The 2016 season was one for the history books for the Molloy baseball program. The squad tied program-record by earning 31 wins, and appeared in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history as the sixth seed.
The loss of seniors Deilyn Guzman and Nicholas Gonchar will be something that Head Coach Joe Fucarino knows will be difficult to replace. Guzman was named to the All-Conference Second Team following a season where he started all but one game, batting .318 with 70 hits and 31 runs batted in. Gonchar started in all 43 games he appeared in, batting .308 with 45 hits and 31 runs batted in.
However, with 23 of the 31 members of 2016's team returning, Fucarino thinks the extra experience for the returners coupled with the talented additions give this year's club a chance of being even stronger than last year's.
The infield will have a lot of familiar faces back, as it is made of entirely upperclassmen. With another season will come confidence and maturity, both in the field and at the plate.
Last year's East Coast Conference Player of the Year Angelo Navetta returns for his junior season as the ECC Preseason Player of the Year. As a sophomore, Navetta was named All-East Region First Team after hitting a conference-high .372, with 74 hits, 11 doubles, two triples, three home runs, and 34 runs batted in. The first baseman also was awarded the ABCA/Rawlings Gold Gove for posting a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with 497 putouts.
Across the diamond, Kevin Podell will return at third base for his senior season with Molloy. Podell was already named one of Collegiate Baseball newspaper's Players to Watch for the 2017 season. As a junior, he started every game the team played in, collecting 71 hits and 26 RBIs, averaging .343 at the dish.
Behind the plate, Jack McCarty returns for his junior season. In 40 starts, he hit .242 with three doubles and 17 RBIs, leading the team with five sacrifice hits. He was joined behind the plate by Ryan Dillon, who returns for his senior season. Dillon started eight games, appearing in 18 and collected six hits with a double, home run, and four RBIs. Also making appearances for the maroon and white in the catcher spot was freshman Michael Wall. He collected four hits through six starts, including hitting his first career home run.
The outfield for the Lions will also see a number of familiar faces returning for 2017. Both Anthony Galanoudis and and Anthony Alberghina will be returning for their senior seasons. The pair was named to the All-ECC Second Team following their successful seasons.
Galanoudis appeared in 49 games, batting .336 with 46 hits, 31 runs scored, 26 RBIs, and a second-ranking .436 on-base percentage. In the field, the junior totaled 64 putouts with a fielding percentage of .981.
Alberghina started in center field for all 50 games he appeared in, avering .304 at the plate with 56 hits, 31 runs scored, 11 doubles, and led the team with 37 RBIs. In the field, the junior put up a .981 fielding percentage with 100 putouts and four assists.
On the Mound
The starting pitching for the maroon and white will be a crew of seasoned veterans, with two seniors and a junior.
First, senior Ronald Bauer returns after being named an All-ECC First Team pitcher, winning a team-high seven wins. This season's Preseason Pitcher of the Year collected a 2.26 earned-run average, featuring two complete games and one shutout. Through 83.2 innings, Bauer retired 56 batters to the strikeout and held his opponents to a .187 batting average against.
Joining Bauer for his final season will be Bobby Kelly. The lefty finished 2016 with a 6-2 record and a 3.14 ERA through 12 starts. Through 66 innings, he struck out 44 batters and earned one shutout.
In 13 games, Anthony Catinella threw two complete games, collecting a 6-4 record with a 4.27 earned-run average. The now-junior led the team with 80 strikeouts over 78 innings, while holding opponents to a .266 batting average against.
The Lions also enter 2017 with considerable depth on the mound. Returning from last year will be sophomore Lucas Burton and junior Shawn Kloetsche.
As a sophomore, Klotsche pitched a team-high 23 games, becoming the team's closer. On the year, he earned a 1-1 record, striking out 27 batters over 24.1 innings, leading the team with four saves.
In his rookie campaign, Burton led the team with 23 appearances in relief. In 23.2 innings, he struck out 28 batters, allowing only 10 runs and a .235 batting average against. He finished with a 3-2 record and a 3.80 ERA.
The maroon and white also gain depth with two adds, senior Dominic Danetti and junior Luciano Morello. Danetti joins the squad as a transfer from 2016 ECC Champion Dowling College. He made 13 appearances, pitching 35 innings and earning 23 strikeouts. Morello will provide the pen with further depth and experience, as he played two seasons with Nassau Community College.
The Lions were slotted second in a poll of the conference's coaches. Navetta and Bauer were also named Preseason Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively.
The duo have also received a number of other preseason awards, including being named Pre-Season All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball and All-East Region First Team by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association. Collegiate Baseball also named Podell a Player to Watch and freshman Sean Hogan a Newcomer to Watch.
The baseball team will once again open on the road, with trips to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. The first games of the season will come against Pfeiffer University (Feb. 18-19), who has played in the Championship game for the Conference Carolinas for the past two seasons. After that, the squad heads right to Myrtle Beach, S.C. for the Northeast Challenge (Feb. 24-26), which features tough rematches from last season against Felician and Concordia. Felician is also one of three NCAA tournament teams from 2016 that the Lions will face this season. The first home series will come Mar. 4-5, as the Warriors of Merrimack College return to Mitchel Field.
Coach Fucarino wanted to build a tough schedule year round, believing that a tougher pre-conference schedule will result in the team being even better prepared for the competitive East Coast Conference portion. The maroon and white will square off with a number of schools in non-league play: Bloomfield College, Southern Connecticut State, American International College, Lynn University, Caldwell University, Stonehill College, Dominican College, Assumption College, and Adelphi University.
Molloy will face a difficult stretch at the beginning of ECC action, as they welcome Saint Thomas Aquinas to Mitchel Field on Mar. 29. The Spartans went 4-2 in their meetings with the Lions last season, including a 5-2 win in the first game of the NCAA tournament. After STAC, the maroon and white enter a four-game series with another NCAA Tournament team in the University of Bridgeport. The Purple Knights knocked the Lions out of the ECC Championship game last season, and the maroon and white will be out for revenge.
The in-conference portion of the schedule continues to be a week-to-week grind. Molloy will have series with Queens College (Apr. 7-9), Mercy College (Apr. 14-17), and STAC (Spr. 28-29) before concluding the regular season against LIU Post (May 5-7).
The Lions will be hosting this year's East Coast Conference Baseball Championship (May 11-13), and Molloy will certainly hope to be in the hunt for a conference title.