Despite a program best 15-5 record in Ivy play, the 2009 Brown Baseball team finished a game short of qualifying for the Ivy Championships. In 2010, Head Coach Marek Drabinski (14th Season) will lead a "new look" Bears squad, hungry to get back to post season play.
Gone are leading hitters Matt Nuzzo, Steve Daniels, Rob Papenhause, and Dan Shapiro, but Drabinski feels that the 2010 club has all the ingredients to be very successful. "While we lost some key position players, we return our entire pitching staff and we feel that we have the players to step up and bolster the offense," remarked Drabinski.
Here is a look at how the Bears shape up heading into 2010:
Drabinski feels that the 2010 pitching staff has the ability to be the most complete group of his tenure. "We have a full complement of pitchers returning with experience and a couple of freshman who could contribute right away. This group will keep us in games and make us competitive every day."
The top of the rotation will feature senior co-captain Will Weidig and junior lefty Mark Gormley. Weidig begins 2010 fully healthy and looks to return to his 2008 form, when he led the team in innings, ERA, wins, and strikeouts. Gormley, a First Team All-Ivy Selection, established himself as an ace in 2009, posting a 6-2 record with a 4.55 ERA in 61 innings. "Weidig and Gormley will be key for us this spring, they both have the stuff to be Number 1 starters. Having them both healthy in 2010 will give us an advantage heading into most series," Drabinski said.
Freshman Kevin Carlow had a very impressive fall and appears ready to make an immediate impact on the starting rotation. The remainder of the rotation will be filled by a number of talented pitchers, all of whom could fill vital bullpen roles as well. Seniors Rob Wilcox and Matt Boylan and junior Connor Burke, all bring versatility and experience both as starters and relievers.
The back end of the bullpen will feature junior set up man Andrew Bakowski and junior closer Matt Kimball. Bakowski led the team with a 4.32 ERA in '09, holding opponents to a .204 average against. Kimball set the program's single season record with 10 saves a season ago, recording 49 strikeouts in 34 innings. "With our depth on the mound, our bullpen has good depth and remains a strength. Having capable pitchers to get us to Bakowski and Kimball can really help us late in games," remarked Drabinski.
Several newcomers also look to help the Bears in their first season with the team. Freshman lefties Walter Albee and Brad Kottman could pitch in a number of roles and will give Drabinski match-up options. Righties Cooper Smith, Heath Mayo, John Murphy, and Will Lacker also look to see innings in their first seasons with the team.
Junior captain Matt Colantonio returns for his third season as a starter at catcher. Colantonio looks to return to his offensive form of 2008, when he hit .368 with 8 doubles. "Matt gives us great leadership and defense behind the plate and he is ready for a breakout season offensively. We are really excited about the season he could have in 2010," Drabinski said.
Senior Joe Mellano had a strong fall offensively and will see at bats, both as the backup catcher and in the DH or corner OF spots. Versatile freshman Cody Slaughter could also see action behind the plate.
The left side of the Bears infield remains intact in 2010, with junior third baseman Ryan Zrenda and sophomore shortstop Graham Tyler returning to their posts. "Both Ryan and Graham are complete players who can help us in all phases of the game," commented Drabinski, "they will both give us stability in our infield defense and play huge roles in our offensive lineup." Zrenda hit .301 in '09, knocking in 24 runs and stealing six bases. Tyler, winner of the athletic departments Joe Paterno Award for best Freshman Athlete, hit .290 with five home runs and 31 RBI.
Senior Chris Tanabe, a converted outfielder, will take over at second base. Tanabe, who hit .250 in 40 at-bats in 2009, proved in fall workouts that he will bring strong defense and speed to the Bears' lineup.
First base and DH duties will be split by junior Peter Greskoff and sophomore Mike DiBiase. Greskoff, the teams leading returning hitter, batted .339 with 11 homeruns and 38 RBI in 2009. DiBiase comes off a strong offensive fall and looks to make a big impact in the middle of the Brown lineup. "Both Peter and Mike look like they will be in the middle of our lineup. The first base and DH spots appear to be in good hands for 2010," said Drabinski.
Slaughter and versatile sophomore Jon Suzich will provide infield depth for the Bears in 2010.
Brown's outfield seems to have some questions heading into 2010, but there are several players who could step up to fill key roles. Senior Nick Punal, Honorable Mention All-Ivy in 2008, brings the most experience to the outfield. Punal hit .263 in 80 at-bats in 2009 and brings strong defense to his right field spot. "We are looking forward to another big season from Nick, he will be a big key to our outfield," Drabinski said.
Sophomores Dan Rosoff and Jon Suzich look to develop into key players this season. Both have good speed and had strong falls with the bat. Converted pitcher Josh Feit and freshmen John Sheridan and Kevin Carlow also give Coach Drabinski depth and options in the outfield mix.