2012 Wildcats Take the Diamond With Lofty Aspirations
The wait has been long enough; more than 44 weeks have passed since the Cazenovia College Baseball team split a doubleheader in their last games of the 2011 season and they are once again ready to take the field. The Wildcats will open the 2012 regular season on March 3rd against Philadelphia Biblical in a doubleheader, the first of two games during an 11-game swing over spring break. The team will travel to Winter Haven, FL following the PBU games, the program's first trip to Florida since 2009.
The Wildcats finished the 2011 season with a 9-21 record including a 6-8 mark in conference play. Bryan Wilgocki hit .417 in conference play and earned a consecutive NEAC 1st team all-conference nod. Fellow senior Josh Tucker (.325 avg., 5 doubles) and all-conference selections, Adam Wiley (.263, 22 runs, 1 HR, 14 SB, NEAC 1st team 2B) and Anthony DeSarro (.281, 7 doubles, NEAC 3rd team Catcher) led the way offensively along with Newcomer of the Year Jerome Bright (.293, 12 RBI, 12 SB). The team's young pitching staff posted a 6.27 ERA over 199 innings, all but 3 IP by underclassmen, with an outstanding 13 complete games. Sophomore Brian Gaskell logged 38 innings and struck out 37 with a sub-4 ERA. The team posted a record below .500 and missed the conference playoffs for the second consecutive season.
"Cazenovia has brought in a strong freshman class and will look to improve on a fifth-place showing in the conference standings. The biggest loss for the Wildcats will be Bryan Wilgocki, all-conference in both 2010 and 2011. The 2012 version of the Wildcats should the best team in a number of years on the mound and defensively. With depth at each position, Cazenovia could very well become a productive offensive team. Catcher Anthony DeSarro will be the team captain in 2012."D3Baseball.comNEAC Season Preview.
Overall, look for the Wildcats to return to their winning ways, especially in conference this season. The team's goal is to crack the playoff ceiling and mark their comeback as a mainstay in the NEAC post-season picture. As box scores are compared after each game – the lineup will vary indefinitely as Coach Pete Way and his staff search for the best combination from the talented group of hitters. The steady force of a top notch pitching staff will be the key to the 2012 season. If the Wildcats play well enough to make the playoffs, provide steady defense for the pitching staff, and most importantly, find a way to score runs – they could make a run at the end of the season.
Head Coach Pete Way '03 returns for his seventh season leading the Wildcats baseball team. After six years guiding the program, a combined North Eastern Athletic Conference record of 55-31 (.640) has translated to two conference titles (2008 and 2009) and the baseball program's first ever ECAC Tournament appearance (2009); however the recent two-season slide (16 wins, 44 losses) has brought the team's overall record under Way to 84-105.The rebuilding project is nearly complete, and the program is back on track thanks to the great work of assistant coaches Bryan Atkins, returning for his third season, Sean Keeler, returning for his second season to lead the pitching staff and Cory Schad '09, a former all-region player for Cazenovia, in his first season with the team as an assistant.
Behind the plate:
The Wildcats are led by a pair of seniors, Anthony DeSarro and Derrek Root. DeSarro is a game-changing defensive player and also lead the team in doubles and RBI last spring, his first season with Cazenovia. Root hit .282 in 2011 and has a .300 career batting average during his 72 games for the Wildcats.
On the mound:
The landscape of college baseball changed last year with the abrupt adoption of new bat regulations at all levels. Pitchers have never been happier and the Wildcats coaching staff is pleased to have possibly the best rotation and strongest bullpen in team history. Brian Gaskell is scheduled to start Game 1 of the 2012 season and will be followed in the rotation by junior left-hander Joe Rogers, who finished second on the team in strikeouts (32) over a team leading 39 innings including 4 complete games in 7 starts.Left-hander Justin Teator tossed two complete game shut-outs during a junior season in which he lead the team in ERA (3.25) and returns for his final season on the mound. Tom DeBernardis has broken the rotation early in his career; the Utica-Proctor left-hander is one member from this year's highly regarded freshman recruiting class. DeBernardis was named "Captain" of the American Legion National All-Academic team and posted an Oneida County Legion league-best 1.62 ERA this past summer. The highly anticipated return of James Chase to the staff in 2012 has the team excited; the right-hander earned fall 2010 MVP honors after throwing 12 innings as a freshman the previous spring. Adam Halay has won both career starts during his first two seasons (17 app., 19 K, over 28 IP) including a win over Oswego State as a freshman. Junior transfer Jamie Barr (Herkimer County CC) struck out 36 over 32 innings as a General and will start for the Wildcats as a two-way player. The bullpen should shorten more than a few games this spring and includes senior Josh Seymore, who made 10 appearances and started 6 games in 2011.The experienced right-hander logged 34 innings in 2011 and closed games for Mohawk Valley CC in both 2009 and 2010. Junior Jack Benjamin will play a major role out of the bullpen, as will freshman Jake Zimmer; both right-handers have experience as starting pitchers as well. Transfer Tim Ackerman allowed just one run during the fall season, highlighted by four shutout innings of Finger Lakes CC. Ackerman is one of many two-way players on the roster as is freshman right-hander Alex Rudiak, who along with classmates Jake Bryant and Matt McMann, round out the team's bullpen.
Cazenovia is incredibly deep all around the infield with multiple options at every position. Returning to the diamond are three starters from 2011 – Adam Wiley and Rich Battoglia, both seniors, as well as junior Erich Lange. Wiley returns as the incumbent second baseman and is scheduled to hit at the top of the batting order early on after hitting .318 in conference play last season. Battoglia started 28 games at short stop for Cazenovia in 2011 and finished strong, earning Wildcat of the Week honors in the final week of the spring. Lange will shift to third base this season; the excellent defender played center field as a freshman and was tagged with only three errors in 211 chances at first base last season. Although Lange finished with a .256 average, he charged late to hit .294 against NEAC opponents, with 15 of his 21 hits and 10 of 13 RBI coming in conference play. A trio of junior college infielders has arrived and each are pushing for immediate roles in the lineup including talented two-way players Jack Benjamin and Jamie Barr; both players provide left-handed bats to the lineup. Benjamin is a hard-nosed middle infielder and will see time at short while Barr is big bat who can play both second and third base. Former Herkimer 1st Baseman Pat Shepardson provides a big target for the rest of the infield and is a presence in the middle of the Wildcats order.While at HCCC, Shepardson hit .353 with 6 doubles, 14 RBI and 20 runs in 25 games. The preview of the 2012 infield doesn't stop there; three freshmen are each in the mix for time. Two recruits from Southern Tier Athletic Conference powerhouse schools, third baseman Matt Nestopoulos from Ithaca HS, and first baseman Dan Hodne from Oneonta HS, carry big enough sticks to break the lineup early on. Alex Rudiak was a standout at Rome Catholic and will earn valuable experience as the heir apparent up the middle after a terrific fall season.
During his first collegiate season in 2011, Jerome Bright hit .351with 15 runs, 9 RBI and 9 stolen bases in conference play and made just one error in center field the entire season. With a full year under his belt, expectations are high for a phenomenal sophomore season from the talented outfielder. Another returner in the outfield is senior Colin Parry. Parry has provided steady defense during each of the past two seasons while playing both center and right field, and is a career-.281 hitter. There are a number of talented newcomers to the outfield in freshman Chris Williams and Eugene Barber, as well as Finger Lakes CC transfer Tim Ackerman, Eric Messer and senior Sean Greco. Williams is a slick center fielder and gritty top of the order caliber hitter from the left-side. Better known as Bubba, Barber is a power hitting All-League selection from Thomas A. Edison High where the team owned a 41-6 record over the last two seasons. Tim Ackerman is a good defensive outfielder who has been transitioning to pick up duties on the mound this season. Ackerman hit .462 in 13 games for Finger Lakes in 2011 and will play a much larger role in left-field this season. Both Greco and Messer are playing their first seasons in the outfield and are athletic, capable defenders - Messer has the physical tools to produce at the plate.