2019 Patriot League College Baseball Preview
- Army (37-24, 18-7)
- Navy (38-16, 18-7)
- Bucknell (17-27-1, 13-11-1)
- Lehigh (22-27, 10-15)
- Holy Cross (18-27, 11-14)
- Lafayette (16-34-1, 4-20-1)
Team to beat: Army.
The Black Knights last season beat archrival Navy in the Patriot League championship series to advance to regionals for the first time since 2013. Army then upset host North Carolina State in the opening game of the Raleigh Regional, marking its fourth ever NCAA Tournament victory. The Black Knights last season were a little ahead of schedule, reaching those heights in coach Jim Foster’s second season at the program’s helm and improving by 12 wins in the process. Army must replace catcher Jon Rosoff, its leading hitter, and starter Matt Ball, but otherwise the bulk of last year’s team is back and will be expected to repeat as champions. The Black Knights last season set a program record for strikeouts, and pitching will again be a strength. Seniors Daniel Burggraaf (7-3, 2.90), Tyler Giovinco (9-5, 3.26), Sam Messina (2-5, 4.12) and Cam Opp (5-2, 2.66) will anchor the staff. Giovinco, a lefthander with good pitchability, beat NC State last year in the regional and will lead the rotation. Messina’s stuff plays well in relief and he’s improved his control, which will make him a weapon in high-leverage situations.
Army last year didn’t pack a big punch offensively. The Black Knights hit a total of 10 home runs and posted a team slugging percentage of .343. Even with Rosoff graduated, Army’s lineup should be able take a step forward. Outfielder Jacob Hurtubise (.278/.428/.325, 42 SB) is a catalyst at the top of the order and last season led the nation in stolen bases. Fellow outfielder Drake Titus (.280/.416/.360, 18 SB) is also a plus runner and a threat on the bases. With Hurtubise and Titus setting the table, Army will look to infielders Anthony Giachin (.286/.371/.385), the 2018 Patriot League freshman of the year, and Jeremiah Adams, a junior college transfer, to provide the thump in the heart of the order. Army doesn’t have the element of surprise this spring, but it shouldn’t need it to capture another championship.
Player of the Year: Jacob Hurtubise, OF, Army.
Hurtubise last year caused havoc on the bases and stole 42 bases, the most in the nation. The lefthanded hitter is still developing offensively and should be able to take a step forward as a junior after hitting .278/.428/.325 a year ago. He is a plus runner and makes the most out of his speed both offensively and in center field, where he covers a lot of ground for the Black Knights. They’ll be counting on him to be a catalyst at the top of the lineup and make things tough for opposing pitchers.
Pitcher of the Year: Noah Song, RHP, Navy.
Song is coming off an electric junior season that saw him go 6-5, 1.92 with 121 strikeouts in 89 innings. He has a powerful fastball that reaches 98 mph and typically sits in the mid-90s, and he mixes in a sharp slider. Song’s control has been inconsistent at times, and he last season averaged 4.15 walks per nine innings. That didn’t hold him back much last year, but if he can tighten his control a bit, he could produce a massive senior season for the Midshipmen.
Freshman of the Year: Mason Black, RHP, Lehigh.
Black is one of the headliners in Lehigh’s best recruiting class in coach Sean Leary’s 24-year tenure. He has a physical 6-foot-3 frame and was running his fastball up to 93-94 mph by the end of last spring, when he helped his high school to a runner-up finish in the Pennsylvania state tournament. He figures to step right into the Mountain Hawks’ rotation and make an impact.
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Navy (38-16) last season edged Army for the regular season Patriot League title thanks to a 3-2 record in conference play against the Black Knights. That gave the Midshipmen home-field advantage in the championship series, but the Black Knights swept them in Annapolis, denying Navy a second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years. Those two storied rivals should again this season be fighting for the league title. The Midshipmen will be led by Song, who will be tough to beat every time he takes the mound, and second baseman Zach Biggers (.343/.403/.479), their leading hitter in 2018. Navy will have to replace a couple key hitters from last year as Stephen Born and Logan Knowles, the team’s biggest speed threats, both graduated. Brothers Liam (.312/.383/.484) and Evan Lowery (.276/.371/.417) will help Biggers lead the lineup. Navy’s rotation is still evolving behind Song, but coach Paul Kostacopoulos has always had good depth on the mound during his 13 seasons at the program’s helm.
Catcher Matt McBride is the lone player from Lehigh to be drafted in the top five rounds in program history. The Indians picked him in the supplemental second round in 2006, at No. 75 overall. Righthander Levi Stoudt probably won’t surpass McBride as the highest drafted player in program history, but he enters the spring as a potential top-five rounds pick and the best prospect in the league. Stoudt (3-8, 3.03) is coming off a solid showing in the Cape Cod League and will look to lead Lehigh (22-27) back to the four-team Patriot League Tournament after missing it the last two years. Fellow righthander Jason Reynolds (4-5, 3.60) also figures to draw interest from scouts this spring, and if Black can quickly adjust to the college game, the Mountain Hawks will have the makings of one of the best rotations in the Patriot League. Lehigh must replace a few key pieces in its lineup, starting with leading hitter Chris Kersey, but it brings back senior catcher Jeff Shanfeldt (.280/.376/.367) to anchor the offense. Lehigh will need some more hitters to step up and to be more consistently defensively after fielding .968 as a team last season, but it has the pieces to this spring take a step forward.
Top 10 2019 Draft Prospects
1. Levi Stoudt, RHP, Lehigh
2. Noah Song, RHP, Navy
3. Jason Reynolds, RHP, Lehigh
4. Jacob Hurtubise, OF, Army
5. Jeff Gottesman, RHP, Bucknell
6. Chris Rinaldi, SS, Holy Cross
7. Zach Biggers, 2B, Navy
8. Austin Masel, OF, Holy Cross
9. Cam Opp, LHP, Army
10. Hunter Robichaux, RHP, Bucknell