March 10, 2014

Baseball Names Captains for 2014; Season Preview

Buffalo, NY-Head coach Leo Dandes has announced that juniors Kyle Taylor (Lancaster, NY/Lancaster) and Matt Wendling (Cheektowaga, NY/Maryvale) have been named as team captains for the 2014 season.

"Aside from being a very good ball player Matt is a great leader and fiery competitor, he is the heartbeat of the team and set a great example for our young guys," said Dandes.

Wendling appeared in all 29 games last season, primarily at shortstop, and batted .239 with eight doubles.  In four pitching appearance, all in relief, and led the team with two saves

Taylor was the recipient of last season's Most Improved Player award after batting.289, an improvement in his batting average 148 points from the previous season. He also recorded his first career pitching with a 3-2 win April 28, 2013 versus SUNY Canton.

"Kyle brings his 'A' game every day he comes to the park," stated Dandes. "He is an example to his teammates about the work that needs to be put forth to keep improving."

With leadership in place, the team continues to prepare for the start of the 2014 season.

In 2013 the Spartans tied the program record for wins in a single-season originally set back in 2000 and took a big step forward last season by being in the hunt for a postseason berth up till the final day of the season.

With success comes a change in expectation

D'Youville skipper Dandes enthusiastically put forth, "I am very confident in this team and excited to see how we stack up in the AMCC.  We have a great mix of veterans and young players and we expect to be in contention for the conference tournament this spring. We gained a great deal of experience last year down the stretch being in the playoff hunt and now  we expect to take the next step this year and the guys have embraced that challenge."

One of the main reasons for expectation is that this year's Spartan team has experience. Six starters and 11 returning players form the base of the roster.

As a freshman in 2013, Eric Simoncelli (Hamburg, NY/Hamburg) was a Second-Team All-Conference selection after leading the team in batting average (.330), extra-base hits (9), and his 24 RBI tied the program's single-season record.

"Eric had a great freshman year and spent his off season committing himself to the game and doing the little things necessary to become a complete player. We are looking for big things from Eric this year," said Dandes.

Also returning are infielders Garratt Kerr (London, ONT/Regina Mundi) and Jeff Spors (Tonawanda, NY/Kenmore East) along with utility player Matt Veronica (Tonawanda, NY/Kenmore East).

Sophomore Kerr batted .200 with four doubles in his rookie season and was starting to get hot before injury ended his season. Third-year player Spors led the in team on-base percentage last year (.440). Senior Veronica is second among returning players in on-base percentage.

Pitcher Dan Fox (Cheektowaga, NY/Maryvale) recorded 32 strikeouts in 29.2 innings pitches last spring.

Dandes says of his top returning hurler, "Dan has done a great job rehabbing after an injury late last year and has looked very strong thus far in practice.  We expect to get important contributions from him this year after he showed great potential as a freshman."

Dandes points to newcomers Brian Grabiec (Cheektowaga, NY/Maryvale) and Mike Calandra (Williamsville, NY/Williamsville South) as players to watch this season.

About Grabiec, Dandes states "Brian is a newcomer who has really taken the reins as our likely number one pitcher. He has a great mound presence and we are looking forward to giving him the ball every week."  On Calandra, "Mike is very mature for a freshman and has shown the ability to be an important part of our club both at the plate and on the mound, I am looking forward to seeing him against AMCC competition."

Early spring weather has delayed the unveiling of the 2014 edition of D'Youville baseball but the team hopes to get underway March 15-16 with a non-conference doubleheader at Bard College.

Click here to see 2014 schedule.