Patriot League Preview
Team to Beat: Navy.
Last season, the Midshipmen were the clear top team in the conference, running away with the regular season Patriot League crown at 16-4 in conference—four games up on second-place Holy Cross. Navy was also the only team in the league to finish above .500 overall, with a 36-17 record. Despite that regular season prowess, however, the Midshipmen were swept out of the Patriot League semifinals and missed the NCAA tournament as a result. The Crusaders, instead, earned the league’s automatic bid. Though a difficult end to a strong season, the Midshipmen should be poised to have similar success this spring. It starts on the mound with junior righthander Noah Song (6-4, 3.67) – Navy’s latest premier arm. Behind him, senior righthander Sean Kamhoot (2-2, 3.62) will make the transition from the bullpen, while freshmen righthander Tommy Goodridge projects to step right into the weekend rotation.
The Midshipmen will be younger offensively than they were a year ago and lost shortstop Travis Blue, the 2017 league player of the year, but have key veterans returning in senior outfielders Logan Knowles (.330/.437/.453) and Stephen Born (.282/.379/.395)—who will both be four-year starters. Sophomore third baseman Jacob Williamson (.296/.363/.444) and sophomore outfielder Evan Lowery (.315/.368/.504) both played regularly as freshmen and will be expected to take steps forward.
Player of the Year: Jon Rosoff, C, Army.
One of two captains on Army, the senior Rosoff was the league’s leading hitter last season (.362/.464/.454) and a first-team selection at catcher. Rosoff’s lefthanded bat has steadily blossomed throughout his college career, and though the 5-foot-9, 175-pound catcher doesn’t possess much over-the-fence-power, he can pepper the gaps. Moreover, his defensive ability, strong throwing arm and leadership make him the most valuable player in the conference.
Pitcher of the Year: Noah Song, RHP, Navy.
The league’s freshman of the year in 2016, Song continued to thrive for Navy his sophomore year, going 6-4, 3.67 with 89 strikeouts and 26 walks in 76 innings. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound righthander has a that sits 91-93 mph and touched 96 mph in the fall. He’s continued to add strength to his projectable frame, and will draw draft interest, though his military commitment may cloud his pro future. His next step is refining his breaking ball and changeup.
Freshman of the Year: Tristan Capocci, INF, Navy.
With a younger lineup this year, the Midshipmen will need to rely on a couple of freshmen to make instant impacts. Capocci seems like a strong candidate to do just that. Experienced at shortstop and third base, the 6-foot, 200-pounder from Georgia will likely see time at all four infield positions as well as DH. His bat is his best tool, with advanced bat speed and power for a freshman.
Tournament: Four teams, two best-of-three series. Semifinals, May 12-13. Championship, May 18-20.
Under The Radar: Arkansas State Starts Red Hot In Sun Belt Play
Arkansas State has swept two straight series and looks like a contender in the Sun Belt West Division as it aims for its first regionals appearance since 1994.
Holy Cross, which won the league’s automatic bid last year, suffered heavy losses with its entire weekend rotation graduating and leading hitters Anthony Critelli and Bill Schlich moving on, as well. As a result, it could be a transitional year for the Crusaders. They do bring back outfielder Austin Masel (.290/.356/.410), the league’s reigning freshman of the year
Lehigh will be inexperienced offensively but could be dangerous on the mound this spring. Righthanders Levi Stoudt (4-5, 2.34) and Jason Reynolds (3-5, 3.68) will lead the rotation after putting up stellar freshman campaigns. Stoudt touches 95 mph with an effective changeup and slider. The addition of freshman arms such as Peter Woltersdorf and Zach Boop should only fortify that staff, while senior shortstop James Bleming will lead Lehigh offensively.
Jim Foster was named Patriot League coach of the year last season, his first at Army. He led the Black Knights to a 25-31 record – a nine-win improvement from 2016. The former Boston College pitching coach has some intriguing arms to work with this season in junior righthander Sam Messina—up to 93 mph on scout day with a sharp slider—and Cam Opp—a lefthander who touches 90 mph and mixes in a solid change. If those pitchers can improve their command, Army could make a run for the league crown, which it has not won since 2012.
1. Noah Song, RHP, Navy
2. Sam Messina, RHP, Army
3. Connor Van Hoose, RHP, Bucknell
4. James Bleming, SS, Lehigh
5. Jon Rosoff, C, Army
6. Logan Knowles, OF, Navy
7. Declan Cronin, RHP, Holy Cross
8. Peter Moore, LHP, Lehigh
9. John Selsor, C, Lafayette
10. Daniel Gibbons, LHP, Army