Braves Baseball: Preparing for Opening Day

Baseball Coach Joe Mattei is optimistic about this upcoming baseball season. Despite losing 2000 NEC Player of the Year, Nate Noyes, All NEC selections Joe Zangari and Toby Peterson, and his top two pitchers Pat Lynch and Chris Pinto, he still believes his Braves have a good shot at an NEC post season birth. “The players are playing hard and want to win,” said Mattei
The Braves went 16-21 last year, and look to improve on that. They are returning 13 letter winners from last year, including All-America candidate Tim Mangano. The senior centerfielder led the team with a .378 batting average last year on his way to All New England honors. They will also be returning 2000 second team All NEC second baseman Charles D’Elia who batted .360 last season with four homeruns and 19 RBI.
The Braves will need production from Sal Puccio, who batted an impressive .329 last season at third base; Bob Garrett who batted .326 in NEC games last year at first; utility infielder Travis LaPointe who had an outstanding fall season offensively and sophomore Keith Avery, who did not play last year in right field, in order to be successful.
The rest of the position players will be untested freshman. Chris Stonaha will be the starting shortstop. The catching duties will be split between two freshman, Kevin Rankowitz, and Chris Vartuli. Vartuli had an impressive fall campaign, batting a robust .379.
The most interesting position to watch should be leftfield. Sophomore Seth Lavigne, a long ball threat who hit five home runs during the fall season, and freshman Albert Marano who had a team best .475 batting average during the fall, will battle for the starting nod.
The Braves pitching staff will be the key to their success. Mattei lost his two best pitchers from a year ago, Lynch and Pinto. They combined for nine of the Braves 16 wins. The Braves have retooled though and expect a lot from there staff this year.
Senior Tim Trama had a good year last season, going 5-1, 3-1 in NEC play, He has great control, walking only six batters in 34.0 innings last year, and figures to be the teams “ace.”
Senior Kevin Rooney is coming off an injury shortened junior year in which he only made four appearances, including a six hitter vs. UMBC. He should be back to 100 percent this season.
Senior lefty Scott Stoeklin, coming off an 0-5 year will be back, along with fellow senior, John Casey. Casey is a hard throwing righthander who had a good fall season, and hopes to carry that over into the regular season.
Junior John Jasilli will return as the team’s closer this year after having three saves last year.
Mattei also said that two freshman will contribute prominently on the mound this year. Left-hander Ian Fairclough, and right-hander Dave Bennett both had outstanding fall campaigns. Mattei also said that freshman Buddy Bengal will see some time on the mound if he can throw the ball over the plate.
The Braves season opener is March 11 in Homestead, FL. vs. Yale. Their home opener will be a double header against Sacred Heart on March 24th starting a noon.