Releases

For Immediate Release: February 18, 2009
Contact: John Hartrick (hartrick@binghamton.edu)
Phone: 607-777-6800

BU baseball set to defend America East regular-season crown
Bearcats begin season February 20-21 at Dallas Baptist

Having emerged as the most successful and consistent program in the America East over the last five years, Binghamton will be gunning for its third straight regular season title in 2009.

Despite an overhauled roster, the Bearcats won a second straight regular season crown last spring but fell just short in the conference tournament, settling for runnerup honors for the second straight year.

This year's team will have to absorb additional heavy losses, including program ace and three-time first team all-star Zach Groh, captain and first team all-conference infielder Ryan James and second-team all-star first baseman Ryan Holley.

But 17th-year head coach Tim Sinicki still returns six position starters and half of his pitching rotation, and with immediate production from several newcomers, the Bearcats could again be in the thick of things come May.

"This team has a chance to be as good as it wants to be," Sinicki said. "The talent is there, both in our position players and on the mound. The biggest keys to our success in my opinion are going to be the development of our young pitchers and our internal leadership."

Outfield corps is very talented
The Bearcats' strength lies in its corps of outfielders, who are young and talented two-way players.

Leading the way is sophomore right fielder Peter Bregartner, who topped the team in batting (.319) and was named the America East Rookie of the Year in 2008. Bregartner had 18 multi-hit games as a freshman and strung together a 14-game hit streak in early April.

Back after a year away is speedy sophomore center fielder Henry Dunn, who earned second team America East and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America honors in 2007 after an outstanding freshman season. A leadoff hitter with 20 RBI and 20 runs in 37 starts, Dunn was equally productive on defense, tracking down fly balls in the alleys and committing just two errors.

Junior left fielder and designated hitter Joe Charron led the team and ranked sixth in the America East with 43 RBI in 2008. A power hitter who batted No. 3 in the lineup all 56 games, Charron belted a team-high eight home runs, had 19 multi-hit games and two games with five RBI.

Sophomore center fielder Corey Taylor came on strong midway through his freshman season and despite an all-star snub from the conference coaches, had an outstanding campaign. He hit .418 in 20 games against America East opponents - tops in the entire conference. Taylor also drove in 19 runs and had 10 extra-base hits in league play. His defense was stellar as well.

Senior Ken Jacobi, a veteran left-handed hitter, is a solid option off the bench. He drove in 10 runs in 15 conference starts and has been a four-year contributor.

"We have a tremendous amount of talent and depth in our outfield," Sinicki said. "I think that the combination of Joe (Charron), Pete (Bregartner) and Corey (Taylor) was the best overall outfield in the conference last season. Then you add a veteran presence like Ken (Jacobi) to the mix along with the return of Henry (Dunn) - who has a chance to be the most exciting player in the conference, and you see why we as a staff feel so strongly about this group."

Sophomore transfer John Miele and freshmen Dave Ciocchi begin their first seasons at BU in 2009. Miele hit .473 as a senior at St. Francis Prep, and earned a spot on the roster as a walk-on. Ciocchi was an all-state outfielder for John Jay East Fishkill, hitting .420 as a senior.

All-star Klee anchors infield
Senior Kyle Klee is back to anchor the infield, which loses three of its four starters from 2008. Klee earned first team all-conference honors at shortstop after hitting .303 and driving in 41 runs. This spring Klee will move back to third base, where he played as a sophomore.

"Kyle is the glue to the infield, no question," Sinicki said. "Defensively he is as talented as anyone in the conference, and Kyle will continue to be a guy we turn to for production in the middle of our lineup."

Junior Jeff Abrams will take over at shortstop, and junior college transfer Jim Calderone is slated to step in at second base. Abrams started 20 games last season, and had a .353 on-base percentage. Calderone hit .391 and was team MVP for Oakton Community College (Ill.) last spring. He was a freshman starter and hit .324 at St. Francis University two seasons ago.

With the late departure of Holley at first base, Sinicki is juggling multi-positional players, looking for the best fit to stabilize that hole. Bregartner, Ciocci and junior Matt Simone are in the mix to take over.

Freshmen Eric Secor and Lane Warner round out the infield. Secor was an all-region middle infielder for Sayre Area High School, twice earning team MVP honors. Warner was a two-time all-state shortstop at Fabius-Pompey High who hit .542 as a senior.

"I think our middle combination of Jeff (Abrams) and Jim (Calderone) will be one of the best in the conference," Sinicki said. "Jeff is slick with the glove and continues to improve his offense daily. Jim is extremely talented and brings a great deal of experience from high-level play at the NAIA and junior college level."

Sophomore tandem behind plate
Second-year catchers C.J. Lukaszewski and Jeff Skelhorne-Gross return to handle the catching duties. Lukaszewski started 29 games and Skelhorne-Gross worked 26, giving Sinicki a steady tandem behind the plate.

Lukaszewski hit .341 in conference play and after his season was cut short with a hand injury, Skelhorne-Gross took over and batted .324 the rest of the way.

Senior Tom Baileys played in 30 games with 18 starts, and can catch, play first base or DH. Baileys hit .299 with 15 RBI and a .372 on-base percentage in 2008.

Dennis, Smith lead pitching staff
Senior lefty Jeff Dennis and junior right-hander Murphy Smith anchor a starting pitching rotation that will have to overcome the loss of staff ace Zach Groh and gritty lefty starter Gio Yannuzzi, who combined for eight wins and 137.2 innings of work last spring.

Dennis, 6-foot-6, was drafted in the 40th round of the MLB Amateur Draft by the Oakland Athletics, but opted to return to school for his senior year. Dennis went 4-5 with a 3.97 earned run average in 2008, and opponents hit just .223 off him.

"Jeff has emerged as a legitimate number one starter and can be as dominant as anyone in the conference," Sinicki said. "I think Jeff has really matured in the past year or so, and now understands what his strengths are and how to pitch to those strengths."

Smith went 6-4 with his sixth win being a two-hit shutout over Vermont in the
America East tournament. Smith held down a 4.09 ERA in 15 starts.

"Murphy really turned a lot of heads last season, his first in the weekend rotation," Sinicki said. "His greatest attribute might be his consistency. Every time Murph takes the mound you kind of know what you're going to get. He has really learned to command both his assortment of pitches as well as the strike zone."

The bullpen remains solid with senior all-star Greg Lane and lefty middle reliever James Giulietti.

Lane was dominant last spring, racking up a school-record and conference-best 11 saves en route to first team America East honors. He added three wins and held down a 1.97 earned run average in 24 appearances.

Giulietti went 3-0 with a 4.66 earned run average in conference play.

Other returning bullpen candidates include sophomore Morgan Smith (2-2) and junior Matt Simone (1-0).

Sinicki has seven new pitchers, with freshmen Mike Augliera, Walker McKinven and Aaron Schuldt pushing for starts. Augliera was a third team all-state selection for Old Bridge High in New Jersey, posting a 1.65 career earned run average. McKinven, a prized recruit from Illinois, redshirted last season after suffering an injury. As a senior reliever at New Trier High, McKinven went undefeated for a team that was ranked as high as No. 6 in the state. Schuldt went 5-2 with a 1.68 ERA for Liverpool High last spring, earning All-Central New York accolades.

Other pitchers on the squad include freshmen Robert Rogers, Billy Hurley and Alex Adami. First-year player Scott Swanson is out for the season with an injury.

"I think we might have the best combination of top two starters and closer (Greg Lane) in the conference," Sinicki said. "There is going to be some serious competition for the final two spots in our weekend rotation. James (Giulietti), Walker (McKinven), Mike (Augliera), Alex (Adami) … they are all in the mix at this point. Overall I like this staff a lot … it's deep, talented and has the makings to be very very good."

53-game slate spans 3 months
Binghamton opens its season with a three-game set at 2008 NCAA participant Dallas Baptist on February 20-21. A four-game series at University of New Mexico on March 6-8 and three games at the America East-Northeast Conference Challenge (March 27-29) also highlight the early season slate.

The Bearcats will play their first 21 games on the road before welcoming conference foe Hartford to Varsity Field on April 4-5. Other matchups of note include single games against in-state rivals Marist (April 1), Cornell (April 8), Siena (April 14) and Army (April 21) and a four-game set at Lehigh (April 21-22).
Binghamton will play a four-game series against each of the six America East opponents, with defending champion Stony Brook (April 18-19) and Vermont (May 15-16) making the trip to Vestal this spring.

The conference championship will be held May 21-23 at a site to be determined. There, the Bearcats will try to break through and claim the program's first conference title after back-to-back runnerup finishes at the 2007 and 2008 championship tournaments.

The conference is going to be as good and balanced as ever," Sinicki said. "Coaches are working as hard as I've ever seen … staffs hitting the road recruiting and with the improved facilities teams are getting a lot accomplished in the non-traditional and off-seasons. Our goals, however, remain the same … work hard to win the regular season championship and number one seed in the AEC Tournament, then capture the tournament title and automatic bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament. I feel strongly that both goals are within our reach this spring."

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