Feb. 17, 2016
WASHINGTON - Coming off of its first postseason berth in 29 years, the Georgetown University baseball team is set to open the 2016 season this weekend at the Forest Invitational in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Hoyas will play the host Demon Deacons, Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC).
The Hoyas will play their first home game at Shirley Povich Field on Wednesday, March 2 against UMBC. The Blue & Gray will play a total of 20 home games in 2016, highlighted by a four-game set against Princeton (March 17-20) and BIG EAST series against Xavier (April 15-17), Seton Hall (April 29-May 1) and Villanova (May 13-15).
Georgetown's strength this season will lie in its pitching staff. The Hoyas return two of its three starting pitchers from last season, and return all but one member of its bullpen. As a staff last year, GU's pitchers set a program record with a 3.95 team ERA, lowering the mark by more than a point from the 2014 season. Under new pitching coach Alex Swenson, the Hoyas will look to continue its success.
Offensively, the Blue & Gray and first year hitting coach Ryan Wood will look to replace three mainstays from the middle of the lineup. Nick Collins (.370 average, seven home runs and 36 RBI) was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the eighth round of the major league draft and left Georgetown early, while Ryan Busch (.276 average, six home runs, 27 RBI) and AC Carter (.316 average, four home runs, 42 RBI) both graduated. However, the Hoyas return eight position players who saw action in at least 30 games last season, as well as a healthy influx of freshman that should offer a formidable lineup.
Here is a preview of this season's team at each position.
Starting pitchers ...
Senior right-hander Matt Smith (Cranberry Twp., Pa./Seneca Valley) will look to lead the staff once again. Smith, a Preseason All-BIG EAST selection, went 4-5 with a 2.80 ERA in 86.2 innings pitched a season ago. He tied the Georgetown single-season record with 78 strikeouts, leading the entire conference in that category, and was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team.
Junior Simon Mathews (West Haven, Conn./Hopkins School) will move from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Last season, Mathews went 5-4 with a 3.57 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 58 innings over 23 appearances. He made two spot starts, including five perfect innings on March 24 in GU's 1-0 win at then-No. 12 Virginia, the eventual national champions.
Sophomore Kevin Superko (Wellesley, Mass./Wellesley/Phillips Andover) returns to the starting lineup after registering a 3-2 record with a 3.65 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 56.2 innings pitched last season. He was named the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week on April 27 after throwing 8.1 innings with 10 strikeouts and just one earned run against Xavier, retiring 24 batters in a row at one point. He also pitched 7.2 innings, giving up just three hits and one unearned run in a win over Seton Hall to clinch Georgetown's spot in the BIG EAST Championships.
Freshman Jack Cushing (Flower Mound, Texas/Marcus) and junior Nick Leonard (Washington, D.C. Maret) will serve as the team's weekday starters, although both have the potential to start on the weekend or come out of the bullpen. Last season, Leonard made five appearances with three starts, going 1-0 with a 3.78 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 16.2 innings pitched. He threw six innings of one-hit ball with seven strikeouts in a shutout victory over Coppin State.
The Hoyas will have a trio of upperclassmen anchoring the back end of their bullpen. Seniors Curtiss Pomeroy (Shrewsbury, Mass./Saint John's/Phillips Andover) and Tim Davis (Vienna, Va./James Madison HS) will be relied upon for late-inning setup roles. Pomeroy, who was drafted in the 28th round of the 2015 Draft by the Atlanta Braves, converted to a pitcher late last spring and pitched five innings for GU, striking out eight without a walk. Davis has been one of the most reliable relievers over the past three years and needs to take the mound just 25 times to claim the program record for career appearances. Last season, Davis finished with a 3-4 record and a 4.24 ERA in 24 appearances. Junior closer David Ellingson (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands College Park) returns after recording nine saves and 23 strikeouts, while setting a program record with a 0.75 ERA in 24 appearances. He was selected to the All-BIG EAST Second Team at the end of last season and was named to the 2016 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year Watch List on Monday.
Sophomore Jimmy Swad (Washington, D.C./St. Albans) will be another reliable name for Head Coach Pete Wilk out of the bullpen, while seniors Jordan Chudacoff (Highland Park, Ill./New Trier/Lawrenceville) and Max Allen (Highland Park, Ill./Highland Park) are both returning from injury and will play valuable roles for the Hoyas.
Juniors Chris Giordano (Orlando, Fla./Lake Highland) and Joseph Bialkowski (Raleigh, N.C./Needham B. Broughton) as well as freshman Anthony Morabito (Lansdale, Pa./La Salle College HS) will serve as GU's left-handed options out of the bullpen. Freshmen Casey Goldenberg (North Palm Beach, Fla./Suncoast Community), Noah Clark (Dallas, Texas/Trinity Christian Academy) and Webb George Jr. (Atlanta, Ga./Marist School) will provide additional depth to the staff.
Georgetown will rely upon senior Eric Webber (Stockton, Calif./Saint Mary's) as its primary catcher in 2016. Webber split time as the team's catcher (27 games) and designated hitter (13 games), finishing with a .229 average with six doubles and eight RBI. He was second on the team with a .424 on-base percentage, drawing 30 walks and reaching base via 10 hit-by-pitches. Sophomores Sammy Stevens (Birmingham, Mich./Brother Rice) and Richie O'Reilly (Hermosa Beach, Calif./Loyola HS) as well as freshman Joe Amato (Essex Fells, N.J./Montclair Kimberley Academy) will all compete for playing time behind Webber.
Wilk has a few options at first base to replace Carter. Bialkowski has experience at the position and could transition from the outfield. Bialkowski appeared in 45 games last season, making 39 starts, and finished with a .265 average with six doubles and 13 RBI. Sophomores Alex Bernauer (Sunnyvale, Calif./Fremont) and Bennett Stehr (Orinda, Calif./Miramonte) are both showing improvement and will compete with Bialkowski for playing time.
At second base, Georgetown's options start with junior transfer Eric Garza (San Antonio, Texas/Ronald Reagan/TCU/San Jacinto). The younger brother of 2012 graduate, Michael Garza, Eric transferred to the Hilltop by way of Texas Christian University and San Jacinto College. Sophomore Jake Bernstein (Frederick, Md./St. John's College HS) and freshman Dante Ricciardi (West Boylston, Mass./Worcester Academy) will also challenge for a spot in the lineup.
Sophomore Chase Bushor (San Diego, Calif./Santa Fe Christian) will transition from second base back to his natural shortstop position in 2016. Bushor is coming off of a strong freshman campaign where he batted .256 in 45 games with a home run, triple and seven doubles. He ranked third on the team with 31 RBI, 20 of which came with two outs. Ricciardi will serve as Bushor's back up at shortstop.
Freshman Ryan Weisenberg (Parkland, Fla./San Ramon Valley) will take over at the hot corner while Bernstein and Ricciardi will also provide options for Wilk at third base. Freshman Christian Sanchez (Shorewood, Ill./Minooka Community) will give additional depth.
Junior Jake Kuzbel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Ridge) will serve as the team's designated hitter to start the season. He appeared in all 53 games a season ago, and has seen action in all 101 games since he arrived on the Hilltop. He had 54 hits, the most of any returner, and finished with a .265 average, two home runs, 16 doubles and 24 RBI.
The Blue & Gray return four players who saw regular playing time in the outfield. Junior Beau Hall (Seaville, N.J./Ocean City) has a lock on center field, having started 38 games there last season and 65 over the past two years. He led all returning players with three home runs in 2015 and finished with a .285 batting average and 20 RBI to go along with two triples and seven doubles.
Senior Charlie Dillon (Chicago, Ill./Berkshire/Catholic) and sophomores Michael DeRenzi (Mendham, Pa./Seton Hall Prep) and Austin Shirley (Strafford, Pa./Conestoga) will all see time at the corner outfield positions. Dillon converted to an outfielder midway through last season and became a valuable part of the Hoya lineup, batting .250 with a .346 on-base percentage, four doubles and nine RBI. Shirley played in a total of 40 games as a freshman, making 34 starts. He served primarily as the team's leadoff hitter, batting .236 with 17 RBI and a .382 on-base percentage. He had more walks (22) than strikeouts (20) and led the team with 10 stolen bases. DeRenzi provides outstanding speed and a strong arm and finished last season with a .296 batting average in 71 at-bats. Senior Joe Sleiman (Windermere, Fla./Lake Highland) will provide depth at both corner outfield positions.