Lorusso and Graceffo lead youth movement for Villanova entering 2020

Pair of sophomores leads Villanova into 2020
The transition from success at the high school level to college often takes time. The season is significantly longer, plus there's the added stress of travel and multiple games a week.

That said, it's encouraging that Villanova enters the 2020 season with a pair of sophomores in infielder Nick Lorusso and right-handed starter Gordon Graceffo as preseason All-Big East honorees.

"Nick is a tremendous hitter and finds the barrel just about more than any other player we've had in our program," Villanova head coach Kevin Mulvey said. "He has an incredible eye, doesn't swing at balls, and gets himself into counts where he can do some damage."

It's no secret the Wildcats struggled last year, finishing 13-38 overall and 4-13 in the Big East. Offensively, Lorusso was the lone bright spot - hitting .302 with four homers and 29 RBIs. As a team though, Villanova's .342 on-base percentage ranked 242nd in the country and their .232 batting average ranked 287th.

Mulvey expects things to be different this year, beginning with a bounceback season for senior first baseman Ryan Toohers who a year ago hit just .203 with one homer and 11 RBIs.

"If there was a Comeback Player of the Year Award in the Big East, that's what I would like to see come out of him this year," Mulvey said. "He put it together in his sophomore year hitting nearly .300 and had a set back last year, but this year he looks a lot more comfortable and he's refined his swing - I think he's going to have a great year."

On the mound, the Wildcats return junior right-hander Jimmy Kingsbury (Malvern Prep) who was the lone starter on the staff to post an ERA below 4.50 (4.13). He also collected five of Villanova's 13 wins while posting a .239 batting average against over 85 innings of work.



"He did an incredible job for us," Mulvey said. "It may not show up in his stats that he was such a workhorse for us, but I'm pretty sure he pitched in every one of our wins last year. We used him as a closer, we used him as a starter, we used him as the first man out of the bullpen. He took the ball whenever we asked last year and was an absolute bulldog. It won't get talked about a whole lot because we didn't make the playoffs or win many games, but that's something that really shows character and what you're really about."

Along with Kingsbury, Graceffo sits at the front of the starting rotation and looks to build off a 3-8 campaign last year where he posted a 4.88 ERA.

"He has been working his tail off, both in his throwing program and in the weight room," Mulvey said. "He's put on probably 15 to 20 pounds since he arrived on campus last year and he's put on about 5 to 7 miles-per-hour on his fastball, getting it up near 95-mph."

With a roster dominated by freshmen and sophomores, Villanova is in a position to potentially surprise some in the Big East.

The Wildcats open the season on Friday, February 14, with a three-game set against nationally-ranked (No. 5 by Collegiate Baseball News) Arizona State. The club then will then head south for the Snowbird Classic before returning for their home opener on Tuesday, March 10, against non-conference opponent New Jersey Institute of Technology.

"We're excited to go out and get after it," Mulvey said.
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BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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