Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Hoyas Hit the Diamond

This season has been six years in the making.

Since Pete Wilk took over the program in the summer of 1999, the Georgetown baseball team has gone from overlooked and under-funded to more optimistic than ever.

“We were not a sport that was allowed the privilege of Gatorade,” Wilk said of his first season with the Hoyas, during the team’s fundraising dinner last Friday. Back then, he said, the team only got four bats for the entire year, and student-athletes had to buy their own caps for fall practice. Even this year, the team has less than one athletic scholarship, but now the baseball team will have nine scholarships by 2008.

“Now we can compete monetarily with these teams [in the Big East],” Wilk said. “It’s changed our whole landscape. . We should be able to become one of the powerhouses of the Mid-Atlantic.”

The Hoyas have made great strides toward that goal in the past two seasons. The team went from a 14-33 record in 2003 to 25-30 in 2004. Last year Georgetown was on pace to exceed that, but a 1-6 finish crippled its chances of a winning season. Georgetown ended the year 25-31.

“We could’ve done it last year, and I think we should’ve done it last year,” Wilk said. “I think we were a better team than we were the year before. . I’d like to know what happened, but we didn’t get it done.”

So this year, like last year, the goal is to get out of last place and over the .500 mark, something that Georgetown has not done since the 1986 season – before some players were even born.

But senior first baseman and captain Ryan Craft, whose first year on the team was that 14-33 season, said that having a winning season is “something we’re definitely capable of.”

“We’re gonna have to focus more on the midweek games . when we’re playing the teams we should beat,” Craft said. “We’re gonna beat the teams that we should beat; we’re gonna beat the teams we shouldn’t beat; and that’s how we’re gonna get to 29 [wins].”

“I think we were better than three or four of the teams last year . but we are a last-place Big East team,” Wilk said. “It’s in the record book, and until we erase that, that’s who we are.”

Indeed, Georgetown was picked to finish in last place again in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll.

But this year, the coaches agree that the Hoyas are more prepared than ever. Both Matt Bok and Mark Van Ameyde, the hitting and pitching coaches, said that being able to practice outdoors with this year’s mild winter has made a big difference.

“Last year we weren’t even outside one day” for preseason practice, Van Ameyde said.

So when sophomore right-handed pitcher Mike Gaggioli takes the mound against traditional opening-day rival William & Mary tomorrow, the Hoyas will be ready.

“We have a very difficult schedule, and if we do our typical mediocre start, there’s not a lot of recovery time in there,” Wilk said. “Our message to them was, we have to hit the ground running. We have to get a good start here.”

For Georgetown, the key to the season lies in the pitching staff. The Hoyas lost their closer Tom Braun (MSB ’05) and No. 1 starter Eddie Pena (MSB ’05) to graduation, and a few question marks remain.

The team is still waiting to hear back from the NCAA about junior right-hander Erick Chandler’s eligibility this year. Chandler started out at Georgetown and transferred to Virginia but came back for this year after only pitching one inning for the Cavaliers.

“His return would be a huge boost for us all,” Wilk said.

Then there are two injured pitchers, including senior righty Warren Sizemore, who had surgery after getting hurt last April. Sizemore had a team-best 2.49 ERA last year in six appearances, including three starts.

“If Warren comes back, that’s huge, but even if he doesn’t come back, we’ve got enough kids that if everybody takes care of themselves and their job, we can surprise a lot of people,” Wilk said.

The new ace, Gaggioli, said that he feels pretty good about the pitching staff overall.

“We got a lot of depth, some good new guys, some good experience,” Gaggioli said. “There’s some guys that are gonna get a chance to get on the hill and prove themselves, and I think they’re going to do a good job.”

The team is especially excited to see what freshmen lefty Andy Ferich and right-hander Darren Sizemore can do.

“They are both going to be in the position to win a starting job,” Wilk said. “They’re both talented enough to do it.”

As for Gaggioli himself, moving into the No. 1 spot as a sophomore brings its own challenges. But he had a phenomenal rookie campaign, striking out 67 in 84.1 innings while allowing only 14 walks. His 3.42 ERA was in the top 15 in the league for qualifying pitchers.

“This year there’s a lot more expectations from me to improve and really take charge as one of the leaders of the pitching staff,” Gaggioli said. “I’m nervous about it, but I’m real excited for the opportunity.”

Following him in the starting rotation will be senior right-hander and captain Stephen Burns. His junior season was cut short by injury.

“He’s a very cerebral pitcher. He knows his strengths and weaknesses,” Wilk said. “When he’s able to locate his pitches, he’s very competitive.”

Wilk said that he is still trying to find the right place for junior southpaw Mark Dutmers. He appeared in 20 games last year, starting twice. “He’s kind of a swing guy right now,” he said. “I don’t know where he fits, but he’s been throwing the ball very well.”

Wilk is still fiddling with his lineup, too. He said that he has not decided who is going to be the designated hitter yet (but he mentioned that it might be sophomore Matt Harrigan), and he has a few different options for the infield. Sophomore Matthew Bouchard will play second base Saturday and third on Sunday. Junior Joseph Graziano will get the first crack at third base, and sophomore atthew Maranges will have a shot at second base.

No matter what, Wilk knows that he has a strong defensive team up the middle, from junior Brandon Davis behind the plate to infielder Bouchard and senior shortstop Matt Johnson to senior Timmy Jones in center field.

“Our defense is really solid. . It’s always nice to have a good, solid defense behind you as a pitcher,” Gaggioli said.

As for the offense, Bok, the hitting coach, said that “My guys have been swinging real well. We’ve got some good senior leadership.”

Providing that leadership – as well as an awfully big bat – is Craft. The all-Big East first baseman had a breakout year in 2005, leading the team with a .335 batting average (best among starters), 13 home runs, 48 RBIs, a .598 slugging percentage and 116 total bases. His home run total was third-best in the league.

But as Craft said, “It’s not about last year. It’s all about what you do this year.”

Craft will be flanked by Jones and senior right fielder Drew Dargen in the middle of the batting order, and Wilk said that he hopes Jones and Dargen will be able to “take some heat off of Craft.”

Jones, a lefty, batted .261 last year. Dargen, meanwhile, is looking to have his first injury-free year. Craft thinks that his fellow senior captain is going to have a “breakout” season.

“[Dargen has] shown a ton of promise every year he’s been here,” Wilk said. “We think he can be a great baseball player, but he’s never had a full healthy season. He’s worked very, very hard to put himself in a position where he’s healthy.”

Speedy junior left fielder Mark McLaughlin will lead off for the Hoyas. He batted .307 last year, and he and Jones each swiped 10 bases.

“[McLaughlin is] a very good offensive player who has outstanding baseball instincts on the basepaths and an aggressive attitude. If you combine those two attributes, that’s a nice leadoff hitter,” Wilk said. “He knows his strike zone and understands his role as a leadoff guy – he’s willing to take some pitches.”

For Craft, the biggest asset of this team is that they all get along so well, both on and off the field.

“This team has gelled better than any team I’ve been on before,” he said. “That’s the thing that, when we’re midway through the season and we’ve lost two or three games, we’ll look each other in the eyes and get each other pumped and get that clutch hit.”

With the able defense in place and a flexible offense that has players who can hit for power and players who can play small ball, everything will come down to the pitching, according to Wilk.

“Our strengths are with the glove, and we’re gonna hit enough and score enough to win. It’s just gonna come down to whether these young arms can step up and whether we have the pitching depth to play the upgraded schedule,” Wilk said.

With 57 games on the schedule this spring, the Hoyas have 57 chances to prove the doubters wrong. It all gets started tomorrow against William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., at noon.

Hoya Sports Scouting Report: Players to Watch in 2006

Ryan Craft, Senior, First Base

If chicks dig the long ball, Ryan Craft won’t be lonely this Valentine’s Day. Craft cranked out 13 home runs, third-best in the Big East, to go along with 48 RBIs a .598 slugging percentage last year in a breakout season.

It was a big spring for a guy who saw action in only about half the games in his first two years.

“He just became a much better disciplined hitter,” Head Coach Pete Wilk said. “He swung at good pitches, and when he swings at good pitches, he hammers them.”

An all-Big East first team selection, Craft’s bat will be at the heart of the Hoya lineup.

Mike Gaggioli, Sophomore, Right-Handed Pitcher

Mike Gaggioli represents the future of Georgetown baseball. The sophomore will be the No. 1 starter for the Hoyas this year after striking out 67 as a freshman and dominating his summer league, which Wilk described as “very competitve.”

“He can beat anybody in the country,” Wilk said. “He locates his stuff better than anybody on staff.”

Gaggioli has three pitches in his arsenal: a fastball that hits about 86-87 miles per hour, a curveball and a circle change-up that finished off his strikeout victims.

Gaggioli said that his first year was “kind of a surprise.” This year, the competition will know he’s for real.

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