Feb. 17, 2005
Providence, RI - Equipped with all the right ingredients for success, the 2005 season looks bright for the Brown baseball team. Head Coach Marek Drabinski, entering his ninth year, returns 12 position players, nine pitchers and welcomes a strong incoming class of eight. The Bears finished fourth with a 16-26 overall record and a 9-11 mark in the highly competitive Red Rolfe Division of the Ivy League last season. Brown, which finished second in the league in batting with six players averaging over .300 at the plate, had 14 of its losses come by just three runs or less.
Seniors Chris Contrino, Jeff Nichols and Chris Davidson will captain the team. "The three of them have been an integral part of our continued success since they joined the team as freshmen," says Drabinksi. "It's an honor and an accomplishment to be a captain and I know it's smething they really are looking forward to."
Contrino and Nichols earned Second Team All-Ivy honors last season at third base and shortstop respectively while Davidson will emerge as the team's closer on the mound this season.
Fellow seniors Matt Kutler and Joel DeMaria will rejoin the team after missing all of last season with injuries. During the 2003 season, Kutler led the Ivy League in hits and earned First Team All-Ivy honors for the second straight season. DeMaria will be a top candidate for a starting conference role on the mound for the Bears as he led the team with 58.0 innings pitched in 2003, walking just eight batters.
Also returning to the field are 2004 First Team All-Ivy honorees, senior Bobby Wiginton and junior Paul Christian. On the mound, Brown will have ample depth with the return of all but one of its starters.
The Bears boast one of the best outfields both offensively and defensively in the league this season with the possibility of a starting lineup of three First Team All-Ivy players in Kutler, Wiginton and Christian. Junior Eric Larson will also challenge for a starting role in the outfield after taking the spring semester off last year. "I really believe whichever three we start, we'll have one of the most talented outfields in the Northeast this season," says Drabinski.
Kutler finished the 2003 season with 66 hits and 44 RBI. He is just 44 hits and two RBI away from breaking the all-time Brown career hits and RBI records. "It's great to have Matt back. His injury last season was very unfortunate, but I know he's excited to play again. He's a heck of a player who's gotten stronger and hungrier." Kutler will likely be the Bear's three hitter throughout the season.
Wiginton, a Second Team All-New England selection, was second in the league in batting last season with a .415 average. A clutch hitter, he batted .542 with runners on base in Ivy play. Christian had a break-out season, finishing second in the league with 11 homeruns and 47 runs. He had a perfect year in the outfield, going errorless in 73 chances. Christian earned First Team All-New England and Second Team All-Northeast honors.
The return of Larson will be key for Brown as Drabinski predicts a strong year for the power hitter. "He has comeback with a new drive and energy level. He has all the tools needed to take it to the next level."
Senior James Lowe will also compete for a starting spot in the outfield. Lowe ended last season on a high note, batting .350 in the last ten games of the season. "James worked very hard in the fall and his swing is much improved," says Drabinski. "He will certainly help either in the outfield or at first base."
The infield will be made up of a veteran core of players, including two 2004 All-Ivy selections in Nichols and Contrino. Nichols anchored the shortstop position, finishing second on the team with 53 hits. His .391 league average ranked second on the team and sixth in the Ivies. "The left side of our infield will be the best in the eight years that I've been at Brown," says Drabinski. "Jeff has only gotten better with each day at shortstop. He works harder at getting better than any player I've ever coached."
Contrino led the Bears with 55 hits on the season and was second with a .369 average. "Chris is just solid at the plate and at third base. His work ethic is the reason why," says Drabinski.
Brown has many options to fill the void at second base with the departure of four-time All-Ivy selection Bobby Deeb '04. Sophomore Bryan Tews could see time at second when not on the mound. Christian may also see time at second as could sophomore Robert Dykehouse when not behind the plate. Another option for the Bears will be freshman Brian Kelaher, a graduate of Avon Old Farms High School in Avon, CT.
Junior Danny Hughes will anchor the first base position after leading the team in RBI last season with 44. With a year under his belt at the position, Hughes has improved dramatically according to Drabinski. "In addition to him helping us offensively like he did last year, I expect him to make big defensive contributions for us this season as well."
The Bears will be three-deep at the catcher's position with sophomore Devin Thomas likely earning the regular starting duties. As a rookie, he was named Second Team All-Ivy, finishing second on the team with 35 RBI. Thomas, who was used in three different positions throughout the season, had a team-high 25 RBI in league play, third overall in the Ancient Eight. "Devin has improved greatly at the catcher's position so we'll be expecting big things from him behind the plate," says Drabinski.
Sophomore Robert Dykehouse will also see time behind the plate and at second base after earning the regular starting catching duties last season. Rounding out the list of catchers is senior Chris Jernigan along with Kelaher. Jernigan saw time in 20 games last season and will also see time as a designated hitter as will Kelaher.
The Bears will have a young but experienced pitching staff this season. DeMaria and Davidson will be the lone seniors but they will be joined by a list of talented sophomores and juniors. Three newcomers will also be added to the mix.
DeMaria, Tews and juniors Shaun McNamara and James Cramphin will be Brown's anticipated conference starters. Davidson will serve as the Bears' closer this season, a distinct weakness Brown faced last season. "As I closer I think Chris will really do a great job at attacking the hitters, throwing strikes and putting guys away," says Drabinski. "I think we'll see the Chris from a couple of years ago on the mound this year."
DeMaria proved to be one of the team's top pitchers in 2003. "He eats up innings and throws strikes. Having him back is a huge plus for us," says Drabinski. McNamara picked up a team-high five wins last season while also leading the hurlers with 40 strikeouts.
Cramphin led the team with 56.2 innings pitched last season and was second with 39 strikeouts. As a rookie, he earned Second Team All-Ivy honors with all four of his wins coming in conference play. Tews emerged as one of the top pitchers on the staff, earning a starting conference role late in the season. He led Brown with a 2.31 ERA and recorded just five walks in 35 innings of work.
Up for the weekly starting duties will be junior lefty Brian Hagerty, sophomores Ethan Silverstein and Clint Dykehouse as well as freshman Alex Silverman. Hagerty made nine appearances last season, earning two starts while Silverstein was second in wins with three and third in ERA with a 4.71 average for the Bears. Dykehouse went 1-2 in ten appearances during his rookie campaign last spring.
Freshman submariner Jeff Dietz will serve as a set-up man against righties while Hagerty and junior Ethan Burton will be matched up against lefties. Also seeing time out of the bullpen will be sophomore Paul Costa, who made two appearances as a rookie and newcomers Peter Moskal, Rob Hallberg and Rob Wood.