Villanova baseball preview 2019
The Villanova baseball program has struggled over the past few seasons, last posting a winning record back in 2012. The good news though is head coach Kevin Mulvey and his commitment to building a foundation that'll change the trajectory of the program is unwavering.

"Keep putting the work in, good things will happen for us," Mulvey said. "That's how I look at it."

The Wildcats open 2019 aiming to improve on a rough 9-39 season from a year ago that included a 1-17 mark in Big East play.

The biggest issue for Mulvey's club last season was an offense that averaged just four runs a game and ranked as one of the worst in all of D-I baseball with a .227 team batting average.

"I'm looking for everybody to hold their own weight," Mulvey said. "We have a couple guys coming back that have the ability to put the ball in the gap and drive in some runs, but it's a fresh season and I'm excited to see how these guys do."

Leading the returnees is junior first baseman Ryan Toohers. A first-team All-Big East selection last season, he led the Wildcats with 31 RBIs while hitting .298 (53-for-178) with a .403 on-base percentage and a .472 slugging percentage. He also pieced together a spectacular summer, hitting .391 with 10 homers while earning MVP honors in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.

Beyond Toohers, the Wildcats will depend on junior third baseman John Heilenbach to improve on his .242 average from a year ago and senior J.P. Radvany to act as a legitimate power threat in the middle of the order.

On the mound, senior right-hander Jonathan Rosero and sophomore righty Jimmy Kingsbury figure to helm the starting staff. Rosero started 11 of his 16 appearances last season and pitched 52 2/3 innings, collecting 35 strikeouts while posting a 6.15 ERA. Kingsbury tossed a team-high 62 2/3 innings, posting a 5.89 ERA to go along with a 1.53 WHIP.

Joining Rosero and Kingsbury in the rotation, at least for Opening Weekend, is freshman right-hander Gordon Graceffo. The Cranford, NJ native hurled three scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and striking out three in an appearance in the Wildcats' Fall Series.

"He's looked very poised and pretty even-tempered, not getting too high or too low," Mulvey said. "He pitched great in the fall."

Along with Graceffo, the Wildcats may see other freshmen in catcher Will Reiner and two-way player Nick Lorusso make an immediate impact.

"We're excited about the young guys," Mulvey said. "We're certainly looking for them to play some key roles this season."

The Wildcats open the 2019 campaign on Friday with a contest against Pittsburgh as part of the Sunshine State Classic in Kissimmee, Fla. The club opens the home portion of their schedule on March 12 when Navy visits Plymouth Meeting.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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