In Rod Stephan’s six years as baseball coach, SUNY-Old Westbury has made the Skyline Conference finals five times. The one time the Panthers missed was last year.
“It was a little disappointing,” Stephan said.
The Panthers still went 26-15 overall and 12-4 in conference, and they project even better this year. Six returners batted higher than .335 in 2016, led by Jesse Russo’s .399, and they will be augmented by speedy Nassau CC transfer David Hawley and power-hitting Dutchess CC transfer Gianni Carbone.
On the mound, two-time Diamond Award winner and Hofstra transfer Adam Heidenfelder will be the ace, followed by an undetermined order of Ryan Mordecai, Trey Pizzutello and Daniel Aguilo.
Heidenfelder struggled at Hofstra, but the early returns from the preseason are promising.
“He’s throwing the ball outstanding and has already gotten questionnaires from Major League Baseball so he’s back to where he was,” Stephan said. “He’s a very hardworking kid. He’s going to be outstanding in that conference.”
Skyline foe Farmingdale (20-17, 12-4) returns Nick Attardi, who posted a .420/.514/.487 slash line and won ECAC Metro/Upstate Rookie of the Year in 2016. Christopher Reilly hit .282 with a .441 on-base percentage. He is the only returning Ram who started a game on the mound last year.
St. Joseph’s (25-13, 11-5) brings back just two players who hit better than .260 in at least 25 at-bats during a run to the NCAA Mideast Regional: Anthony Bonilla (.281 with 25 RBIs) and Daniel Campanelli (.280). Ryan Aloise (8-2, 2.03 ERA) will anchor an inexperienced pitching staff.
In the ECC, coaches tabbed Molloy second and LIU Post fourth in the preseason poll.
Molloy’s Angelo Navetta, who hit .372 with three home runs and 34 RBIs, is the preseason player of the year. Ronald Bauer is the preseason pitcher of the year after going 7-3 with a 2.26 ERA last year for the Lions, who went 31-23, 13-11 and appeared in the NCAA Division III East Regional.
LIU Post returns a significant amount of its 2016 production. The Pioneers, who went 23-20 overall and 13-11 in the ECC, bring back seven players who hit .275 or better and four pitchers who made five or more starts.
Rob Andreoli hit a team-best .337 with a .399 on-base percentage, 27 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. Jake DeCarli (4-4, 3.08 ERA) and Dan Jagiello (7-3, 3.64 ERA) headline the pitching staff.
NE-10 coaches picked Adelphi (25-22, 13-11) to win the Southwest Division. The Panthers return seven of their top eight hitters and boast a deep pitching staff, led by T.J. Santiago, Matthew O’Connor and Ed Baram.
“They can go out and win every single game for us,” said Robert Vani, who hit .325 with four homers and 23 RBIs last year. “I have all the confidence in those guys to pitch six, seven strong innings to give us a chance to win. It just comes down to giving those guys runs.”
For USMMA (11-24, 6-15 Landmark), all four pitchers who started at least five games are back. Patrick Morgan (4-3, 4.15 ERA) and Andrew Spinnenweber (3-5, 4.59 ERA) headline the staff. Steve Lucy (.344), Matthew Thomson (.337) and Bryson Campbell (.273) are the three returnees with an average above .260.
Robert Sciarotta went 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA, 57 strikeouts and 21 walks in 45 innings last year, helping Suffolk CC (26-8, 22-1 Region XV) reach the third round of the NJCAA Division III World Series. Three Sharks who hit better than .315 over more than 50 at-bats also return.
Nassau CC returns All-Region XV players Nick Marino and Justin Grimes.