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BASEBALL
BU bolsters lineup for America East debut


Much is new in 2002.

Tenth-year head coach Tim Sinicki has his Bearcats playing in a new conference with a new and more-demanding schedule. Though BU played in a Division I league last spring, this year’s America East membership carries with it greater stakes — namely an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I tournament. To aid his team’s transition, Sinicki has brought in a dozen new players, and is eager to begin the program’s Division I tenure in the seven-team America East.

“We’re excited to be part of this conference,” Sinicki said. “All four remaining schools (Maine, Vermont, Boston University and Hartford) have great baseball traditions, and we’ve already shared a strong rivalry with Albany and Stony Brook. It will be a tremendous challenge for our kids.”

PITCHING
Of Sinicki’s 12 new faces, six will bolster a pitching staff that showed flashes of brilliance but lacked depth a year ago.

Unfortunately, three-year staff ace Jeff Montani won’t be back for his senior season after signing a professional contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

Highlighting the group is senior David Eagan, a left-handed workhorse who returns after missing the entire 2001 season with an elbow injury. Eagan went 7-3 and carried a 3.80 earned run average in 2000, earning all-conference honors. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he eats up a lot of innings, and will take the ball as the team’s number one pitcher this spring.

“David looks strong and healthy,” Sinicki said. “He has already caught the eye of scouts, and with a good spring, he could further his career at the professional level. We will need him to be dominant.”
Junior transfer Jacob Thiel could be the number two starter. Thiel brings a wealth of talent from Canada College in California. As a closer and starter last spring, he won two games, saved four, and posted a 2.70 ERA. Thiel struck out 25 and walked just four in 30 innings.

“Jake improved every time he took the mound during the fall season,” Sinicki said. “By the end of the fall, he had given us a tremendous amount of confidence in his ability to be competitive in America East games.”

At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Thiel also brings the added bonus of offensive power. At Canada College, he batted .305, and will likely bat fifth in the BU lineup when not on the mound.

“Jake has tremendous home run power and also is the fastest runner on our team,” Sinicki said.
Senior captain Greg Sousa could be the team’s third starter. Sousa won three games in 2001, including two key conference tilts that helped the Bearcats snare runner-up honors.

“Greg has already demonstrated ability to win against Division I opponents,” Sinicki said. “He needs to have command to be successful, but when he does, he has the ability to shut teams down with a variety of pitches.”

Junior Josh Fuerst, along with freshmen Johnmin Hickey and Mike Weglinski will provide Sinicki with available spot-starters. Fuerst, 6-foot-5, won twice in five starts last spring, including a commanding 5-1 win over Stony Brook.

Hickey is a talented 6-foot-4 recruit from Reno, Nevada who lost just twice in his scholastic career. He was a three-time first-team all-state selection.

Six-foot-4 junior lefty Phil Artonio returns as the bullpen stopper. Artonio went 4-1 with two saves and a team-best 3.50 ERA last spring, earning first-team all-conference honors.

Senior Jason Heindorf and freshmen Tom Gaube and Adam Shatkun will also work in relief.
Gaube’s arm strength caught the attention of Sinicki, who converted the local recruit from third base to pitcher.

CATCHING
Junior Kyle Loucks and senior Steve Kohan again give Sinicki a solid tandem behind the plate.

Loucks started 30 games at catcher and designated hitter last season, and batted .287. Kohan played in 25 games, and closed out the season on a tear, batting .500 in three post-season games.

Freshman Chris Darling, an all-league scholastic standout, offers Sinicki the luxury of a third catcher with dependable skills.

INFIELDERS
Gone is shortstop Tim Macko, a first-team all-conference player who graduated as the program’s all-time home run leader.

The other three infield positions are holdovers, however.

Sophomore Jamie Boyer is back at first base, where he started 45 of 46 games as a freshman. Boyer collected 41 hits with 29 RBI — both second-best to Macko. He showed some pop in the bat with 13 extra-base hits and was named second-team all-conference.

Senior J.T. Martin, a veteran infielder with power, will back-up at first and get some additional swings at DH.

Junior Tyler McGonigal is back at third base after hitting .289 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 2001. He struck out only 11 times in 121 at-bats, and may bat leadoff in Sinicki’s 2002 lineup.

Senior Cesar Suero and sophomore Matt Caputo split the role at second base last spring, and may do the same this year. Suero made 33 starts in 2001, and is more of a defensive force.
Caputo hit .310 in 36 games, and like Suero, can also play third base.

At short, freshman Brian Lindsay has the inside track on the starting spot. A slick-fielding 6-foot-2 athlete, he led Horseheads High School to the state title as a sophomore, and was a two-time first-team all-conference infielder.

Freshman Shawn Collyer, a .526 hitter and all-state scholastic shortstop, will see time as well.

OUTFIELD

Senior Tim Collar, already entrenched in numerous career top-10 categories, occupies left field and more importantly, the clean-up spot for his final collegiate season. Last spring, Collar made 32 starts despite a nagging foot injury, and drove in 16 runs.

“We are expecting Tim to pick up where he left of in his sophomore year (.363 average with 44 RBI),” Sinicki said. “As our clean-up hitter, Tim needs to produce in order for us to be successful.”

Sophomore T.J. Kowalchuk should gain the start in center field. Kowalchuk enjoyed a solid freshman campaign, belting five home runs and driving in 18 runs.

Junior Tony Berube, a transfer from Keystone College, is slated to start in right field. Berube, who played high school ball just a few miles down the road at Vestal High, batted .407 for Keystone last spring.

“We didn’t recruit Tony to be a role player,” Sinicki said. “We’re counting on him in the middle of the order to drive in runs and solidify our outfield.”

Senior Austin Walters returns to the team after a year away, and can play anywhere in the outfield. Walters batted .307 with nine doubles in 2000.

Junior Tom Cummings, who had a .423 on-base percentage in 2001, will also see time, as will senior Jared Goldstein and freshman David Lewin.

SCHEDULE/OUTLOOK
In addition to the challenging 24-game America East conference slate, BU will battle several elite programs, including Delaware State (37-10 in 2001), Western Carolina (30 wins) and NCAA tournament teams Bucknell and Maryland-Baltimore County.

The Bearcats will play their first 28 games on the road before hosting Cornell on April 9.

Sinicki is eying a top-four finish in the conference, which would open the door to the America East Championship tournament, May 23-25 at University of Maine.

       
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