2004 Baseball Outlook
Feb. 24, 2004
With the return of the majority of its starting line-up, the Brown University baseball team, which had five All-Ivy players last year, should be a serious contender for the Ivy League Title in 2004. The Bears will be led by First Team All-Ivy leftfielder Matt Kutler '04 (Omaha, ME) along with Second Team All-Ivy second baseman Bobby Deeb '04 (West St. Paul, MN) and rightfielder James Lowe '05 (Asheboro, NC). The three will captain the team this season. Pitcher James Cramphin '06 (Simsbury, CT), a Second Team All-Ivy selection in 2003, will head-up the starting rotation. The Bears will also welcome seven newcomers to their roster this season.
"This is the most talented group that I've coached in my eight years at Brown. If we can stay healthy and our players compete at the level we know they are capable of, we have a chance to be very good," says Head Coach Marek Drabinski. "With the return of 10 players and five pitchers, I am looking for very big things from this team."
Brown finished its injury plagued 2003 season with an 8-12 record in the highly competitive Ivy League, finishing third in the league's Red Rolfe Division. The Bears were 18-28-1 overall with nine losses coming by just one run. Drabinski's team led the Ivy League in stolen bases and finished second in hits, doubles, triples and total bases.
"I think we have a chance to be at the top of the league, offensively and defensively," says Drabinski of his outfield. Last year's starters, Kutler, Lowe and junior Bobby Wiginton (Fresno, CA) all return to the field this season.
Kutler enters his senior year at Brown on the brink of breaking several school records, including hits in a career. The leftfielder currently has 187 hits for his career, just 21 shy of the all-time Brown record of 208. In addition to hits, Kutler is just two RBI away from breaking the school record for RBI in a career with 123 entering this season. He is also fourth all-time at Brown in doubles (43), third in extra base hits with 66 and his .537 slugging percentage ranks eighth all-time. His .351 career batting average is good for eighth all-time as well.
Last season, the 6'1" Kutler led the Ivy League with 66 hits and 44 RBI, starting all 47 games. His .369 average was first for Brown and fifth in the league as he hit safely in 38 games, including 15 straight. "He is one of the top three hitters that I've coached here at Brown and possibly in my 11 years of coaching. He hits the ball well to all fields, doesn't strikeout and is a great RBI producer," says Drabinski of the three-time All-Ivy selection.
Lowe will make a healthy return to the outfield this season after missing half of the 2003 campaign. The 6'0" Lowe started off the year batting .356 through 13 games before being sidelined with an injury for the next 24 games. Lowe returned to the line-up in late April and picked up where he left off, registering eight hits and eight RBI in the final 10 games to finish the year with a .338 average, third on the team. Used in a number of positions, Lowe recorded no errors, and will most likely be a mainstay in centerfield this year. He could also see time at first base.
"James is the toughest, hard-nosed kid I've coached at Brown. He will literally run through a wall for you, " says Drabinski. "He loves the pressure situations and he's a tremendous run producer. He plays the game the way it should be played."
Bobby Wiginton '05, Danny Hughes '06, and newcomer Adjatay Nyadjroh '07 will vie for the third outfielder position. Wiginton played in 43 games, starting 33 last season with ten doubles and no errors. Hughes earned 11 starts as a freshman, recording eight hits. Nyadjroh, who attended Phillips Academy in Somervillle, MA, is also a defensive back on the Brown football team.
Brown's infield welcomes back a wealth of experience as the core of the group returns. Team veterans Deeb , and Jeff Nichols '05 (Medford, NJ) along with Paul Christian '06 (Chapel Hill, NC) and newcomers Mike Mahan '07 (Marietta, GA) and Devin Thomas '07 (Gainesville, FL) will anchor the infield while a list of valuable back-ups will compliment the starting unit. "Our defense hurt us last year but this year it should be the team's biggest strength with all the experience we have coming back," says Drabinski.
Deeb will return to his post at second base in his final year with the Bears. Like Kutler, Deeb also ranks in the top ten of several categories in the Brown record book. He is just eight runs shy of breaking the all-time runs scored record, coming into the season with 133. Deeb also ranks right behind Kutler in hits with 182, sixth all-time. His 35 doubles and nine triples are seventh and third all-time respectively.
Speed is one of Deeb's biggest strengths as he ranks fifth in stolen bases with 54 in his career. "He is one of the fastest players to ever play at Brown next to Ricky Lynn '02," says Drabinski. The 5-10 Deeb ranked third in the league in hits with 63 while his 44 runs were tops in the Ivies last season. His 22 steals also led the league. Deeb finished the year with a .360 average, second on the team behind Kutler, having played and started in all 47 contests.
"In addition to his speed he also has great quickness and great hands at the plate. He hits the ball well to all fields and can hit for power. He is also one of the top three hitters I've ever coached" adds Drabinski. "He's a tough, scrappy out."
Nichols and Christian will split time at the shortstop and third base positions. Nichols led the league in doubles with 20 last season as he was one of four Brown players to bat over .300 with a .329 mark. His 34 runs and 22 RBI were second on the team as well. Christian finished the year with a .292 average, playing in 43 games, starting 39 of them. His 20 RBI were tied for third on the team while his .540 slugging percentage was second.
Lowe, Mahan and Thomas may split time at first. Mahan, who attended George Walton High School in Marietta, GA, was a three-year letterwinner at first. Thomas is a native of Gainesville, FL where he attended Eastside High School, starting every game of his four-year career.
Chris Contrino '05 (Marlboro, NJ), who can play all four positions in the infield, returns to the diamond this season after picking up significant playing time in 2003. Brian Tews '07 (Park Ridge, IL), another versatile player for the Bears, enters his first year of play. Tews batted .519 while leading Loyola Academy in all offensive categories.
The catching position will be Brown's biggest question mark this season with three players potentially filling the spot. "We need one or two of those guys to step up and clearly take over that position," says Drabinski. "If they can do that, it will be a huge plus for this team. They have the ability but they don't have the experience." Chris Jernigan '05 (Miami, FL), Robert Dykehouse '07 (Gainesville, FL) and Thomas, are all candidates for the catching duties. Jernigan saw action in 21 games last season, starting 13 and in 38 plate appearances, the junior drove in seven runs. Dykehouse hails from Leesburg, FL where he was a First Team All-Area selection his senior year.
The pitching staff should be another key highlight for the Bears this season despite the loss of Dan Spring to graduation and Joel DeMaria, who will miss the entire season due to an injury. The main strength of the pitching squad will be depth as Drabinski has a list of talented arms he can turn to. "We have depth, quality depth. If our pitchers learn how to pitch and not just throw, our potential is there."
Cramphin, Chris Davidson '05 (Nova Scotia, Canada), Sean McNamara '06 (Worcester, MA), Jason Priede '04 (Tampa, FL), Sam Jennings '04 (New Ashford, MA) and Clint Dykehouse '07 (Gainesville, FL) are all potentials for Brown's starting four.
Davidson, who was selected as the Pre-Season Ivy League Pitcher of the Year last season, could be the ace of the staff along with Cramphin. Cramphin had an excellent season for the Bears a year ago, posting a 4-0 league record with a 2.27 ERA and a team-high 36 strikeouts. McNamara saw ample time as a reliever during his rookie campaign and in 40.1 innings of work, struck out 46 to tie for the team lead in overall strikeouts.
Jennings and Priede bring adequate experience to the mound as they enter their final year at Brown. Priede led the team in strikeouts with McNamara, recording 46 K's in 14 appearances. Dykehouse enters his first year with the Bears along with his brother Robert. "Clint has a tremendous amount of potential," says Drabinski.
Brian Hagerty '06 (Nashua, NH) and Ethan Burton '06 (Raleigh, NC) will be the Bears two southpaws this season as both will be used out of the bullpen. "The two will be very tough against lefties," says Drabinski. Paul Costa '07 (East Providence, RI) and Ethan Silverstein '07 (Woodbridge, CT) will also be available out of the bullpen in their rookie campaigns. Tews will see time as a relief pitcher when not in the infield as well.
"Losing Dan Spring as a closer is a tough loss because he was probably the best closer we've had at Brown so it is a big hole to fill," says Drabinski. "I think we have enough good arms though that we'll be able to find someone who can fill that spot admirably. I think Harris Frankel can do the job for us." Frankel '04 (Marietta, GA), a submarine pitcher, had a successful junior campaign last season as he finished the year with a 3.12 ERA, second on the team. "He was a DH before he stepped into a set-up pitching role for us last season," adds Drabinski. "He's very durable and he can throw everyday."