PREVIEW: 2008 Juniata Baseball
(Posted March 14, 2008)
The Juniata College baseball embarks on its 2008 campaign with no shortage of talent. The Eagles, who finished 17-17-1 a year ago, return seven starters and four key members of the pitching staff from last season's squad, including one First team All-Commonwealth Conference selection.
Under first-year head coach Tom Gibboney, the Eagles will be one of the contenders for the Landmark Conference title. For Juniata to succeed in winning the conference crown the Eagles will have to find a season-long consistency in their hitting and pitching that eluded them last season.
A look at the 2008 Eagles by position:
Bringing in four freshmen, half of Juniata's 2008 pitching staff is new to the team. Jay Enoch, a senior and third team All-Region selection during the 2007 season, will continue to be a league starter for the Eagles. Fellow senior, Andrew Snyder, will join Enoch on the mound as a conference starter. Due to injury, Juniata will miss Paul Dunklebarger, who will be medically redshirting this season, but will return for a fifth year in 2009 to finish his baseball career. Last of the starters for the entrance into the Landmark Conference will be sophomore Tyler Clifford.
Senior Brian Markovich is the lone relief pitcher returning to the Juniata pitching staff this season. Joining him will be newcomers who add variety of different pitches to close the games. Sophomore Anthony Martini and freshmen Marty Hauck, Chad Kulik, and John Love are new additions to the Eagle bullpen. Along with those select few, junior Adam Spadafora and freshman John Martinez could see time on the mound this season.
The Eagles are fortunate to have a veteran group of starters returning to the dirt this season. The heart of Juniata's infield begins with senior Dan Kauffman, first baseman and a Middle Atlantic Commonwealth first team All-Conference selection last season. Kevin Small, a junior who played outfield in all 35 games in 2007, has been brought to the Eagle infield this season as the starting second baseman. Returning to Juniata's shortstop will be sophomore Andrew Kriss, while senior Steve Wilk will be the primary choice at third base.
Behind the plate this season is senior Shawn McDonald and sophomore Greg Hoffman who will each be seeing time as the starting role for Juniata. Sophomore Andrew Orr is another Juniata catcher who could possibly see time during the 2008 season.
Juniata's experienced starting defensive setup is bolstered by several talented up-and-coming reserves. Possibly seeing time at first base are Martinez and Hoffman, who are available to back up Kauffman. Sophomore Kyle Saxman is used primarily as a utility player for the Eagles and can see time at shortstop and second and third bases. As well as Saxman, freshmen Andrew Hirsch and Ben Sealy can be used in several positions for the Eagle defense.
Juniata's outfield this season is a combination of veterans and newcomers. McDonald and junior Dane Ott will be splitting time this season in left field, while sophomore Matt Sullivan and Martinez will be sharing center field. Spadafora will be Juniata's prime player in right field. Sophomore Orr and freshmen Michael McGonigal and Kevin Campbell are other Juniata reserves who could see time as support to the Eagle outfield.
Juniata's biggest challenge in 2008 may be learning about its new conference rivals in the Landmark Conference. While Juniata will see some familiar faces on the Landmark slate in Susquehanna and Moravian - former MAC rivals who joined the Eagles in the new league - Juniata will see several new rivals in Catholic University, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Drew University, and the University of Scranton. Juniata's non-conference slate will include a host of long-standing rivals from around Pennsylvania, including a doubleheader on April 14 at Altoona's Blair County Ballpark - home of the Pittsburgh Pirates' AA affiliate Altoona Curve - against Penn State Altoona. The season will culminate on May 2-4 at the Landmark Conference Baseball Tournament.
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