Farmingdale State selected as Skyline Conference favorite in Baseball
LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – After earning its
first Skyline Conference title and NCAA Division III tournament bid
in 2008, Farmingdale State has been selected as the conference
favorite again in 2009 as voted upon by the coaches. St. Joseph's
and Old Westbury are also expected to contend for the conference
Farmingdale State went 26-18 last season, including a 13-3 mark in Skyline Conference play. The Rams outlasted Mount Saint Vincent in the conference tournament to earn their first NCAA bid. Farmingdale returns a number of key players from last season, including senior shortstop Brian Benvenuto (.390, 32 RBI), an All-Skyline first-team selection as well as the Most Valuable Player of the Skyline tournament. A pair of juniors, designated hitter Michael Labrozzi and catcher Zak Nersesian were also all-conference selections a year ago. The pitching staff is anchored by senior Tom Heeman and junior closer Billy Garofalo, both All-Skyline first-team selections. The Rams will have to replace a pair of departed starters in Jesse Scott and Rob Savarese who combined to win 10 games last season.
With a young team consisting largely of freshman and sophomores last season, St. Joseph's went 27-15-1 overall and 13-3 in Skyline Conference play. The Golden Eagles, led by junior All-American second baseman Mike Gerdes (.412 avg., 506 OB%), should be a strong team offensively. Juniors Jon Welsh (.387, 36 RBI), Ryan Carroll (.326, 23 RBI), Jeff Coyle (40 RBI) and Mark Cisek (.333, 13-14 SB) all earned All-Skyline honors along with Gerdes. If the pitching staff rounds into form, the St. Joseph's will be a strong contender.
Old Westbury struggled early with a young team last year, but a tough early-season schedule had the Panthers ready for conference play. With an additional year of experience, Old Westbury will be a tough team to beat in Skyline play. The Panthers possess the top pitcher in the conference in junior right-hander Robert Whitenack. The 2008 Skyline Pitcher of the Year, Whitenack posted impressive numbers as a sophomore when he allowed just 50 hits in 71 innings. He displayed impeccable control, striking out 67 and walking just 16.
SKYLINE CONFERENCE BASEBALL
2008 PRESEASON COACHES’ POLL
1. Farmingdale State (6) 62
2. St. Joseph's-L.I. (1) 57
3. Old Westbury (1) 50
4. Mount Saint Vincent 43
5. Mount Saint Mary 36
6. Purchase 27
7. Polytechnic 22
8. Maritime 19
9. Yeshiva 8
(first-place votes in parentheses)