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Marist Baseball Opens Season Friday
Courtesy: Marist Athletics  
Release: 02/14/2013
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Courtesy:Marist Athletics
Marist will open up at Elon on Friday

The Marist baseball team opens its 2013 season on Friday at the Country Inn & Suites Invitational, hosted by Elon. The Red Foxes will face three different opponents over three days as they embark on a 53-game regular season. Here are this weekend's pitching match-ups:

Friday: Marist - RHP Brett Houseal (4-6, 4.00 ERA in 2012), Elon - LHP Dylan Clark (9-4, 3.76)

Saturday: Marist - RHP Kevin McCarthy (1-1, 3.62), Virginia Commonwealth - RHP Tyler Buckley (first start at VCU)

Sunday: Marist - RHP Chris Bielak (2-2, 3.73), Boston College - LHP Nick Poore (2-0, 5.33)

Heading into their fourth season under Head Coach Chris Tracz, here is how the Red Foxes look as they enter 2013. Last season, the Red Foxes led the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) in ERA and fielding percentage in conference games.

STARTING PITCHING

One of the strengths of this year's team figures to be its weekend rotation of senior right-hander Brett Houseal, junior right-hander Kevin McCarthy and senior right-hander Chris Bielak.

Houseal went 4-6 with a 4.00 ERA last year. After pitching in some tough luck early in the season, he won four consecutive starts between April 21 and May 12, and posted a 1.04 ERA in that span. That stretch included two seven-inning shutouts. Houseal tossed 72 innings last season, and walked just 14. In the CollegeBaseballInsider.com MAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, Houseal was named the pitcher you least want to face.

McCarthy will start on the weekend for the first time this season. Last year, he bounced back from an off-season knee injury to pitch in 15 games out of the bullpen. A hard thrower, he allowed the opposition to hit just .214 with 24 strikeouts in 27.1 innings.

Bielak is in his second season as a weekend starter. He led the team in strikeouts last year with 53 in 62.2 innings pitched, and closed the season with a career-high nine punchouts in a career-high 8.2 innings at Fairfield. He had seven no-decisions last year, as he went 2-2 with a 3.73 ERA.

RELIEF PITCHING

A bulk of the Red Foxes' key innings will fall into the hands of sophomore left-hander Rich Vrana, junior left-hander Jordan Eich and sophomore right-hander Evan Davis.

Vrana pitched in 11 games last year, including four mid-week starts, going 1-2 with a 6.31 ERA. Eich went 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in eight appearances last year, and was unscored upon in his final eight innings of work. Davis was third on the team with 16 appearances last year, going 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in 20.2 innings.

The Red Foxes will only carry 10 pitchers this year, so every member on the staff will have the opportunity to get important outs this season. Included in this mix are junior right-hander Chris Thorsen, sophomore right-hander Chris Napolitano, freshman right-hander Erik Bauer and freshman left-hander Marty Martens. Napolitano also saw time in the infield last year, while Bauer also can play the outfield.

CATCHER

Two holdovers and one newcomer will vie for time behind the plate this year.

Sophomore Mark Brennan made 22 starts last season. He homered in his first collegiate at-bat, and hit .203 with a .337 on-base percentage last year. Classmate Mark Swertfager earned more playing time as last season wore on, and hit .262 with a .410 on-base percentage in 20 starts. He also threw out five of 15 potential base stealers. Junior Zachary Passerelle joins the mix this year as a transfer from Glouchester Community College, and is the only left-handed hitter among the backstops.

INFIELD

The Red Foxes return all four of the starters from last year. Seniors Mike Orefice and Zach Shank will anchor the infield at first base and shortstop, respectively.

Orefice was named Second Team All-MAAC last year after hitting .316 with four home runs and 27 runs batted in. He also only committed one error in 442 chances. Orefice was named the most underrated hitter, and one of the three best pure hitters in the MAAC in the CollegeBaseballInsider.com Preseason Coaches' Poll.

Shank was named a Preseason All-MAAC selection, and won the MAAC's best infield arm and toughest to strike out awards in the CollegeBaseballInsider.com Preseason Coaches' Poll. Last season, he hit .321 and tied for the team high with seven stolen bases while committing just eight errors in 238 chances.

Junior Nick McQuail and sophomore Alec Petrone project as the starters at third base and second base, respectively, although both may flip-flop positions at times this year. A torrid finish to his sophomore year brought McQuail's average up to .292, and he drove in 24 runs. Petrone made 48 starts as a freshman, and hit .237 with 15 RBIs and 20 runs scored.

Freshmen Joey Aiola and Graham McIntire will be competing for playing time. Freshman Matt Belitz, freshman Anthony Hamlin and sophomore Dan Sheldon will also vie to earn at-bats.

OUTFIELD

Marist also brings back all three of its starting outfielders from a year ago.

Graduate student Eric Helmrich figures to slot into left field, with junior Jake Berry in center and junior Pat Welsh in right. Helmrich was a First Team All-MAAC designated hitter two years ago, and hit .265 with one homer and 21 RBIs last year. Berry was named Second Team All-MAAC following a breakout 2012 season which saw him hit a team-leading .323. Welsh hit .284 and finished second on the team in both home runs (three) and runs batted in (26).

Freshman Matt Pagano figures to serve as the fourth outfielder. Sophomores Steve Laurino and Dan Ventricelli, as well as freshman Sean Farrell, will also compete for playing time.


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