Weekend College Baseball Conference Preview: May 2-4

By SAMUEL BOTWINICK | Staff Writer
May 1, 2014, 6:45 p.m.
@avdbkr20samuel

All of the Big Five Baseball teams in Philadelphia will play conference opponents this weekend, with two of them playing in a playoff game with high stakes.  The games begin on Friday and continue through Sunday for four of the five teams.  Below is out preview of each series.    

Temple (12-24 overall, 7-8 in AAC) at Rutgers (20-22 overall, 6-8 in AAC)

About Temple:  The Owls, who will travel to Central Jersey to play the Scarlet Knights, have stumbled upon rough times lately, losing their last five games.  The series, which will be the first time that either team has faced the other all year, will consist of three games beginning on Friday and going through Sunday.  The first time that Temple played Rutgers was in 1941.  The Scarlet Knights have owned the Owls during that time, winning 20 games more than them (44-24).  This will be their first meeting in the American Athletic Conference (AAC).  Temple's offense continues to struggle, being behind the league batting average of .292 by 40 points (.252).  Only one Owl has has a consistently great year.  That player is Robert Amaro, who, aside from being the only player with a .300 average (.309), is leading in RBI by a large margin, having 33 of them in only 36 games.  Matt Hockenberry has been the only constant among the starters who has given them reasonable chances to win, sporting an even 4-4 record, with a 3.78 ERA, and striking out 44 in 64 1/3 innings (team leader in strikeouts).

About Rutgers:  The Scarlet Knights have not fared much better than the Owls recently, losing four of their last five games.  Their record (20-22) is a bit misleading.  They are an impressive 12-4 at home, while being a dreadful 6-18 away from Bainton Field.  The most well-rounded productive hitter for Rutgers has been Brian O'Grady, who is second on the team in hitting (.338), third in RBI (23), and leads the team in home runs (3).  On the mound, Howie Brey has been the most consistent pitcher, enjoying a low 2.57 ERA (team best), and a 4-2 record (tied for best on team).

Series Probables for Temple and Rutgers
Friday: Matt Hockenberry (4-4, 3.78 ERA) vs. Howie Brey (4-2, 2.57 ERA)
Saturday: Patrick Vanderslice (0-2, 6.06 ERA) vs. Gaby Rosa (4-2, 2.82 ERA)
Sunday: Ryan Kuehn (3-2, 3.16 ERA) vs. TBA



La Salle (11-28 overall, 6-10 in A-10) at Fordham (19-23 overall, 9-9 in A-10)

About La Salle:  The Explorers, who have struggled to find any consistency this year, losing their last six,  will travel up the Turnpike to play the red-hot Rams for a three-game set starting on Friday.  This is the first time that either team will face each other all year.  Last year, La Salle swept Fordham in all of the games that they played.  The much-anticipated and highly-touted junior transfer, Cameron Johnson, is finally living up to his lofty expectations, hitting .438 over his last four games, en-route to raising his average above the .300 line (.302).  He is also second in home runs (3), and tied for third in RBI (20).  The fact that the Explorers don't have a single starting pitcher with an ERA below a 4.00 tells you all that you need to know about La Salle's mighty struggles on the mound.

About Fordham:  The Rams, in contrast to the Explorers, are scalding, winning six of their last eight games.  Their main issues this year have come on the road, where they have struggled to a 7-13 record.  Fordham is the epitome of a team with extremes.  Their best hitter (Tim Swatek) is batting an incredible .378, while the lowest batting average on the team is .194.  There is also not a single Ram who is hitting .300 or above aside from Swatek.  Fordham's pitching is far from great, more than one point higher in ERA than the rest of the A-10 (4.84-3.72), but the Rams have three pitchers who have ERAs below a 4.00.  The closest one to the leader of the pack (Kirk Haynes Jr.) doesn't even have a winning record (2-3), but his 3.62 ERA, and his impressive 34 punch outs in just 37 1/3 frames, are what separate him from the other two starters.

Series Probables for La Salle and Fordham
Friday: Shane Hollman (3-2, 4.24 ERA) vs. Kirk Haynes Jr. (2-3, 3.62 ERA)
Saturday: TBA vs. Brett Kennedy (4-6, 3.82 ERA)
Sunday: TBA vs. Tim Swatek (4-3, 4.10 ERA)  



Richmond (18-22-1 overall, 9-9 in A-10) at St. Joseph's (27-10 overall, 13-4 in A-10)

About Richmond:  The Spiders, who have been hot over the past week, sweeping George Washington in a rain-shortened series, will travel to Merion Station, Pennsylvania to play the red-hot Hawks.  Both teams have been on a winning streak, but as evidenced by their mediocre record, Richmond has been a bit more inconsistent than St, Joseph's.  While the Hawks have won in spurts over the course of this season, the Spiders have won and lost in long stretches, making for an almost even record of wins and losses (18-22).  Despite being three home runs under the league average, three Spiders (Doug Kraeger, Tanner Stanley, and Matt Dacey) have five or more dingers.  Dacey has an unbelievable nine round trippers to lead the entire A-10, which is complemented well by his outstanding RBI total (37), which leads the team.  Zak Sterling couldn't have a more appropriate last name.  It's been that type of year from him, leading the team in ERA (2.64), record (4-2), and strikeouts (45).

About St. Joseph's:  The Hawks wish this season would never end.  They won't forget their successes anytime soon.  Saturday's game will be Alumni and Family Day at Smithson Field.  The Hawk (St. Joseph's mascot) will be at the game, and he will be joined by the much-loved and highly-acclaimed Phillie Phanatic.  On this special occasion, kids will be able to run the bases after the game as well.  The Hawks set a record for wins in a season on Tuesday (27), and they will look to keep adding to that total, as they have won eight in a row.  St. Joseph's as a team are just unstoppable on offense, hitting .295 compared to the league average of .231.  To put this in perspective, seven of the Hawks' starting nine are hitting above .300.  The only ones that aren't have at least one home run and 15 or more RBI.  The one player in the lineup who doesn't yet have a home run on the season is hitting .313 (fourth lowest batting average of the starting nine), and has driven in 22 runs.  The player who has displayed the most amount of well-rounded ability this season has been Tommy Cunningham, being fourth on the team in average (.340), being second on the team in long shots (4), and leading the team in RBI (34).  Jordan Carter, who just won his third consecutive Big Five Player of the Week award, could not pick a better year to have his best season.  He currently possesses a stellar 7-3 record to go along with a 2.57 ERA, and 54 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings.

Series Probables for Richmond and St. Joseph's
Friday: Daniel Thorpe (7-0, 2.04 ERA) vs. Dylan Stoops (1-5, 3.66 ERA)
Saturday: Jordan Carter (7-3, 2.57 ERA) vs. Zak Sterling (4-2, 2.64 ERA)
Sunday: Tyler Pallante (0-0, 3.03 ERA) vs. Ryan Cook (3-1, 4.37 ERA)



Villanova (12-28 overall, 3-9 in Big East) at Georgetown (15-25 overall, 1-11 in Big East)

About Villanova:  The Wildcats, who are losers of four games in a row, will travel to Washington D.C. to play the Hoyas in their first meeting of the season.  Neither team has been able to maintain any sort of consistency this year, as both teams have lost at least three games in a row, resulting in similar records (12-28 and 15-25).  Todd Czinege continues to amaze.  In only his freshman year, he has led or tied the Wildcats in all important offensive categories (home runs 4 and RBI 30) aside for batting average, where he is second (.301).  If he keeps these offensive numbers up, he is almost a shoe-in for Big East Rookie of the Year.  Still, the offense has struggled as a whole, being behind the Big East in average by more than 60 points (.236-.299).  On the mound, it has not been any better for them, trailing the league in ERA by almost two points (5.37 - 3.79).  Not one of the three starters has below a 4.00 ERA.

About Georgetown:  The Hoyas have not fared much better, winning and losing in clumps of games.  Most of those outcomes have recently been losses, though.  They are also a dreadful 1-11 in conference play, which has contributed to their sub-par win-loss record.  Prior to Saturday night's game, Georgetown will pay homage to its five seniors (Justin Abbot, Steve Anderson, Patrick Camporini, Jack Vander Linden, and Christian Venditti) in its final home Big East series of the season.  The Hoyas are not a home run hitting team as they are below the league average by more than six (6-13).  They are getting great production out of their two best hitters, though, (Nick Collins and Steve Anderson), who have combined for 71 of the team's 170 RBI.  Anderson is leading that two-way race in two of the three important categories, hitting .329 (second on team), three dingers (leads team), and 37 RBI (team leader).  The drop-off in offensive production after that is astounding, though, as the player with the next most RBI has just 18.  On the mound, Georgetown is solid, having four hurlers that own an ERA under a 4.00.  The closest one to a star among them is Matt Hollenbeck, who is the only starter with a winning record (3-2), is second on the team in ERA (3.41), and has a great amount of strikeouts per innings pitched (34 K's in 37 frames).

Series Probables for Villanova and Georgetown 
Friday: Josh Harris (3-6, 7.18 ERA) vs. Matt Smith (3-5, 3.71 ERA)
Saturday: Matt Hollenbeck (3-2, 3.41 ERA) vs. Max Almonte (1-4, 5.14 ERA)
Sunday: David Ellingson (2-4, 3.40 ERA) vs. Hunter Schryver (1-6, 4.17 ERA)



Columbia (24-17 overall, 15-5 in Ivy) at Penn (24-16 overall, 15-5 in Ivy)

About Columbia:  This is the most intriguing match up out of all of the five games, and it should be.  It's a playoff game between two evenly matched teams, with the winner going on to face either Dartmouth or Yale in a home game in the Ivy League Championship, which will be played next Saturday.  Dartmouth and Yale will play on Sunday (May 4) to determine who will face Penn or Columbia in the Ivy League Championship.  The Lions will make the trip to Philadelphia to take on the Quakers.  The one game playoff will be on Saturday.  The two teams split their season finale, which decided who would play this weekend in the Gehrig Division Playoff game.  Columbia is first, or tied for first, in-conference only games in hitting, pitching and fielding. The Lions .279 batting average and 2.51 ERA lead the entire Ivy League, while their .983 fielding percentage is tied with Dartmouth for the conference lead.  Gus Craig has absolutely torn up pitching lately, batting .632 last week, with 12 hits, and seven RBI to earn his first ever Ivy League Weekly honor.  He is also the team leader in bombs (4) and is second on the team in RBI (22).  David Speer showed his dominance on the mound this past series against Penn, shutting them out 6-0 in the first game of the series, while punching out seven Quakers, en-route to earning him the Ivy League Pitcher of the Week award.

About Penn:  The Quakers are playing for the Gehrig Division championship for the first time since 2007, while the Lions are defending champions of the Ivy League.  For the first time in Ivy League baseball history, one-game playoffs will decide both the Gehrig and Rolfe Division titles.  Matt Greskoff has had an underrated offensive year all season for Penn, hitting .306.  His most impressive statistic, though, is RBI in amount of games started.  In just 18 games in which he started, Greskoff had 14 RBI.  None of them were bigger than the five that he hit in Penn's last series with Columbia.  Aside from coming up with three key doubles, he was able to drive in five runs in only four games.  Ronnie Glenn has had a solid year all around, but has been overlooked by the dominance of Connor Cuff.  The junior left hander has the same record as Cuff (5-2), with a 3.68 ERA, and an incredible 45 strikeouts in 51 1/3 frames.  Glenn was able to help the Quakers out last Sunday in a big way, tossing seven innings (complete game in Ivy League rules) in a decisive 3-2 win over the Lions.

Series Probables for Columbia and Penn
Saturday: TBA vs. TBA

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