PROVIDENCE, RI – The 2019 GNAC Championship was so close the Johnson & Wales University baseball team could taste it. One out from its first trip to the NCAA Championships, the Wildcats will try to earn that elusive title when they open the 2020 season on Tuesday.
JWU faces St. Elizabeth's' at 4:30 p.m. in Myrtle Beach, SC, as part of its spring break trip.
Based on the preseason coaches' poll, the Wildcats should be in the mix for the conference championships as they were picked third with 67 points. Suffolk was the top choice at 76 points, followed by Saint Josephs at 71 points.
Going into his second year, head coach Kevin Casey may have the most experienced team in the country with 15 seniors. Once again, the Wildcats should have one of the best offensive lineups in the country.
Last season the Wildcats led the GNAC and were amongst the NCAA leaders with a .311 batting average and .421 on-base percentage. Johnson & Wales returns nine players who hit .300 or better, topped by senior Adam Diehl with a .398 average to earn Third-Team All-New England honors.
Senior catcher Colby Greenhalgh has the chance to be the first student-athlete in program history to earn a trio of All-Region honors. Last season he was a First-Team All-ABCA selection after leading the GNAC in runs while finishing second in slugging percentage, third for on-base percentage and fifth for batting average. His 1.31 runs per game was 18th in the NCAA.
Next year it will be hard to image the left side of the JWU infield without senior Joe Maracic. A three-year starter, he earned Second-Team All-GNAC honors last year with a .358 batting average and .449 slugging percentage. He's in the league's top 10 for hits, RBIs and walks.
Patrolling center field once again will be senior Armani Henderson. A Third-Team All-GNAC selection, he was among the league leaders in doubles, triples and RBIs.
The loss of James Smiegocki and Josh Mousseau at the top of the rotation has created an opportunity on the pitching staff. Senior Tom Doran posted a 3-2 record with 2.97 ERA in nine appearances last season. Sophomore Dane DellaValle was second on the team last year with 50.1 innings pitched while recording a 4-1 record.
Coach Casey has put together one of the toughest non-conference slates in recent history. After taking on St. Elizabeth in the season-opener, the Wildcats face Christopher Newport, who is annually ranked in the top 25. JWU will also take on the Captains at their home tournament on March 14. JWU travels to Trinity – currently ranked #2 in the NCWBA poll on March 31 - and wraps up the non-conference schedule on April 24 versus #6 Babson.
The conference season begins March 21 versus Colby-Sawyer. JWU travels to Saint Joseph's on April 18 then goes to Suffolk on April 25.