2013 Season Preview: Lynn Baseball
Although Lynn University’s baseball team lost 12 players from last year’s NCAA Tournament squad, the 28th-ranked Fighting Knights still return a bevy of talent, coupled with the addition of 20 new faces, to compete for the program’s second national championship. Head coach Rudy Garbalosa and his staff of Donovan O’Dowd, Beau McMillan, Andrew Fabian and Chris Youngberg has reloaded and should force the Sunshine State Conference, South Region and the country to take notice.
Returning on offense for the Blue & White are Cory Elasik and Jason Matusik. The duo combined for 10 home runs and 58 runs batted in while Elasik finished second in the SSC with 21 stolen bases in 23 attempts. Joey Sharkey is back behind the plate as well and will continue to be the primary backstop to a loaded pitching staff.
Also back and seeing their roles increased are outfielders Paul Stortini and Kamm Washington. Stortini played primarily against left-handed pitching in 2012 and hit .350 with a pair of home runs and 13 RBIs. On the flip side, Washington’s defense was invaluable last season and the Fighting Knights hope he fulfills the potential he has flashed at the plate.
In addition to the mentioned, Chris Piperno has been turning heads with his bat and could spell Sharkey or Elasik behind the plate or see time as a designated hitter.
A logjam could ensue in the outfield as Enrique Perez and Mike Gonzalez duke it out for the final spot. Both players offer speed and average for the top of the order.
With so many holes to fill on the field, Garbalosa had his work cut out for him. Infielders Sal Giardina Jr., Alex Freedman and Ryan Lashley should work out nicely though. Giardina becomes the second member of his family to join the Blue & White after following in his father’s footsteps. The elder Giardina donned a LU jersey from 1984-86 and managed the squad in 1993. The younger Giardina should be a middle-of-the-order bat while holding down the hot corner.
Freedman could be Lynn’s answer at shortstop for years to come with a penchant for spectacular defensive plays and solid hitting while Lashley looks to close out his career on top after being a Freshman All-American three years ago.
Joe Anzeveno, Ryan Carmona, Danny Carroll, Alex Reiner and Donovan Christman round out the bench but all five players have the tools to start for LU.
The pitching staff was even more in limbo following the graduation/drafting of all three starters. Joe Perrotta, who pitched in a starting and relief role the previous season, is making a play to join the rotation along with 2012 holdover Kentrail Pierce, who averaged over a K per inning.
Austin Bailey shined in his first season on the mound, leading the team with seven wins. His development as a starter could ease the burden of some many new arms. Additionally, Eric Pfefer and AJ Falletta could earn spot starts or be big arms out of the pen.
Andre Colon returns to lock down the final innings. He led the team in saves in 2012 but has some competition in Andrew Melchor and Josh Evans.
Newcomers who will be looking to log innings will be Jed Vandernaald, Troy Mannebach, Peter Graffeo, Kyle Butcher, Travis Connolly, Kevin Lee, TJ Sullivan and Alec Lamrouex.
The Fighting Knights open their season on Friday, February 1, when they battle North Georgia and continue through the weekend to face Valdosta State and Palm Beach Atlantic. Lynn boasts an ambitious schedule with two trips to Georgia and non-conference games against three nationally-ranked teams and a contest against Division I Florida Atlantic.
Lynn was picked to finish fourth in the SSC Preseason Poll despite a program-best second place finish in 2012. Tampa was an overwhelming favorite to repeat as champions and the two teams will meet in Tampa to end the regular season.
League schools traveling to the McCusker Sports Complex will be Rollins, Florida Southern, Eckerd and Nova Southeastern while the Blue & White hit the road for series’ against Florida Tech, Barry, Saint Leo and the Spartans.