Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Preview
Troy Scocca (Photo by Tom Priddy)
SEE ALSO: College Preview Index
Members: Canisius, Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan, Marist, Monmouth, Niagara, Quinnipiac, Rider, Siena, St. Peter’s.
|2017 Top 10 Prospects|
|1. Tom Cosgrove, lhp, Manhattan|
|2. Dan Swain, of, Siena|
|3. Andrew Tumbelty, rhp, Rider|
|4. Jake Lumley, ss, Canisius|
|5. Joe Drpich, 1b, Siena|
|6. Troy Scocca, of, Fairfield|
|7. Ryan Stekl, 1b, Canisius|
|8. Scott Boches, rhp, Marist|
|9. Joe DeRosa, rhp, Iona|
|10. Jose Carrera, ss, Manhattan|
Team to Beat: Fairfield. The Stags more than doubled their win total from 2015 to 2016, tying the program record with 32 victories en route to their first-ever MAAC title and NCAA appearance. Last year’s team was picked eighth in the league’s preseason poll, but expectations will be markedly higher this time around. They do have a hole to fill with the departure of top home run hitter Jake Salpietro, but six everyday regulars return from what was the MAAC’s top scoring offense—and its No. 1 fielding team—last year, led by seniors such as shortstop Michael Conti (.335/.426/.399) and outfielder Troy Scocca (.283/.377/.434, 5 HR). Sophomore righthander John Signore (3-2, 2.90) finished fourth in the nation last year in walks-per-nine innings (0.86), part of a battled-tested rotation with senior righthander Kyle Dube (6-4, 4.09) and junior righthander Gavin Wallace (8-5, 5.13) also returning.
Player of the Year: Fabian Pena, c, Manhattan. Last year’s MAAC freshman of the year, Pena will look to build on last year’s .350/.415/.598 season and will be the centerpiece of the Jaspers’ offense now with the departure of Christian Santisteban, who won 2016’s conference player of the year award.
Pitcher of the Year: Joe DeRosa, rhp, Iona. The top returning starter in the conference, DeRosa (3-3, 2.54) was the lone bright spot for a Gaels team that otherwise struggled mightily on the mound last year (6.45 team ERA), and he’ll need a strong encore if they’re going to improve on last year’s 10th-place finish.
Freshman of the Year: Jake Burlingame, of, Canisius. Burlingame’s speed and advanced approach for a freshman should make him an immediate factor for the Golden Griffins, both offensively and patrolling center field.
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Notable Storylines: Canisius had a three-year streak of winning either the MAAC regular season or tournament titles from 2013-15, which Fairfield snapped by taking both last season. Nonetheless, the Golden Griffins should be the Stags’ biggest obstacle again in 2017. They led the conference in ERA last year (3.94) and return another deep group on the mound led by command-oriented lefthanders Nolan Hunt (5-0, 2.90) and Zachary Sloan (1-0, 3.00), who should be fully healthy this spring after nagging injuries limited him to 18 innings last year. Speedy senior shortstop Jake Lumley (.339/.437/.431) will be a key piece to build around offensively, but the Griffs will need contributions from newcomers like Burlingame and junior college transfers John Novenche and Gage Lanning, who came over together from Herkimer (N.Y.) CC . . . Manhattan has established a small recruiting pipeline into Florida, with six players on its roster hailing from the Sunshine State, four of them from the Miami area. Pena looks like the best of the bunch, though senior shortstop Jose Carrera (.314/.370/.453) will also have a lot to say on whether the Jaspers break through and challenge for a league title again, something they haven’t threatened since winning both the regular season and tournament in 2012. Manhattan will try to keep up the momentum from last year, when it went 13-11 in conference play, its first winning season in the league since that 2012 season . . . Former Monroe (N.Y.) JC head coach Danny Ramirez has taken over at Saint Peter’s. This will be his first Division I job, though he’s a veteran of coaching in the Northeast at the youth and junior college levels. He’ll be trying to elevate a program that’s finished last in the MAAC in three straight seasons and was at the bottom of the conference in both scoring (3.7 runs per game) and ERA (7.99) last year.
Tournament: Six teams, double-elimination, May 23-28 at Bobo Field in Lewistown, N.Y.