who is coming
off his best collegiate season in 2006. Haughie caught 47 games
and maintained his reputation as one of the best defensive catchers
in the conference. He threw out 30% of baserunners and committed
only three errors (.989). Offensively, Haughie belted a team-best
seven home runs and hit .294 in league play from the No. 6 spot.
Sophomore Michael Quinn returns in a
backup role. Quinn played in 16 games as a freshman and contributed
one home run and six RBI.
Senior Jeff Wertepny, BUs primary
designated hitter, can also catch and play third. He hit .298
with 23 RBI in 2006.
all-star Hitchcock remains offensive spark
Senior first baseman and cleanup hitter Brendon
Hitchcock returns to put the finishing touches on a remarkable
collegiate career. The two-time first team America East all-star
will undoubtedly go down as one of the best all-around players
in program history. Hitchcock led the league with a .399 average
two years ago, and probably would have been the Player in the
Year if not for teammate Mathieu Bergeron, who led the league
with 16 home runs and 55 RBI. Last season, he hit .363 (5th
in AE) and drove in 46 runs in 50 games. Hitchcock will likely
graduate as the all-time leader in hits and RBI.
Despite all the success Brendons enjoyed thus far,
hes never satisfied, Sinicki said. Hes
as motivated today as he was as a freshman. Brendon might be
the best overall player to ever wear a Binghamton uniform.
The senior double-play tandem of shortstop Justin
Smucker and second baseman Matt Simek
anchors the infield.
Smucker is coming off an exceptional season that resulted in
first team all-conference honors. He hit .350 in the leadoff
spot (7th in AE) and had a team-best .439 on-base percentage.
He will carry a 13-game hit streak into the 2007 season, but
his leadership throughout the year is what impresses Sinicki
Justin has become the heart and soul of this program.
No one works harder or has excelled in so many different roles.
Simek earned second team all-star honors for the second straight
year after hitting .309 with 31 RBI from the third spot. He
led the team and ranked fifth in the conference with 16 doubles
and committed just 11 errors in 217 chances at second base (.952).
One of several local athletes who have blossomed under Sinickis
tutelage, Simek is a gritty player whose passion is always on
Matt is the kind of guy you would hate to play against
but love to have on your team, Sinicki said. Hes
a bit of a throwback ... uniform always dirty, trying to do the
little things and always looking for a competitive advantage.
The third base spot will toss between junior Ryan
James and sophomore Kyle Klee. The
pair shared the spot a year ago, with Klee starting 32 games
and James 23. Klee earned America East All-Rookie honors after
hitting .270 with 19 RBI.
Monaco returns to patrol right field
Senior right fielder Jeff Monaco highlights
a swift outfield corps and can deliver at the plate from the
No. 5 spot. Monaco, a two-year starter in right, hit safely
in 15 of the first 16 games last season and was hitting .362
in late April before tailing off in May. He still produced 45
hits and 33 RBI the latter figure ranking second on the
team. Monaco used his speed to leg out three triples and steal
a team-high nine bases in 2006, and his overall production will
be crucial to BUs success in 2007.
Back in left field is the platoon of senior Mike
Papili and sophomore Ken Jacobi,
who combined for 40 hits and 12 RBI last spring. Papili hit .292
in league play and recorded an on-base percentage of .433 while
Jacobi began his collegiate career with a flurry, hitting .378
through his first 15 games. Both players are capable fielders.
Talented freshman Henry Dunn has earned
the starting role in center field. Dunn batted .545 in his senior
season at South Side High School (5th highest in Nassau County,
N.Y.) and can cover a lot of ground in the outfield.
sends BU to Utah
Binghamtons 53-game schedule begins in Virginia on the
first weekend in March and also features five games in Utah and
three games at the Philadelphia Baseball Bash, hosted by Villanova,
in mid-March. In Utah, the Bearcats will play a three-game set
at BYU, which won 33 games and finished runnerup in the Mountain
West Conference last spring, and two games against Utah Valley
The 24-game America East slate opens on April 6 and BUs
home opener is set for April 13 against Vermont.
Small margin of error for conference tournament berth
The 24-game conference schedule consists of four-game sets against
the six other members three at home and three on the road.
With the four games compacted into a three-day weekend series,
pitching is a premium and one bad weekend can take a team out
of the postseason picture. The Bearcats know this all too well.
Last spring BU split the season series with all four teams that
advanced to the America East Championship, but back-to-back shutouts
in a doubleheader loss at Hartford and a washed out fourth game
against UMBC ultimately kept Binghamton home.
If BU hasnt secured a spot heading into the final weekend
series on May 18-20, its task will be daunting. The conference
schedule concludes with a trip to Orono to face two-time defending
to America East Championship teams goal
With eight seniors trying to slow down the clock before it expires
on their collegiate careers, BU will set its sights on advancing
to the America East Championship. The program made its inaugural
postseason trip in 2005 and missed out by the narrowest of margins
Our guys have been talking about the 2007 season ever since
our last out of last season, Sinicki said. The way
2006 ended really motivated the guys during the summer, fall
and winter months. With March approaching, they really want
to see all their hard work pay off.
Three different teams have won the AE title in the last four
years - and none entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed (two
champions were fourth seeds), lending credence to the notion
that once you reach the tournament anything is possible.
The Bearcats want to carry that torch in 2007.