Villanova 2024 baseball
Villanova has been missing from the Big East postseason conference tournament for 16 years, and it's been nearly three decades since their last conference title win. 
Head coach Kevin Mulvey is determined to change the trajectory after last year's 14-37 record. Now in his eighth season leading the Wildcats, he is relying on a seasoned core and several transfers to kickstart the process of restoring the program to prominence in the Big East. 
"We're genuinely excited about this group," Mulvey commented. "I see a lot of talent, and I'm eager to see what we can achieve together." For the Wildcats to ascend, they'll heavily depend on the offensive prowess of key players, notably graduate student Jack O'Reilly (Villanova, Pa./Episcopal Academy). 
O'Reilly demonstrated his mettle across 51 games, starting 50 in the infield. Offensively, he delivered an outstanding performance, securing the team's second-highest batting average at .303 (59-195), alongside the leading slugging percentage at .503, and an on-base percentage of .503. His impressive statistics included 59 hits (second most on the team), featuring 13 doubles (second highest), one triple, eight home runs (the team's leader), and seven stolen bases (also leading the team). 
Another crucial asset for the Wildcats in 2024 is catcher John Whooley (Wyckoff, NJ./Rampao). Returning for his graduate season, he notched a batting average of .265 last season, with a slugging percentage of .379 (ranking fourth on the team), and an on-base percentage of .376. His performance comprised 35 hits in 132 at-bats, including eight doubles (fourth highest), two triples, one home run, and 22 RBIs (also ranking fourth on the team). 
Senior shortstop Cameron Hassert is another player to watch. Despite initial struggles in his first two seasons, the Colorado native showed promise last year, hitting .313 with six homers before sustaining an injury in late March. "It's a matter of maturity and confidence at this level," Mulvey explained. "The transition from high school to college can be challenging, especially in terms of the game's speed. With his increased strength and summer ball experience, we're optimistic. If he stays healthy and maintains his approach, he should have a successful year." 
Mulvey expressed his satisfaction with the return of both O'Reilly and Hassert, emphasizing their high character and team-oriented mentality. "These are the type of guys that you want to see marry your daughter," Mulvey said with a smile. "Team oriented guys, family oriented guys, just great people." 
Regarding the pitching staff, senior right-hander Devin Rivera will lead the rotation for the Wildcats. A native of Valley Cottage, NY, Rivera is the sole pitcher returning from last year's team with double-digit starts (14). He recorded a 2-7 record with a 5.84 ERA over 74 innings. 
Luke McCollough, a native of San Diego and a transfer from Utah Valley, is a promising addition to the mound, potentially contributing as a starter or reliever. With two seasons with the Wolverines under his belt, McCollough amassed 41 strikeouts over 45 innings. "He's shown consistency and control in his approach, which is encouraging," Mulvey noted. "He had a great fall and winter and he is someone we will certainly be relying on." 
Another hurler to keep an eye on is graduate student right-hander Zach Camp. After pitching in 28 games last year for the Wildcats following four years at Swarthmore, Camp aims to overcome past command issues and play a significant role in the bullpen. "If he can maintain belief in his abilities and minimize fear of contact, I'm confident he'll succeed and make a significant impact for us," Mulvey remarked optimistically. 
The Wildcats open their season with 17 straight games on the road, opening on February 16 in San Antonio, Texas, with a three-game series against the University of Incarnate Word. The first home game of the 2024 season will be on March 20 versus Saint Peters. 
"We're ready to get this thing going," Mulvey said.

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