Baseball looking to return to NCAAs

Michael T. Lyle Jr.

Fresh off its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance last season, the Quinnipiac baseball team returns to the diamond this weekend with virtually the same squad that made the 2005 season a memorable one.

Under the direction of head coach Dan Gooley, the Bobcats set a single-season record for wins with a 26-24 record, including a Northeast Conference regular season and tournament title that propelled them into the NCAA’s. Their stay in tourney would be short-lived, however, as the teams of Texas and Miami of Ohio combined to knock Quinnipiac from the Regionals, 20-2, and then 35-8.

So what’s next for this upcoming season for the Bobcats and head coach Dan Gooley? After a successful run last year, the plan for 2006 is real simple: win as many games as possible and get back to the NCAAs.

“Our goals are pretty much the same as last year,” Gooley said. “We want to win the NEC Title and get back to the postseason afterwards.”

The Bobcats’ offense will see the return of several key players, such as juniors Tim Binkonski (.340 BA), Wilson Matos (32 RBI’s) and Ryan Rizzo (.319 BA, 34 RBI’s). The pitching core will be lead by seniors Chris Wakefield (6-2, 56 K’s) and Pat Egan (7-5, 76.1 IP) as well as sophomore Eric Bretscher (1-0, 2.53 ERA).

For Quinnipiac, a run to the NCAA’s means a much tougher schedule. The Bobcats open their campaign with a weekend three-game set at 9th-ranked South Carolina beginning Friday night.

They next travel to Spartanburg for a date with Wofford next Monday, then for a showdown with two powerhouses from the Atlantic Coast Conference in Wake Forest and Duke Tuesday on Wednesday, respectively. The Bobcats return to campus for their home opener against NYIT on Tuesday, March 21.

As for the “beefy” schedule, Gooley sees the competition as an advantage for his team when tournament time comes – that is, if they can get that far.

“It’s good for us because these teams that we play early in the year will be the same ones we’ll see and know about in the NCAA’s,” Gooley said. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

Wakefield will take the mound for the Bobcats against the Gamecocks on Friday night. The first pitch from Columbia, S.C. is at 7 p.m.