|METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC CONFERENCE|
|HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|*2012 conference champion
Teams in bold are 2012 NCAA tournament participants. Teams are listed in order of predicted finish. Records listed are from 2012 season.
|Projected NCAA Teams (1): Canisius.|
|Conference Schedule: 24 games, begins March 23.|
|Conference Tournament: Four teams, May 23-26 at Trenton, N.J.|
|Player of the Year: Ryan McCauley, 1b, Niagara.|
|Pitcher of the Year: E.J. Ashworth, rhp, Fairfield.|
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2013-14 DRAFTS|
|1.||Jordan Schwartz, rhp, Niagara (2014)|
|2.||Justin Brantley, rhp, Siena|
|3.||Jerry Mulderig, rhp, Rider|
|4.||Nick Camastro, 2b, Manhattan|
|5.||Jon Fitzsimmons, rhp, Canisius|
|1.||Bryan Goossens, rhp, Siena (HS—Wilbraham, Mass.)|
|2.||Brett Siddall, of, Canisius (HS—Windsor, Ontario)|
|3.||Rob Moore, of, St. Peter’s (HS—Middle Island, N.Y.)|
• Coming from the depths of being one of Division I’s worst programs in the early 2000s, ninth-year coach Mike McRae has built Canisius into an annual challenger for MAAC titles. The Golden Griffins have never been to the NCAA tournament and had never even won 30 games in a season until 2008, but now they’ve won at least 30 in four of the last five years. They’ve won two MAAC regular season titles in that span (2008, 2010) but have failed to come through in the conference tournament, including last year’s pair of heart-breaking extra-inning losses to Manhattan in the championship round. The Griffs expect to bounce back strong though, and they have the pieces in place to knock down the door to regionals for the first time. They bring back all four regular starting pitchers from last year, and they’ll look for RHPs Devon Stewart (6-4, 3.80) and Rohn Pierce (2-3, 4.63) to take steps forward as sophomores after solid freshman seasons. Canisius can also count on power-armed closer Jr. RHP Jon Fitzsimmons (3-2, 1.42, 11 saves) to shorten games. The lineup thrives on patience and speed, leading the MAAC in walks (247) and finishing second in steals (80) in 2012. The flip side is that waiting for a three-run homer isn’t a luxury the Griffs can afford, as they have few power threats outside of Jr. 1B Jimmy Luppens (.346/.404/.503).
• Don’t expect Manhattan to go away. The Jaspers have won the last two MAAC regular-season and tournament titles, and they have a veteran core that fully expects to be back at the top of the league. They did lose OF Anthony Vega (.326/.408/.476), their leadoff hitter who became the first Manhattan player drafted since 2007 when the Orioles took him in the 30th round last year, but their lineup still has plenty of regulars who’ve played together for years, starting five seniors and three juniors. Even with Vega gone, Sr. 2B Nick Camastro (.314/.435/.400) is well equipped to be the new catalyst at the top of the lineup thanks to his speed (20 steals) and ability to drive the gaps. The pitching staff has a bigger hole to fill after losing ace RHP Taylor Sewitt(11-2, 2.62). Sr. RHP John Soldinger (6-5, 3.43), the 2011 MAAC pitcher of the year as a sophomore, returns to the No. 1 role and provides stability at the top of the rotation, but a big X-factor is So. LHP Nick Girardi. Girardi originally came to the Jaspers as a walk-on outfielder and pitched sparingly out of the bullpen as a freshman, but he may have worked his way into the rotation after a strong fall.
• No team other than Canisius or Manhattan has won the MAAC regular season since Le Moyne (which no longer plays D-I baseball) in 2007. That streak is unlikely to end in 2013, but Marist looks to have the best chance to break it after bringing back its top power threat in Sr. 1B Mike Orefice (.316/.429/.450) and its leading hitter in Jr. OF Jake Berry (.323/.384/.392) while adding the intriguing bat of juco transfer Zach Passerelle at catcher. Rider can compete as well, led by 2012 MAAC pitcher of the year Jr. RHP Mike Murphy (6-5, 3.29). Jr. OF/RHP Jerry Mulderig doesn’t have much experience on the mound, but scouts can project the 6-foot-4 righthander developing a plus fastball once he concentrates on pitching. He could be a weapon out of Rider’s bullpen in 2013, but he’ll still get most of his time in the outfield after hitting .282/.335/.380 last season.