PROVIDENCE, RI – For the first time in over 20 years, someone other than John LaRose will exchange lineup cards before the season opener in Myrtle Beach, SC. When the Wildcats commence the 2019 campaign against Benedict College on Wednesday, they will be under the direction of new head coach Kevin Casey.
Casey comes to the Wildcats from Northeastern University where he was an assistant for four years. Casey was part of a rebuilding process that culminated in 2018 with a 36-21 record and the Huskies' first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2003.
Prior to his stint with the Huskies, Casey spent two seasons at his alma mater, Tufts University, coaching alongside his father, John Casey. During his time with the Jumbos, he helped them to a pair of winning seasons, including a NESCAC East regular season title in 2014.
The league coaches think Johnson & Wales will be in the mix again this year as the Wildcats were picked third in the preseason poll with 63 points. Suffolk received eight out of nine first place for 80 points while Saint Joseph's (Me.) was next at 71 points.
Offensively Johnson & Wales should have another good year at the plate. Coach Casey has eight players back who hit .295 or better, led by First-Team All-GNAC selections Colby Greenhalgh (catcher) and Raimiel Rodriguez (shortstop). Greenhalgh went on to earn ABCA All-New England honors after finishing in the GNAC top-10 for batting average, runs, doubles, triples and slugging percentage. Rodriguez was GNAC leader for hits and doubles. Junior Vin Amalfitano earned Second-Team All-GNAC honors after hitting .351 with 29 runs scored.
On the mound, Casey will need some returners to increase their role as well as rely on newcomers. James Smiegocki comes back as the most experienced pitcher after recording a GNAC-best 70 strikeouts with a 4.32 ERA in 66.2 innings. Junior Kyle Cutler and senior Josh Mousseau will see their time on the mound increase. Cutler had a team-low 3.89 ERA and Mousseau produced a JWU-best 11.34 strikeouts per nine innings.
After returning from spring break, the Wildcats will take on Mass Maritime in a March 16 doubleheader. The home slate begins two days later when JWU hosts crosstown rival Rhode Island College. GNAC action begins March 23 at home in a 12 pm twinbill against Rivier.
The non-conference schedule in April will get the Wildcats ready for the GNAC tournament. On April 3rd, JWU hosts Wesleyan, who won the NESCAC West division and advanced to the championship game. April 25 the Wildcats travel to Salve Regina – picked second in the CCC – and the next day take on defending NEWMAC champion Babson.