Friday, February 22, 2013

Jasper's Ready for New Baseball Season

BRONX, NEW YORK, February 22- The Manhattan baseball team's accomplishments over the past seven years have put the Jaspers in elite company when it comes to Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference baseball success. The Jaspers have won three of the last seven MAAC Championships, four of five Regular-Season crowns and this senior class has accumulated a 44-2 home record during their careers. The Jaspers have built what many would consider a dynasty in Riverdale. Now with the 2013 campaign on the horizon, Manhattan has the opportunity accomplish a feat only two other programs have done in league history, win its third straight MAAC title.

The two-time defending conference champions return eight of nine starters from last year's club that won 33 games and was the only team in the nation to go undefeated at home with an unblemished 18-0 record at Van Cortlandt Park. With four All-MAAC First Team honorees from last season returning to a roster that has a plethora of postseason experience under their belts, Manhattan's lofty goals have grown larger than ever before.

"I don't think anyone from our team is going to be content just having another solid season. The consensus with this team is that we need to raise the bar," said second year head coach Jim Duffy. "I want to make sure we don't get too far ahead of ourselves, so our initial expectations are simple, get off to a better start than last year. Our ultimate goals for this year are to win the regular-season, go to the MAAC Tournament and take home the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. That would get us back to a NCAA Regional, where we will need to figure out a way to win it."

The Jaspers will rally behind senior co-captains Nick Camastro, Kyle Murphy, Ramon Ortega, John Soldinger and Matt Troisi, who held the same roles last season leading the team to prominence. The five captains laid the ground work for Manhattan's historic 2012 MAAC Championship run, as the Jaspers became the first team in league history to rally for the title after losing the first game of the double elimination tournament. The Jaspers won four games in three days to engrave their name in the record book.

"They each bring a different type of leadership to the table, but have the same goals and expectations," said Duffy. "They are part of a very special senior class here at Manhattan that deserves to finish their careers on a high note. The most impressive thing about that group is they know how to win and they respect what it takes to win. These captains work really hard and all lead by example."

Manhattan's roster features 23 returnees from last year's championship roster. The Jaspers also welcome a blend talent in its six freshmen who are expected to bolster the lineup.

Infield

Manhattan has one of the premier middle infields in the region in returning 2012 All-MAAC First Team selections Nick Camastro and Yoandry Galan. Kyle Murphy and Joe McClennan are expected to hold down the corners again, while Matt Troisi, Vin Teixeira and newcomer Christian Santisteban are also expected to be in the mix adding power to the lineup.

"In the middle infield I am pretty blessed, so I don't have to give that a lot of thought on game days. We do have some guys who are going to provide depth there," Duffy explained.

Camastro is a two-time All-MAAC selection who has been a mainstay in the Jasper lineup since his arrival in Riverdale. He has started all 163 career appearances and enters his final season with 166 hits. The senior from Lagrangeville, N.Y., is a game-changer who started all 59 games last season and was named to the MAAC All-Tournament Team after batting .476 to help lead Manhattan to the championship. The defensively sound infielder committed only three errors, starting in all 24 conference games last year. Camastro finished in the top-5 of the MAAC last season in hits (66), on-base percentage (.435), doubles (16) and plate appearances (267).

Galan was one of two Jaspers to start all 60 games last season. The 6 foot 1, 180-pound sophomore shortstop from Miami has established himself as an elite defensive shortstops in the Northeast. Galan is coming off his top offensive season hitting .305 during the regular-season, posting 53 hits, 22 RBI, 32 runs and stealing eight bases. Galan committed only five errors in 24 conference starts last year. He brings veteran postseason experience to the club, starting all four NCAA Tournament games for the Jaspers in his first two years with the program.

"We can have a combination of players on the corners, but the situation will be led by Kyle Murphy at first base and Joe McClennan at third. The guys behind them have big bats. I have done it before and will play the hot bat in those situations," said Duffy.

Murphy, a 6 foot 3, 210-pound senior from Waterbury, Conn., also brings a knack for winning to the roster. His clutch single in the top of the 11th inning in the 2012 MAAC Championship Game sent Manhattan off with a 3-2 victory. Murphy is a superb athlete who started 40 of his 58 appearances at first base last season. He finished the year ranked in the top-5 of the team for hits (47), RBI (26), total bases (69) and sacrifice bunts (5). In addition, his 14 doubles were the fifth most in the MAAC last season.

McClennan earned the everyday role at third base last season after the rookie displayed his defensive consistency and ability at the plate. The 6 foot 2 product of Highland Mills, N.Y. did not have an error in the last 23 games of the season, and made only five all year, helping Manhattan mount its title run. Offensively, he finished with 41 hits, including six doubles, and drove in 16 runs.

Troisi and Teixeira are expected to contribute either in the infield or in designated hitter role. Troisi is a 6 foot 5, 235-pound lefty from Brooklyn who hit .311 during the regular-season in 2012, finishing with two home runs and 15 RBI while starting 31 of 40 appearances.

Teixeira brings a big bat from the right side as he is also expected to drive in runs for the Jaspers. The 6 foot 4, 220-pound native of Hamden, Conn. started 22 of 28 appearances in 2012. He was named MAAC Rookie of the Week after putting his offensive skills on display in his Jasper debut going 4-for-4 from the plate with three RBI and a home run to lead Manhattan past Florida Atlantic.

Santisteban comes from perennial national high school baseball power Gulliver Prep in Miami. He adds a solid lefty bat to the lineup, going along with good baseball fundamentals. Santisteban was a three-time All Miami-Dade County honoree who hit over .400 in his final two years at Gulliver Prep.

Outfield

The Jaspers outfield will feature veterans Chris Kalousdian and Joe Rock, one of whom will take over the role in center field in the absence of 2012 First Team All-MAAC honoree Anthony Vega, who was selected in the 30th Round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. Andrew Gorecki and Aidan John O'Leary will also be competing for a starting job this season.

"The outfield is the toughest position, because we have some guys out there competing for starting spots, which is a good thing," said Duffy. "The most important thing is these guys have good experience and can bring leadership to the outfield.

Kalousdian offers flexibility to the Manhattan lineup with his versatility to play any position on the field. The junior from Kings Park, N.Y. emerged as one of the top defensive outfielders in the MAAC last year. He started 38 of 50 appearances, including all five games in the MAAC Tournament and in the NCAA Tournament against South Carolina. Kalousidan finished with 13 RBI and scored 17 runs last season.

Rock, a senior from Carmel, N.Y., is coming off his top season since his arrival in Riverdale. He started 31 of 42 appearances, hitting nearly .300 with 15 RBI and scoring 13 runs. Rock proved his ability to step up in the clutch with his season-saving solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Jaspers were down to their final two outs in the MAAC Championship. He hit .341 in MAAC contests.

Gorecki will be in the mix in the outfield as he offers a good lefty bat with power to the lineup. The 6 foot 2, 205-pound junior from Smithtown, N.Y., started 39 of 45 appearances last season, driving in 17 runs and posting six doubles.

The Jaspers can call on O'Leary for a dynamic athletic talent in the lineup. The sophomore from New Hampshire is one of the quickest players in the conference who covers a lot of ground in the outfield. He started 25 of 36 appearances last season, showing off his speed with two triples.

Catchers

Manhattan has plenty of depth behind the plate returning two-time All-MAAC selection in senior Ramon Ortega who garnered First Team honors last year. Junior Brendan Slattery, sophomore Mikey Miranda and freshman Chris Reynolds will all compete to contribute in 2013.

"Behind the plate we have four quality catchers," said Duffy. "They will be led by Ramon Ortega, because he has been there and done it for us before."

Ortega, a six foot, 200-pound native of Miami, led the MAAC with 51 RBIs last season to go along with seven home runs that were the third most in the conference. With Ortega's solid defensive skills he is arguably one of the top catchers in the Northeast. He blocks the ball well and has a strong arm that threw out 23 runners caught stealing in 2012. Ortega brings veteran leadership and postseason experience to the diamond. He was instrumental in guiding Manhattan to the MAAC championship last year after posting six RBI in five starts in the MAAC Championship to earn All-Tournament Team honors. Ortega has started 147 of 160 appearances at Manhattan, posting 158 hits and 103 RBI.

Slattery returned to the lineup midway through the 2012 season after recovering from an injury. He started 12 of 16 appearances and was a key contributor during Manhattan's postseason run. Slattery hit .391, posted a .565 slugging percentage and .440 on base percentage last season. He put his ability to hit in the clutch on display in the MAAC Championship round with the game winning RBI single to send the tournament to a decisive game seven. He adds power to the line up from the right side.

Miranda brings a lot of energy behind the plate with solid defensive skills. He receives the ball well and possesses above-average arm strength. The Miami native appeared in two games last year before suffering a season ending injury. Miranda is healthy entering the 2013 campaign and has been pushing the group swinging the bat as good as anyone on the roster in the preseason. Reynolds is a very athletic player from Wall, N.J. who comes to Manhattan after a successful career at St. Rose High School. He was a Shore Conference All-Division First Team selection and All-Monmouth County honoree. Reynolds' versatility will allow him to contribute on multiple positions on the field.

Pitchers

Manhattan's staff features a blend of experienced pitchers and talented newcomers who will compete for innings on the hill. Senior right-hander John Soldinger returns as the Jaspers' ace, and there will be a competition to fill in behind him for the next two weekend starter positions. Upperclassmen Matt Jordan and Scott McClennan bring experience to the mound, while sophomores Nick Girardi and Michael Scarinci are also expected to be in the mix. Junior Jacob Marchus will return to his role as Manhattan's closer in 2013.

"Soldinger is going to be pitching game one every weekend. That is what he wants and he has the accolades in the past to do that," said Duffy. "I also like the potential of our left-handed pitching, we don't have a lot of it, but the ability is there."

Soldinger, a 6 foot 3, 225-pound product from Bay Shore, N.Y., is a three-time All-MAAC selection who has earned MAAC Pitcher of the Year (2011) and MAAC Relief Pitcher of the Year (2010) honors during his career. Soldinger is a tremendous competitor who worked hard in the offseason to make his final campaign in Riverdale a memorable one. He finished last season as the MAAC leader and 10th nationally with six complete games. Soldinger was second in the league with six wins, five of which were in MAAC games. He has appeared in 53 games over his career maintaining a 3.35 ERA, and with 21 career wins, he is in striking distance of setting the program record.

Jordan is the most experienced of five lefties on the Jaspers' roster. He enters his final season at Manhattan healthier than ever before as he has fully comeback from an injury-plagued career. The 6 foot 3, 220-pounder from Kingston, N.Y., has split his time on the mound over his career as a starter or reliever. Jordan has a sneaky fastball with good command.

The Jaspers could also turn to McClennan, a six foot right-hander from Highland Mills, N.Y., who locates the ball well and has pitched big innings for Manhattan in his first two years. McClennan started 12 of 16 appearances in 2012, working 75 2/3 innings with 28 strikeouts. McClennan has postseason experience starting Manhattan's win over Canisius in the MAAC Championship round, and then he earned the start in the NCAA Tournament against Coastal Carolina.

Girardi and Scarinci earned good experience in their rookie campaigns. Girardi is a 5 foot 11 lefty who throws with good velocity and movement. He made 14 appearances last season, starting three times. The Syosset, N.Y. native who attended St. Dominic's High School registered 14 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings.

Scarinci was one of the most valuable pitchers for the Jaspers last season as he split meaningful innings coming out of the bullpen or in a starting role. The right-hander from Nanuet, N.Y., led Manhattan and was third in the MAAC with 24 appearances. His six wins were the second most in the conference as he logged 28 strikeouts and gave up only 15 walks in 59 innings. Scarinci stepped up to the challenge against MAAC opponents, posting a 3-1 record and 3.68 ERA. He was named to the Primetime Performer Honor Roll by CollegeBaseball360.com after carrying a perfect game into the final inning in a regular-season win at Canisius, finishing with a two-hit shutout. Scarinci pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings over two appearances at the MAAC Tournament, and then made his NCAA Tournament debut out of the bullpen against Coastal Carolina.

Manhattan has enjoyed consistent success when turning to Marchus to finish off games. The junior right hander from Miami maintained a team best 1.27 ERA in 21 appearances out of the bullpen in 2012. He struck out 14 batters and yielded only five walks in 21 1/3 innings of action, and did not give up an earned run in 10 MAAC appearances. Marchus is a fierce competitor on the mound who thrives on an excellent fastball. He finished the year second in the MAAC with eight saves.

Michael Martin, Casey Meyers and Yony Fernandez are the Jaspers other left-handed pitching options. Martin, a sophomore from Massapequa, N.Y., can either come out of the bullpen or hold a starting role. He enjoyed a successful summer ball season with the New York Atlantics of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ABCL) where he was named to the All-Star Team. He finished the campaign with a 2.83 ERA and a team-high 49 strikeouts pitching 35 innings in nine appearances.

Meyers comes from Brookside, N.J. where he was a First Team All New Jersey Athletic Conference selection at Mendham High School. He is a 6 foot 2, 190-pound freshman who is a tough competitor with great athleticism. Fernandez is a local product from All Hallows High School in the Bronx. A deceptive lefty with a funky delivery, Fernandez was a member of the 2011 All Hallows team that advanced to the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) "AA" Championship game.

Kevin Bonanni and Jared Hirschberg are sophomore right-handers who are coming off injury plagued 2012 campaigns. Bonanni is a hard-throwing competitor on the mound who can be used as a starter or in relief. In his last full season (2011), he posted a 2-1 record with 3.65 ERA, striking out 17 batters in 24.2 innings of work. Hirschberg last pitched meaningful innings for the Jaspers in 2011, starting five of 14 appearances. The 6'3", 230-pounder from Katonah, N.Y., had 25 strikeouts in 35.0 innings.

Sean Abbate, a six foot right-handed pitcher from Levittown, N.Y., adds depth to the pitching staff out of the bullpen. He worked 16 innings over seven appearances last season as a freshman, posting six strikeouts. Right-handed newcomers Chris Liquori and Tyler Mulvaney will also compete for innings in relief. Liquori offers a good fastball and slider with command on the mound. The Wyckoff, N.J. native lettered at Ramapo High School where he was a two-time All-County honoree. Mulvaney is a third generation Jasper who lettered at Santa Monica High School in California. Mulvaney is a 6'3", 180-pound athlete who is expected to develop with the program.

Schedule

Manhattan is slated for a challenging 53-game 2013 campaign, which features season opening series at southern powers Florida International and Florida Gulf Coast. The Jaspers will also take on members of the Big East in 2013, in addition to a matchup with 2012 College World Series participant Stony Brook.

The Jaspers open the season at Florida International (Feb. 22-24), the first of six opponents Manhattan will face that won more than 30 games in 2012. Manhattan will play a three-game series with the Golden Panthers in Miami. Manhattan returns to the Sunshine State the following week for a four-game set in Fort Myers at Florida Gulf Coast (March 1-3).

Manhattan travels to the Steel City from March 8-10 to participate in the Panther Classic hosted by Pittsburgh. The Jaspers play Youngstown State (March 8-9) twice before taking on Pittsburgh (March 9-10) in the final two games of the weekend.

The Jaspers return to the metropolitan area for the next 10 road games, beginning on March 13 when they visit NYIT in Old Westbury, N.Y. Manhattan makes the short trip to South Orange, N.J., for four games as part of the Strikeout Cancer Tournament hosted by Seton Hall. They will play the Pirates and UMass twice each.

The MAAC schedule opens for Manhattan at Iona (March 23-24). The Jaspers then have a midweek doubleheader at Columbia before packing their bags for a longest conference road trip of the year to Western New York, where they visit Niagara (March 29-30).

Manhattan finishes out its 25-game season-opening road stretch at Hofstra (April 2). The Jaspers return to Van Cortlandt Park for the first time on April 3 to defend the nation's longest active home win streak (19) taking on Fordham. Manhattan was the only team in NCAA Division I to post an undefeated mark at home (18-0) last season.

The Jaspers enjoy eight of their next nine games in Riverdale, hosting Marist (April 6-7) for their first league home series. Manhattan's only road game during the two week stretch is at Stony Brook (April 10), the defending America East champions who won 52-games and advanced to the College World Series in 2012.

Manhattan continues league play with Rider (April 13-14) at home, and then hosts Hofstra (April 16). The Jaspers return to the road for a meeting with 2012 NCAA Tournament participant Army (April 17).

A rematch of the 2012 MAAC Baseball Championship will take place on April 20-21 when the league's runner-up Canisius visits Manhattan. NYIT (April 23) and Albany (April 24) round out the five-game homestand.

The Jaspers stay local when they travel to Saint Peter's (April 27-28) and Fordham (April 30). Manhattan then has a home-and-home series with Lafayette. The Leopards come to Van Cortlandt Park for a doubleheader on May 4. The next day Manhattan travels to Lafayette (May 5) for the third game of the series.

Manhattan takes on Fairfield (May 11-12) for its final home weekend of the year. The Jaspers wrap up the regular-season at Siena (May 16-17).

The 2013 MAAC Championships are scheduled May 23-26 at Waterfront Park in Trenton, N.J. The top four teams in the league qualify for the tournament.

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