Army Battles Marist In WRWD Hudson Valley Baseball Classic

Members of the Army baseball team will help conduct a youth clinic prior to the game.

Members of the Army baseball team will help conduct a youth clinic prior to the game.

April 23, 2013

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WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army baseball team returns to action on Wednesday when the Black Knights travel to Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, N.Y., to face Marist in the eighth annual WRWD Hudson Valley Baseball Classic. First pitch is scheduled for 7:09 p.m.

A free youth clinic will be conducted by Army and Marist players beginning at 4 p.m. Pre-game autographs and post-game fireworks also highlight the community event.

The Storyline: Army and Marist renew their rivalry tonight at the eighth annual WRWD Hudson Valley Baseball Classic. The Black Knights will be looking to snap the Red Foxes' two-game win streak in this matchup of the Hudson Valley's only two Division I baseball programs. Both teams enter this evening's contest playing some of their best baseball of the season as Army has won 12 of its last 16 games and Marist has taken five of its last seven contests. Army has vaulted into second place in the Patriot League standings with a 10-6 conference mark, and the Black Knights have already clinched a spot in next month's Patriot League Tournament. The Red Foxes, meanwhile, reside in second place in the MAAC standings with an 11-4 conference record. Army is gunning for its 10th consecutive 20-win season, and the Black Knights would achieve that milestone with a victory tonight. Army's pitching staff, which lowered its team earned run average to 4.14 after another strong showing at Bucknell last weekend, continues to lead the team. Chris Rowley (5-3, 2.65 ERA) and Alex Robinett (6-2, 3.07 ERA) pace the Black Knights' starters. Patrick Mescher tops Army with a .315 batting average, while Jacob Page leads the team with three home runs and 26 RBI. Marist is also led by its pitching staff, which boasts a team earned run average of 3.61. Rich Vrana paces the starting contingent with a 4-1 record to go along with a 1.24 ERA. Zach Shank leads Marist with a .385 batting average and a .524 slugging percentage, while Mike Orefice tops the Red Foxes with 11 doubles, 37 RBI and a .466 on-base percentage.

Army-Marist Series: Army will face Marist in the eighth annual WRWD Hudson Valley Baseball Classic this evening at Dutchess Stadium. The Red Foxes, who have won the last two meetings between the Hudson Valley rivals, lead the all-time series 14-9. Marist has won four of the previous seven Hudson Valley Baseball Classics entering tonight's contest.

Scouting Army: Army enters tonight's game playing some of its best baseball of the season. The Black Knights have won 12 of their last 16 games to vault into second place in the Patriot League standings. Army has already clinched a spot in next month's Patriot League Tournament, and the Black Knights still have a shot at winning their second consecutive regular-season title depending on how they fare against Holy Cross this weekend. Army took three of four games from Bucknell last weekend as the Black Knights concluded a three-week conference road trip with a 9-3 mark. Junior 1B Patrick Mescher leads the Army offense with a .315 batting average, while ranking second in RBI (25) and on-base percentage (.408). Freshman OF Jacob Page leads Army in triples (three), home runs (three), RBI (26) and slugging percentage (.456), while listing second in batting average (.304) and stolen bases (eight). Sophomore INF Alex Jensen tops the team with eight doubles and 26 RBI, while listing second in runs scored (26) and slugging percentage (.394), and third in batting average (.299). Senior RHP Chris Rowley (5-3) leads the Black Knights' starting rotation with a 2.65 earned run average and 52 strikeouts. Sophomore RHP Alex Robinett (6-2, 3.07 ERA) paces the Army staff in wins and innings pitched (58.2).

Scouting Marist: Marist enters this evening's contest having won five of its last seven games. Rich Vrana (4-1, 1.24 ERA) and Chris Bielak (5-1, 3.00 ERA) pace the Marist pitching staff, which boasts a 3.61 team earned run average. Zach Shank and Mike Orefice lead the Marist offense, which shows a .286 team batting average. Shank tops the Red Foxes with a .385 batting average, 34 runs scored and a .524 slugging percentage, while listing second with 10 doubles. Orefice paces the team with 11 doubles, 37 RBI and a .466 on-base percentage, while ranking third with 20 runs scored. Mike Pagano is second on the team in batting average (.336) and runs scored (28), while Nick McQuail ranks second in RBI (25), fourth in doubles (seven) and fifth in batting average (.322).

Trending Up: Army enters this evening's game on a hot streak as the Black Knights have won 12 of their last 16 games, dating back to the fourth game of the Navy series. Army has posted an impressive 10-3 mark against Patriot League foes during its recent run of success.

We're Going Streaking: Sophomore DH Mark McCants carries an 11-game hitting streak into tonight's contest. McCants is batting .350 with four extra-base hits and eight runs batted in during his current streak, which dates back to the second game of the Lehigh series.

Rockin' Rookie: Freshman OF Jacob Page became the first Army player to earn one of the Patriot League's weekly awards on March 11 when he was selected as the conference's Rookie of the Week. Page batted .556 with four RBI and five runs scored to help Army to a three-game sweep of Yale (March 9-10) in Tampa, Fla. Page currently leads Army with 26 RBI, three doubles, three home runs and a .456 slugging percentage, while ranking second with a .304 batting average and eight stolen bases.

Crucitti Is Cruising: Junior OF Jon Crucitti returned to the Army program after missing the entire 2012 season recovering from an injury he suffered on the football field. The two-sport standout has excelled as one of the Black Knights' starting outfielders this season and enters tonight's action leading the team in on-base percentage (.465), walks (28), stolen bases (13) and runs scored (32).

Rowley Turns It Around: Senior RHP Chris Rowley has regained the form that made him a three-time All-American last spring, putting up terrific numbers over his last seven appearances. Rowley allowed eight earned runs in dropping his first two starts of the season, but has permitted just nine earned runs over his last seven starts to lower his ERA from 8.31 to 2.64. He has posted 49 strikeouts in 49.0 innings in his seven most recent outings after fanning just three in 8.2 innings during his first two starts.

Rowley Rebounds In League, Too: Rowley has seen a similar transformation during Patriot League competition. After allowing seven earned runs to Navy in his first conference start, he has limited the opposition to just one earned run over his past three outings, while striking out 24 batters in 21.0 innings. He's thrown three straight complete games, including a pair of shutouts. He also struck out a career-high 11 batters against Lafayette.

Record-Setting Rowley: Senior RHP Chris Rowley has pitched two complete-game shutouts this season to move into first place on Army's all-time shutouts list with eight career shutouts. He fired a four-hit shutout against Bucknell on Saturday to break the record that he shared with former Black Knight standout Nick Hill (USMA '07).

More On Rowley: Chris Rowley continues to climb a number of Army all-time lists, and currently ranks tied for fifth in career victories (21), sixth in career strikeouts (193), and seventh in both winning percentage (.724; 21-8) and innings pitched (237.0).

Patriot League Stars Return: Senior RHP Chris Rowley and sophomore DH Mark McCants lead Army's crop of 16 returning letterwinners. Rowley and McCants both copped All-Patriot League honors last season as both were named to the first team. Rowley was also tabbed the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year. Sophomore Harold Earls, last season's Patriot League Rookie of the Year, is also back in the mix for 2013.

Youngsters Abound: Army's 2013 roster includes 14 freshmen and 10 sophomores. Most of those 24 underclassmen will play key roles throughout the season. In fact, four sophomores (Daniel Cortes, Harold Earls, Alex Jensen and Mark McCants) are returning starting position players, and another sophomore (Alex Robinett) will be counted on once again as a weekend starter.

Rowley Earns Preseason Honors: Army senior RHP Chris Rowley was named a Preseason All-American by three different organizations this past winter. Rowley was cited by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (first team), Collegiate Baseball Magazine (second team) and College Sports Madness (second team). The talented righty is coming off a 2012 season that saw him establish Army single-season records for wins (11), shutouts (five), consecutive scoreless innings (29) and innings pitched (97.1).

Picking Up Votes: Army began this season where it ended last year as one of the elite programs from across the country receiving votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) poll. The Black Knights went 41-15 a season ago en route to their sixth Patriot League tournament title and fifth NCAA Regional appearance.

Summer Lovin': Five members of the 2013 Black Knights team played in various leagues across the country last summer in an effort to prepare for this season. Seniors Chris Rowley (Peninsula Pilots) and Andrew Johnson (Will County Cracker Jacks), juniors Nick Dignacco (Torrington Titans) and Gunnar Carroll (Peninsula Pilots), and sophomore Dakari Cooke (Peninsula Pilots) all used a portion of their summer leave to suit up and sharpen their skills in wood bat leagues.

Getting It Done In The Classroom: Army excelled in the classroom last spring as six members of the team were named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. Zach Price, who was tabbed Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year, led the way for the Black Knights. Dakari Cooke, Taylor Goucher, Logan Lee, Connor Love and Patrick Mescher rounded out Army's six-man contingent. The Black Knights have taken home Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year plaudits each of the last four seasons.

Leaders Among Leaders: Senior Andrew Johnson and junior Gunnar Carroll will share the team's captaincy this season. Johnson has stepped into the starting role behind the plate in 2013 following the graduation of four-year standout catcher J.T. Watkins. Carroll, who has appeared in more games as a reliever than any other Black Knight hurler the past three seasons combined, has continued to serve as one of Army's most reliable arms out of the bullpen in 2013.

Carolina On My Mind: For the fifth consecutive season, the Army baseball team opened the year in the state of North Carolina as the Black Knights traveled to Greensboro to face the UNCG Spartans. Army began its 2012 slate at High Point, while the Black Knights lifted the lid on their 2011 and 2009 campaigns at Davidson. The 2010 squad began the season with back-to-back series at Wake Forest and UNCG.

Catcher's Corner: Senior Andrew Johnson is authoring a blog entitled "Catcher's Corner" throughout the 2013 season. The blog entries appear each week on Army's official website (www.goARMYsports.com).

Army Picked To Win Patriot League:: Army, the defending conference champion, was picked first in the Patriot League's preseason poll. The Black Knights garnered five first-place votes and 45 points to tie with Holy Cross atop the list, which was compiled by a vote of the league's head coaches and sports information directors. Navy, Bucknell, Lafayette and Lehigh rounded out the poll.

More Preseason Accolades: Senior starting pitcher Chris Rowley was named the Patriot League Preseason Pitcher of the Year, and earned a spot on the inaugural Preseason All-Patriot League Team. He was joined on that unit by sophomore outfielder Mark McCants. Both players were placed on the All-Patriot League first team following the 2012 campaign.

Unmatched Success: With 41 victories last season, the Black Knights continued the most successful streak in school history. Army has reached at least 22 wins each of the past nine years, the first time the Black Knights have accomplished that feat in school history. In fact, Army has reached the 30-victory plateau five times in the last nine years and has qualified for the Patriot League Tournament eight times during that span. The Black Knights have won four conference tournament championships and garnered at least a share of six regular-season conference crowns in the last nine years.

We Are The Champions: Army has claimed at least a share of the Patriot League regular-season championships in six of the last nine years. The Black Knights ran away with the regular-season title last year, and they will aim for their fifth regular-season crown in six years this spring. Army still has a shot to win this year's regular-season crown. The Black Knights would lock up the championship if they sweep Holy Cross this weekend.

Major Awards: For the eighth time in the last nine years, an Army player received one of the Patriot League's four major awards as the Black Knights swept the conference's top honors last spring. Kevin McKague (Player of the Year), Chris Rowley (Player of the Year), Harold Earls (Rookie of the Year) and Joe Sottolano (Coach of the Year) were all honored by the Patriot League after rolling to an 18-2 conference record. Two years ago, Ben Koenigsfeld was named the conference's Scholar-Athlete of the Year. In 2010, Matt Fouch earned Pitcher of the Year plaudits. Black Knight players walked off with three of those four honors in 2009 as Koenigsfeld was named Pitcher of the Year, Zach Price was chosen Rookie of the Year and Tyler Anderegg was tabbed Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Five Army players, including current sophomore Harold Earls (2012) have won the Patriot League Rookie of the Year award, an honor that was instituted in 2002. With Rowley's Pitcher of the Year selection in 2012, an Army player has now won that award a league-leading nine times. Army has won Scholar-Athlete of the Year plaudits eight times, while five former Black Knights have been named Patriot League Player of the Year.

Consistency Is Key: Prior to 2004, Army had not registered more than 26 wins in any season. With a combined record of 76-29 (.724) in 2004 and 2005, the Black Knights completed the most successful back-to-back campaigns in school history. After posting 37 victories in 2004 (37-15), Army surpassed the total with 39 wins the following year (39-14). The Black Knights also registered the first NCAA Tournament win in school history, defeating South Alabama 8-5 in the 2005 Tallahassee Regional. The Black Knights finished 30-20-1 in 2006, 25-23-1 in 2007, 25-25 in 2008, 36-21 in 2009, 28-17 in 2010 and 22-26 in 2011. After finishing 41-15 last season, Army has reached the 30-win plateau five times in the past nine seasons, while topping the 25-win mark in eight of those nine years. The Black Knights have registered at least 20 wins 11 times in 13 years under the direction of head coach Joe Sottolano and 30 wins on five occasions. Army needs one more victory to secure its 10th straight 20-win season.

Field General: Army head coach Joe Sottolano is in his 14th season guiding the Black Knights' baseball program. Sottolano was named Army's interim head coach in March 2000, then had the interim label removed after leading the Black Knights to the Patriot League championship and accompanying NCAA berth that season. He had served as an assistant to Dan Roberts at Army for eight years prior to garnering the top job. Named Patriot League Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2005 after directing the Black Knights to consecutive league titles, Sottolano stands as Army's all-time winningest coach with a career record of 381-281-5. Sottolano added a third Patriot League Coach of the Year award to his resume after guiding Army to a school-record 41 wins in 2012. He has presided over a stretch of unprecedented success at the Academy the past decade, leading the Black Knights to at least 22 wins each of the last nine seasons and helping Army to an impressive 302-194-2 (.608) mark during that stretch.

Big Honor: Army baseball coach Joe Sottolano added to his long list of honors in 2009 when he was named the ABCA/Diamond Sports Company NCAA Division I Regional Coach of the Year. Sottolano led the Black Knights to one of their most successful seasons in history, guiding Army to the finals of the Austin Regional. It marked the first time the Black Knights had reached a regional final.

Five On The First Team: Army placed five players on the All-Patriot League first team last season as Chris Rowley (SP), J.T. Watkins (C), Kevin McKague (1B), Zach Price (2B) and Mark McCants (DH) were selected to the first unit. It marked the third straight year that the Black Knights placed at least four players on the first team after earning four first-team selections in 2010 and 2011. The Black Knights collected a conference-record seven first-team selections in 2009.

Doubleday Dominance: Army has experienced a great deal of success at Doubleday Field the past 10 years, posting an impressive 151-55-2 record on its home field during that time. That translates into a gaudy winning percentage of .731. The Black Knights went 21-2 on their home field in 2004, establishing the single-season school record for winning percentage (.913) at Doubleday Field. Army captured 19 of 23 West Point tilts in 2005 for a winning percentage of .826. After finishing 12-10-1 (.543) at home in 2006, the Black Knights went 12-6-1 (.658) before the Doubleday faithful in 2007, 13-9 (.591) in 2008, 19-6 (.760) in 2009, 15-5 (.750) in 2010 and finished 11-5 (.688) on their home field in 2011. Last season, Army posted a school-record 24 home wins, going 24-3 for a .889 winning percentage. Army has played just 10 home games so far this season, going 5-5.

Tourney Tough: In addition to garnering seven regular-season Patriot League titles and six Patriot League tournament crowns, Army boasts the highest winning percentage of any conference school in Patriot League Tournament play. The Black Knights have prevailed in 23 of their 37 conference tournament tilts for a .622 winning percentage. Army is the only school to feature a winning percentage higher than .531 in Patriot League tourney play. The Black Knights also sport the lowest total of losses (14) of any league team with at least 10 conference tourney appearances. The Black Knights have won six conference crowns during their nine trips to the Patriot League Championship Series.

Sinking the Mids: Although Army's nine-year streak of winning the "star" against Navy came to a close earlier this year, the Black Knights still own a dominating 32-12 record against their arch-rivals over the past 10 years. Prior to taking three of four meetings earlier this season at West Point, Navy's last regular-season series win dated back to 2003, when the Mids nabbed three of four verdicts from the Black Knights. During Army's nine-year run against Navy, the Black Knights registered their first four-game sweep of Navy in 2005, its first two four-game sweeps in Annapolis (2008, 2012), and captured three of four regular-season series pairings in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010, while ending the Mids' season in the Patriot League tourney in 2007.

WRWD Hudson Valley Baseball Classic: The eighth annual WRWD Hudson Valley Baseball Classic will be played this evening at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, N.Y. Thanks to a cooperative effort between the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army and Marist College, the event has drawn a total of more than 16,000 fans through its first seven editions. The HVBC garnered a record crowd of 2,619 for its debut in 2006. That stood as the largest crowd to ever witness a college baseball game in the Hudson Valley before an enthusiastic throng of 3,016 filled the Renegades home park for the second WPDH Hudson Valley Baseball Classic in 2007. The highly popular event has drawn no fewer than 1,602 fans since its inception in 2006.

Up Next: Army begins an eight-game homestand with a four-game series against Patriot League rival Holy Cross (April 27-28). The Black Knights then conclude the regular season with home games against NYIT (May 1), Hartford (May 2), Nyack (May 4) and Chestnut Hill (May 5).

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