Army Patriot League baseball season preview: Black Knights look to repeat 2012 dominance
The Army Black Knights come into the 2013 Patriot League season as co-favorites to win the conference after a dominant 2012 campaign.
Army finished 2012 with an overall record of 41-15, including an 18-2 mark in conference play, finishing in first place in the Patriot League and winning the conference tournament against 2013 co-favorite Holy Cross. The 2012 regular season title was Army’s fourth in the past five seasons.
After a Saturday exhibition against the Yankees, their first since 1976, Army will begin conference play Sunday with a doubleheader against the rival Midshipmen from the Naval Academy. The two teams will play another twin bill Monday afternoon. Army has dominated their rival academy over the past nine seasons, winning 31 of 40 games. Navy holds an overall edge in series history, 106 wins to Army’s 101.
Army enters Patriot League play with a 7-11 record. The Black Knights started the season 0-7 after a rough stretch of games in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, but began to turn things around with a three-game sweep of Yale in Tampa, Fla. Army has won three of their last four games, including a come-from-behind walk-off win Tuesday against Siena at Doubleday Field.
Army’s manager Joe Sottolano is impressed with his young team early in the season. “I don’t think we’ve played the game as well as we should, and we’re in basically every game,” Sottolano said. “We’re very, very young. You’re looking at a club that has 25 freshmen and sophomores out of 34 players, the youngest we’ve ever been.”
Army is led by All-American pitcher Chris Rowley, the 2012 Patriot League Pitcher of the Year. The righthander looks to replicate his 2012 campaign that saw him go 11-1 with a 2.40 ERA. Rawley is off to a strong start in 2013 with a 2.64 ERA, despite an early 2-2 record.
Army’s offense is led by junior outfielder Jon Crucitti, whose .344 batting average and .506 on-base percentage pace the team. Sophomore infielder Alex Jensen leads the team with 24 hits and is second with a .343 batting average. Freshman outfielder Jacob Page is off to a strong start with the Black Knights pacing the team with 15 RBI’s in early out of conference play.
Navy enters Patriot League play with a 12-12 record, but has won six of the last seven games.
After the four-game series against Navy, the Black Knights hit the road for an out-of-conference game Wednesday against Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey before heading to Bethlehem, Pa., to face off against conference foe Lehigh in a four-game series next weekend.