You can’t come in.
Then we’ll whack and we’ll thump and we’ll bash your house in.
2009 saw the rewriting of the offensive record books for the Black Knights of The Hudson. National rankings of 26th in team batting avg. , 53rd in scoring, 99th in doubles per game, 64th in triples per game, 110th in HR’s per game, 48th in slugging pct, 49th in stolen bases, 34th in HBP, 75th in sac flies, 92nd in BB’s per game. Those are the stats of an offensive juggernaut.
2010 may be the very best team Army baseball has ever fielded…and not by little bit. This collection of players, from a nucleus of juniors that is proving to be the best recruiting class Coach Joe Sottolano and staff have ever assembled, is at the doorstep of national prominence. If history is our teacher, they’ll march through that door with bad intentions and an indomitable will. This is a group of fiery competitors that can be edgy and aggressive while still representing the academy with class and dignity. Winning is great, but you get the sense they don’t mind sending you home to Momma crying either.
Graduation always brings change and questions, and in spite of the strong core that remains, filling those holes well, will be paramount to success. Losses at 3b, CF, RF, primary reliever and primary backup infield will need to be filled. The good news, is that the offensive production that was lost, were the 6th through 8th spots in statistical terms. The biggest loss isn’t a starter at all, it was Tyler Anderegg, the #1 reliever out of the pen that came in and shut the door time and again on teams that were getting to our tired starter late in games. Let’s see what Coach Sottolano’s options are to reload for another run at a national title.
Bold = Incumbent, (p) = projected
1. Zach Price, SO 2b.
At the beginning of last season, everyone expected 3-year starter Tony Capozzi to be patrolling the 2nd base position for the Black Knights. Price had shown a lot of great attributes through the fall, and it was apparent the coaches needed to find a way to get his pesky bat in the lineup somewhere. Coach Sottolano made a bold move, when in the second game of the season, he started Price at 2b, showing the mercenary attitude great coaches need in putting the best players on the field. Price went on to become a freshman All American, batting .355 with a .480 OBP (on base pct.) and only striking out 30 times in 197 AB’s. In the “scary comparison” category, another former Freshman All-American teammate, Clint Moore, hit .350 with a .446 OBP and struck out 28 times in 197 AB’s his freshman year. Moore hit just a few points shy of .400 as a sophomore last year. Zach has the kind of talent to make that kind of improvement, and if he does…
What the stats don’t reveal about Price is his tremendous leadoff hitter m.o. He takes pitches, has a quick bat and fouls off pitches, takes pitchers deep into counts forcing many long at bats with high pitch counts, and has a tremendous eye at the plate. He may well be the best two strike hitter on the team.
Defensively, Price is not going to wow anyone, but he is a steady Eddie. Army ranked 11th in the country in double plays last year and the Price/Moore combination was the key cog in that stat.
2. Steve May (p), JR 3b
May has been battling with junior Brandon Hines for the starting nod at 3b to take over for the graduated JP Polchinski. The projection that May gets the nod here may not tell the whole story as Coach Sottolano may well continue the competition into the season, giving each player an opportunity to show his worth.
May is a fireplug of a player, short, very strong, smart, very fast and with a good arm. He is more prototypical of a 2 slot hitter where you may need bunting and great bat control to hit behind the base runner. He also gets the nod on the base paths where his heady understanding combined with great speed can put extreme pressure on opposing pitching staffs. The question mark with May is whether he can hit for average at this level. Third base is also a new position for him, as he’s always been a middle infielder. His pure athleticism however should overcome any learning curve rather quickly.
Hines biggest attribute is his bat. He brings much more power potential to the plate, considered a staple asset of most third sackers. He has great instincts in the field, quick first step and hands, and a quick release to first with a strong arm. Army pitchers say that Hines is incredibly hard to strike out in live pitching sessions. If he can hit for average, bunt when needed and prove he can hit behind the runners, his stock will go up mightily.
Because the Army lineup is so stacked with great power hitters already, we’re projecting May as the starter. His speed on the base paths will distract pitchers trying to pitch to our 3, 4 &5 hitters, and if it doesn’t, he’ll be off to the races and in scoring position for our big boppers.
3. Clint Moore, JR SS
Clint Moore has the quiet demeanor of an assassin.
2009 National rankings: BA (.395) 86th, RBI’s (63) 72nd, Triples (5) 69th, Slugging % (.724) 42nd, Sac Flies (8) 14th, OBP (.494) 43rd.
Army has had some great shortstops in its program, and Moore may be the best of the best. When Clint is hot, he seems to ignite the whole offense. On his own though, he can be a one man wrecking crew.
Defensively, he’s a highlight film waiting to happen. Tremendous range, soft hands, rifle arm in both strength and accuracy, nose for the ball, rarely out of position. He is where ground balls and pop flies go to die.
It may seem odd that we have so little to say here about Clint. The reality is that we could go on and on, he’s the best position player on the field. Former Freshman All American, PL Rookie of the year, All Conference, 3rd team All American and ABCA Northeast Region 1st Team as a sophomore. It just seems pointless to heap praise on someone so highly praised already. You can simply understate is as, he’s a lot of fun to watch and he sure makes the players around him look good. There’s not a single part of Moore’s game that you’d rate anything less than outstanding.
4. Joey Henshaw, JR, DH
At 6’7”, 260, Henshaw truly is a mountain of a man. You’d expect something of a typical home run hitter from a guy his size, and you’d be dead wrong. Sure, he’s strong as an ox and can launch missiles and drop bombs, but there’s much more to the guy they call, Big Donkey.
Not only did Joey lead the Patriot League in HR’s, he also led in base hits, RBI’s, and total bases. He hit .383 with 75 RBI’s (14th nationally), 12 doubles, 2 triples and 13 HR’s. More amazingly, he only struck out 25 times in 209 AB’s. He hits for power, he hits for average, he hits in the clutch…and you should see the oppositions faces when he stands in the box with that long stride of his with his left foot on the back line and the right foot at the front. Henshaw made 9000 Texas fans gasp and say “oh my” in the regional championship, when he launched a line drive over the 25 foot high 400 ‘centerfield fence…and it was still rising.
The problem with most DH’s with size and power, is that if they hit for average, they become a double play waiting to happen, clogging the base paths. Not so with Henshaw. In timed sprints last fall, he was one of the fastest on the team. His heady base running and speed surprise a great many outfielders that realize they have no chance, when he’s rounding third and coming home to score. Joey is also one of the vocal leaders on the team as he’ll chat up the younger players, dole out advice, keep the mood positive.
Joey’s other important asset is that he can back up at 1st base when Kevin McKague is called on for closer duty. That long stretch and sure hands of his are big assets. Just ask Boston College as they watched Henshaw seemingly reach out to second base and take the ball from Tony Capozzi for the game ending double play in last years regional that sent BC packing.
5. Kevin McKague, JR 1b
McKague is an infielders dream. He’s a converted third baseman playing first base. “Kags” is quick as a cat, long (6’5”), and is as sure handed as anyone on the team. With only 4 errors last year in 450 chances, his .991 fielding percentage tied catcher J.T. Watkins for tops on the team among fielders. He’s as adept starting the DP as he is at finishing it. His 90 mph+ velocity keeps runners at third or throws them out if they test it on infield grounders. Simply put, there’s not a weakness in McKagues defensive prowess and he gets to many balls that other first basemen never would.
Kevin isn’t all about fielding. He was 108th nationally and second on the team in hitting (.389), set the PL record for doubles in a season as a freshman with 19, had a .457 OBP, and only struck out 28 times in 203 AB’s (sensing a team theme here? Army is not a free swinging, strikeout prone team). While McKagues power numbers slipped a little from freshman year, he did hit a bomb at Doubleday that landed on the roof and bounced over Cullom Hall.
McKague is another vocal leader in the Knights clubhouse and his enthusiasm is infectious. You won’t find another fielder that wears his emotions on his sleeve any more than “Kags”. He also brings a great deal of savvy to the base paths and was 7-9 last year in steal attempts. Of all the returning starting upper classmen from last year, McKague may have the biggest offensive production jump. Not so much in batting avg. as much as RBI’s, total bases, and power numbers.
Price to Moore for the double play!