March 2, 2006
With the snowy condition in Providence, the Brown baseball team is heading south this weekend to begin the 2006 season at #6 Florida State. The Bears will play a three-game series with the Seminoles, who are currently 11-1 on the season. Brown will once again be a strong contender for the Ivy League Title this spring as Head Coach Marek Drabinski returns a strong mixture of talent.
Brown recorded its best Ivy record in school history in 2005, going 14-6 for a second place finish in the exceedingly competitive Red Rolfe Division. Despite losing All-American Matt Kutler '05, who broke the all-time Ivy League career hits record, the Bears welcome back two-time First Team All-Ivy power-hitter Paul Christian '06 along with 2005 MLB Draftee Eric Larson '06. In all, Brown returns a total of 20 letterwinners, including the majority of the pitching staff. First baseman Danny Hughes '06 and starting pitcher Shaun McNamara '06 will lead the Bears as captains this season.
"Even though we lost seven seniors from last year's squad, I believe we have the potential to be as good, if not better this year," says Drabinski. "The senior class this season will need to provide the same leadership we got from last year's senior class and Shaun and Danny have already made strides in that direction."
With the departure of Jeff Nichols '05 and Chris Contrino '05, the infield will have a new look this season as newcomers Dan Shapiro '09, Rob Papenhouse '09 and Matthew Nuzzo '09 will fill the third base and short stop positions. Bryan Tews '07 will be stationed at second base when not on the mound while Hughes will anchor the first base position once again.
Tews started 19 games in the infield last season, posting a .965 fielding percentage. His .322 batting average ranked fourth on the team as he earned Second Team All-Ivy honors as a utility player.
Hughes started 40 games at first base in 2005, recording a team-high 304 putouts and 30 assists for a .979 fielding percentage. His 47 hits, 36 RBI and 12 doubles were third on the team. Hughes has batted over .300 for the last two seasons, finishing among the Ivy League's leaders in runs batted in. Jeff Dietz '08 and newcomer Brad Rifkin '09 could also see time at first.
Shapiro will likely be a fixture at shortstop for the next four seasons as he comes to Brown from Ridge High School where he was a three-time First Team All-Conference standout.
Papenhouse and Nuzzo will contend for the starting third base position. Papenhouse is a two-time All-League selection out of Bellarmine College Prep while Nuzzo wrapped up his first season on the Brown Football team in the fall. Nuzzo, along with J.J. Eno '08 and Brian Kelaher '08, could also see time at second base.
Brown will have one of the strongest outfields in the Ivy League this season with the return of Christian to right field and Larson to centerfield. While neither saw much time in the outfield last year, the two saw ample time during their sophomore seasons.
"Eric (Larson) is by far the most skilled, five-tool player I have ever coached," says Drabinski. "He has tremendous power, major league bat speed, great size, above average running speed and a great arm." Larson's .350 average at the plate ranked third on the team and tenth in the Ivy League last season, despite playing through a nagging injury towards the end of the year.
"Like Eric, Paul has incredible power and extensive offensive abilities," adds Drabinski. Entering his final campaign, Christian has already compiled 24 homeruns, eight off the Brown school record. A two-time First Team All-Ivy selection, he led the Ivy League in runs scored with 43 alongside teammate Matt Kutler '05. His .355 average at the plate ranked second for the Bears and sixth in the league while his 55 hits were also second on the team and fourth in the Ivies. In addition, Christian drove in 38 runs, which were second for Brown and third in the league. "
Left field will be up for grabs, as several players will battle for the position. Robert Dykehouse '07, Ryan Murphy '08 and Adjatay Nyadjroh '07 will all be viable candidates. Hughes and Steve Daniels '09 could also see action out in left field as well. "Whoever hits the best and is the most consistent, will be the one who sees the most time," says Drabinski.
Devin Thomas '07, who earned Second Team All-Ivy honors as a freshman and an Honorable Mention last year as a sophomore, will solidify his post behind the plate. "In my opinion, Devin is the best catcher in the league. He has developed so far since his freshman season," says Drabinski. Thomas started 40 games last season, including 37 at the catcher's position. Thomas hit .321 in Ivy League play while finishing third on the team with 36 total RBI. Backing up Thomas, will be Dykehouse, who saw considerable time behind the plate as a freshman in 2004.
The Bears' pitching staff will be comprised of a strong group of veterans as it lost just two notable contributors from last year's team. McNamara, Tews and Dietz, who started a combined 23 games in 2005, will lead the group.
McNamara closed out the year with a 3-1 record as he posted the second-best ERA among Brown's starting pitchers with a 4.96 average. The Bears' most experienced hurler, he has appeared in 34 games throughout his career.
Tews started a team-high ten games with a league-high 60 innings pitched last season. His 46 strikeouts led Brown while his 5.55 ERA ranked third among the Bears' starters. In his 60 innings of work, he walked just 15 batters.
Dietz had a tremendous rookie season, earning Second Team All-Ivy honors after finishing the year with a 4-0 record. All four victories came in Ivy League play, including two where he allowed just one earned run in each game.
Alex Silverman '08, Ethan Silverstein '07 and Brian Hagerty '06 will challenge for the fourth starting conference spot. Silverman posted a 2-1 record in eight games last season while Silverstein appeared in 14 games, posting a 3-2 record. Hagerty pitched extremely well in the fall as one of only two lefties on the team.
The closing duties will fall to Robert Hallberg '08, who appeared in 12 games as a rookie in 2005. He finished fourth on the team with a 5.17 ERA, pitching eight games of scoreless relief and four games of hitless relief. Hallberg went 2-0 on the year along with one save.
Ethan Burton '06, the Bears' other lefty, will headline Brown's bullpen. In 11.2 innings of relief last season, he walked just one batter, finishing second of the team with a 4.63 ERA. Paul Costa '07 and Peter Moskal '08 along with newcomers Joe Rued '09 and Anthony Vita '07, will round out the bullpen.