Baseball Opens Conference Play At Hartford Saturday


ALBANY, N.Y. – Coming off a series sweep at NYIT, the University at Albany baseball team looks to keep the momentum going in this weekend’s three-game series at Hartford. The clash opens the 2013 America East Conference schedule. Saturday’s doubleheader at Fiondella Field begins at 1:00 p.m., while a single game will be played Sunday starting at noon.

UAlbany leads the all-time series against Hartford, 27-21, including a 4-2 series advantage in 2012. Last season, the Great Danes went 2-1 in Hartford, winning games one and two (2-1, 3-2) by one run each and fell 6-4 in the finale on April 8th. UAlbany also played the Hawks in the last series of the regular season. Hartford edged the Danes, 3-2, on May 18th, but, UAlbany bounced back to win the nightcap, 5-3, and then exploded offensively for a 24-2 victory in the rubber match.

Sat. March 16, 1 p.m.
Derek Zielinski (Albany) 1-3, 6.23 ERA vs. Kyle Gauthier (Hartford) 0-2, 6.28 ERA

Sat. March 16, 4 p.m.
Kasceim Graham (Albany) 2-1, 5.40 ERA vs. Brian Hunter (Hartford)  0-3, 7.24 ERA

Sun., March 17, 12 p.m.
Austin Chase (Albany) 0-2, 7.50 ERA vs. Sean Newcomb (Hartford) 0-2, 10.24 ERA

SCOUTING THE HAWKS (0-12, 0-0 America East)
Hartford enters its home-opening weekend in search of its first win of the season. This spring, the Hawks have played road series against Campbell (0-3), James Madison (0-4), Troy (0-2), and most recently Southeast Louisiana (0-2). Offensively, the Hawks own a collective .220 batting average led by Trey Stover (.345, 8 RBI), Chris DelDebbio (.341), and Ryan Lukah (.333, 2 HR). Defensively, however, Hartford ranks last in the league for pitching and fielding with a team 8.84 ERA and .948 fielding percentage.

THE COACH: Justin Blood (2nd season, Franklin Pierce ’01)
Head coach Justin Blood, who enters his second season with the Hawks, was one of 10 collegiate coaches named to the Top-10 College Head Coaches Under 40 list by Baseball America. In his first season at Hartford, Blood led the Hawks to a 16-40 overall record and a 7-17 mark in conference play. Hartford’s 16 victories in 2012 is the most since the 2008 season, while the seven league victories is the most since 2009. Blood’s stint at Hartford comes after helping lead Connecticut to its most successful season in program history, which included a BIG EAST regular season championship and the first trip to the NCAA Super Regional’s. Blood played three years for Franklin Pierce before being drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2001.

SCOUTING THE GREAT DANES (3-7, 0-0 America East)
UAlbany comes off its first series sweep of the season, overcoming NYIT 3-2 and 2-0 on Monday. On the season, the Great Danes rank third in the conference with a .230 collective batting average. Freshman Evan Harasta (.400, 8 RBI), junior Josh Nethaway (.297, 8 RBI), senior Nolan Gaige (.294) have proven their bats dangerous so far this season. Defensively, UAlbany owns a .962 fielding percentage, good for second in the league, and have steadily slimmed down their team earned run average to 6.20.

THE COACH: Jon Mueller (14th season, Eckerd College, ‘92)
Jon Mueller is in his 14th season as the head coach of the University at Albany baseball program. The Stillwater, N.Y. native has had proven success as both a player and coach throughout his career. Mueller ranks first among UAlbany’s career leaders with 282 coaching victories, and was named the America East Coach of the Year in 2004. He also led the Danes to the program’s first America East Conference tournament championship title and NCAA appearance in 2007. Mueller has produced dozens of all-conference standouts and has had six players selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft under his direction, including one in each of the past two seasons.

Winning 3-2 and 2-0 at NYIT, UAlbany’s pitching staff excelled in the doubleheader, combining for 28 strikeouts led by senior Kasceim Graham’s career-high 10 K’s in just five innings of work. Graham (10), Cameron Sorgie (4) and closer Ryan Stinar (1) combined for 15 strikeouts in game one, while Derek Zielinski (7) and Austin Chase (6) recorded 13 strikeouts in the combined shutout. Splitting five and four innings, respectively, Zielinski and Chase allowed just three hits in the victory and hurled seven perfect frames. Offensively, Josh Nethaway (4-for-6) led the squad with four hits and two RBI on the day.

UAlbany had a season-high six hits for extra bases in game one at NYIT, including doubles by Nethaway, Harasta, Jeff Welsh and Richard Bacon, and triples by Greg Muller and Matt Hinchy. On the season Nethaway leads the team with 17 total bases, including three doubles and a home run.

Kasceim Graham’s 10 strikeouts in five innings Monday mark the most strikeouts by a UAlbany pitcher since Zach Kraham recorded 11 in seven frames on April 17, 2011 versus Binghamton (9-5, L).

The combined 15 strikeouts by the UAlbany pitching staff at NYIT tied UAlbany’s Division I era record for K’s in a game. The last time the Great Danes totaled 15 strikeouts was on May 7, 2005 in a 13-inning contest at Hartford. UAlbany used five hurlers in the 11-9 extra-inning victory. Monday’s feat at NYIT marks a DI record for nine-inning games.

UAlbany has had six games cancelled so far this spring due to inclement weather. Contests scheduled versus Toledo, Wright State and Delaware were all cancelled at the Ron Fraser Classic in Cary, N.C.  due to snow. Last week’s midweek clash at Hofstra was nixed because of rain, and two of the four-game series at NYIT were cancelled because of poor weather.  

Nolan Gaige ranks first among UAlbany’s active career leaders in nearly every offensive category. Here are some categories in which he is quickly climbing the ladder…

AT-BATS - 650 (4th all-time)
BATTING AVG. -  .309
HITS - 201 (5 away from Top-5 all-time)
TRIPLES – 11 (T-1st all-time)
RUNS SCORED – 134 (8 away from Top-5 all-time)
RBI – 81

As a team, UAlbany has belted two home runs this season. Josh Nethaway recorded the first of the year in game one against South Carolina (2/23). Nethaway blasted a solo shot over the left field wall with two outs in the fourth off South Carolina starter Jordan Montgomery. The dinger marked the sixth of Nethaway’s career. Nolan Gaige is credited with the other, belting a two-run shot over the right field wall in game three at UNCG, giving UAlbany a 7-3 lead in the eighth. The home run marked the ninth in his career.

At this point in the season, UAlbany is in prime bus-riding shape after traveling over 10 hours south (one way) for three consecutive series. The Great Danes traveled 1,290 mile roundtrip to Cary, N.C. for the Ron Fraser Classic. UAlbany played two games against Canisius (2/15) before the remaining two days of the tournament were cancelled due to snow. The following weekend, the Great Danes totaled 1,734 miles to and from South Carolina to play a three-games series against the Gamecocks (2/23-24). UAlbany made one last trip below the Mason-Dixon Line to Greensboro, N.C. (1,370 miles), facing UNCG March 1-3. In the first three weekends of the 2013 season, UAlbany totaled nearly 4,400 miles of bus travel.

Announced by the league office March 6th, the America East Conference will take its 2013 baseball championship to LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass., home of Boston Red Sox Single A affiliate Lowell Spinners. The state of the art facility was tabbed to host the entire championship, marking the first time it has been held at a predetermined minor-league facility since 2001. The 2013 America East Championship will begin on Wednesday May 22, and conclude on either May 24 or May 25.

UAlbany will play its home-opener Tuesday, hosting a midweek battle against Marist College at 3:00 p.m. on Varsity Field. The Great Danes will continue its conference slate next weekend, traveling to UMBC for a three-game series.



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