Unlike a year ago, the Frostburg State University baseball program enters its 41st season with experience and age on its side. Ten seniors and 10 juniors help fill out a roster of 39 players who all have the same winning attitude that comes with a program filled with a winning tradition.
That tradition continued last year as the Bobcats captured their third Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference tournament championship and first crown since 1999.
FSU, which entered the tournament as the fourth seed thanks to a 6-6 regular-season league mark, toppled second-seeded Penn State Altoona once and top-seeded Pitt-Bradford twice to win the title en route to a 26-18 overall record.
As a team, the Bobcats finished the 2004 campaign ranked first in the AMCC in runs (283), hits (408), doubles (87), home runs (22), RBIs (251) and slugging percentage (.438). FSU also finished second in the league with a .308 batting average and 10 triples.
The Bobcats, however, will be challenged to replace AMCC Player of the Year Scott Feller, All-AMCC second-team selections Sean Davis and Ryan Hamerski and honorable mention honoree Kevin Romanik.
The team also lost starting pitchers Brent Lutz, Mike Tiller and Dan Sidorowicz, who combined for 10 wins and four complete games.
Sophomores Mike Gitzen (Sterling, Va./Potomac Falls) and Todd Holmes (New Bloomfield, Pa./West Perry) are the only returning starters to the Frostburg State infield from a season ago.
Gitzen started 25 games at shortstop in 2004 and hit .293 with 22 hits and 10 RBIs. He has greatly improved his swing in the offseason, and the coaching staff is looking for big things this season.
Holmes started 34 games at third base last season but will battle sophomore Arthur Barone (Chestnut Ridge, N.Y./Spring Valley) for the starting job this year. Holmes is a power hitter who drove in 17 RBIs while scoring 24 runs. Barone is a slick fielder with a good glove and the best arm in the infield.
A pair of high school classmates should solidify the rest of the infield. Freshmen Brett Mitchell (Fredericksburg, Va./Stafford) holds down second base while Allan Peake (Fredericksburg, Va./Stafford) gets the nod at first base.
Sophomore Eric Fitzgerald (Hagerstown, Md./Williamsport) will backup at first and will also see time as a designated hitter. He hits with power and has one of the quickest bats on the team.
Junior Ryan Stevens (Dryden, N.Y./Dryden) is a versatile player who could see time at second base and shortstop.
"Even though we are relatively young, the guys have grasped our defensive concept well," said Head Coach Chris McKnight. "They are poised to put up our best fielding percentage numbers in a couple of seasons."
The Bobcat outfield has the most depth of any area on this year’s roster, as four players who saw extensive action last year return.
Senior left fielder Justin Wilt (Knoxville, Md./Brunswick) earned first-team All-AMCC honors in 2004 after hitting .338 with 13 doubles, three homers and 35 RBIs. A "Player to Watch" by Collegiate Baseball Magazine, he looks to bat in the third or fourth spot and is an unselfish player who does whatever it takes to get the job done.
Junior Kyle Mahan (Woodbridge, Va./ Potomac), a second-team All-AMCC pick last year, returns as the starting center fielder after hitting .325 with 22 RBIs and a cool .397 with runners in scoring position a year ago. He tied for the team lead with 17 stolen bases and is the squad’s best defensive outfielder.
Senior Lance Williams (Fairfax, Va./W.T. Woodson) has one of the top arms on the team and will start in right field after hitting .279 with five doubles last year. He is the strongest player on the Bobcat squad and has the ability to turn the game around with one swing of the bat.
Sophomore Chris Jones (Baltimore, Md./Towson) started 23 games a season ago and had 23 hits, scored 23 runs and drove in 13. He will see action in center and left field.
Freshmen Jose Auila (Rockville, Md./Bullis School) and Andrew Speights (Stafford, Va./Brooke Point) will compete for playing time.
"This is our most experienced group, and the returners all saw significant playing time last season," stated McKnight. "We are expecting big offensive numbers to come out of this group."
Senior Chris Baugher (Frederick, Md./Brunswick) returns for his second season as the starting signal-caller behind the plate. Last year, he hit .272 with six doubles, four home runs and 29 RBIs while scoring 16 times.
He is a leader both on and off the field with his biggest assets his tenacity and game knowledge.
Junior Scott Miller (Trumansburg, N.Y./Trumansburg), sophomore Ryan Webb (Westminster, Md./South Carroll) and freshman Joe Daddura (Fredericksburg, Va./Calvert Hall) will all compete for action behind the plate.
"Coach [Shawn] Houser has been working with the catchers, and the coaching staff is pleased with the performance level of all four," said McKnight.
Senior Daryl Keys (Salem, N.Y./Salem) and junior Collin Bednar (Salisbury, Md./Glen Burnie) are among nine returning pitchers from last year’s staff that ranked second in the AMCC in ERA (4.77), shutouts (5), saves (6), strikeouts (270) and opponent batting average (.280).
Keys was 2-3 with a 5.17 ERA in eight starts and will be an initial part of the Bobcats’ success.
Bednar went 2-2 with a 4.71 ERA and two saves and struck out 46 batters in 28.2 innings. He will start the season as the closer and has been listed as a "Player to Watch" by Collegiate Baseball Magazine.
Senior Dan Lindner (Cumberland, Md./Allegany) joins the Bobcats for his final season of eligibility after attending Western Carolina last fall.
Lindner first attended West Virginia University before moving on to Potomac State College, where he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians. The talented 6-6 right-hander will help stabilize the rotation with his winning ways.
Junior Jimmy Hardy (Myersville, Md./Middletown) made nine appearances a year ago with a 1-1 record, a 2.25 ERA and one save. He struck out nine hitters in eight innings and will compete with Bednar for time as the closer.
Senior Rob DeSanto (Rockville, Md./Wheaton) will compete for a starting spot after going 3-1 with 16 strikeouts in 2004, while senior Brad Cannon (Federalsburg, Md./Colonel Richardson) should log more innings after going 1-0 with a 4.30 ERA in seven appearances.
Juniors Larry Hoar (Balitmore, Md./Patterson), Billye Hollister (Waldorf, Md./Thomas Stone) and freshman John Micklus (La Plata, Md./McDonough) will all compete for starts in the rotation.
"This will be the strength of our team," boasted McKnight. "With the addition of Hoar, Hollister and Linder, combined with our returners, we should have one of the top staffs in the conference."
This season, Frostburg State welcomes four new coaches to the program. Jason Trufant rejoins the staff after serving as the head coach at SUNY Cobleskill in 2004. He was a graduate assistant pitching coach for the Bobcats from 2000-03 and helped lead the team to a 77-41-1 overall record and an ECAC Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament appearance.
"Coach Trufant brings an understanding of the game and our system to the dugout," claimed McKnight. "I have a lot of confidence in his coaching ability."
Shawn Houser joins FSU as a volunteer assistant coach and will work with the catchers. He played four years at Division I Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in education.
"Shawn is a valuable addition to our coaching staff," stated McKnight. "He brings a wealth of knowledge to the program."
Former Bobcat standouts Sean Davis and Dan Sidorowicz join McKnight in the dugout as student assistants after stellar playing careers. Davis, a four-time All-AMCC selection, hit .307 with 39 hits and 38 runs as a senior, while Sidorowicz struck out 23 batters on his way to a 2-2 record last spring.
"Sean and Dan have a good understanding of what to expect from me and they know how to communicate with the players," said McKnight.
This season will be arguably Frostburg State’s toughest ever, with three teams ranked in the American Baseball Coaches Association preseason Top 25 poll. Johns Hopkins is ranked second in the nation, Carthage is No. 20 and Mary Washington holds down theNo. 25 spot.
The Bobcats will also face three more top-30 teams as Wisconsin Stevens-Point, Christopher Newport and St. Joseph’s all received top-25 votes.
Frostburg State enters the season ranked No. 7 in the Mid-Atlantic region and will face Juniata who is ranked No. 5 in the region. The Bobcats also square off against Elmhurst, ranked No. 6 in the Central region.
In AMCC action, Frostburg State will get challenged by 2003 conference champion Penn State Behrend as well as Pitt-Bradford, which took home the title the previous two years.
The addition of three teams to the league as well as the fact that the AMCC Tournament champion will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament also increase the pressure.
"The schedule is designed to prepare us for the AMCC regular season while defending our 2004 AMCC Tournament title," said McKnight.
For further information on this release, contact:
Office of Sports Information
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303