Buffalo, NY – Restocked and reloaded with a talented team, the 2017 D'Youville baseball team has their collective site set on becoming a team in the AMCC that other teams have to pay attention to.
"I am excited about this season; we have an interesting mix of returners and newcomers that have meshed well and have a chance to be really good," said head coach Leo Dandes. "We are going to use our speed and athleticism to put pressure on our opponents and the team has really bought into playing the way we need to be successful."
A strong junior class will be the backbone of the team; led by captain Travis Macrides (Manlius, NY/Fayetteville-Manlius). Macrides was a complete hitter last season, leading the team in stolen bases (7) and doubles (7), was second in batting average (.277), RBI (11), runs (17) and was tied for second in hits (20).
Dandes has seen his starting shortstop develop over his first three seasons with the team and is anticipating him taking the next step this season.
"Travis Macrides is going into his third year as our starting shortstop," said Dandes. "He has had an excellent summer experience and I am looking forward to him realizing his full potential and taking his place among the better players in our conference"
The team has a group of juniors that will lead the team and be expected to shoulder the load of the team. First baseman Louis Reynolds (Batavia, NY/Notre Dame) was reliable in the field in 2016 and led the team in RBI in 2015. He was second on the team in walks with 10 last season and added 10 runs scored and will be a co-captain with Macrides this season.
New to the team this spring is junior transfer Justin Brackna (Cheektowaga, NY/Maryvale), who coach Dandes expects a lot of in his first season with the team.
"Justin Brackna is a junior college transfer that is going to be a middle of the order hitter and center fielder for us this year," said Dandes. "Adding him to our lineup has made us stronger defensively and added a truly elite athlete to the middle of our defense."
On the mound, the team graduated one of the best pitchers in program history last season and will look to junior pitchers Kevin Kabacinski (Buffalo, NY/St. Joe's) and Steve Vik (Hopkins, SC/Lower Richland) to replace that production. Sophomore Will Pack (Pendleton, NY/Starpoint) has become a stronger pitcher in the offseason and has the tools to become a reliable arm for the Spartans.
"We have several pitchers looking to take over the conference starting spots," said Dandes. "Kevin Kabacinski showed flashed last year of being really good and has been very committed to being a successful pitcher in 2017. Will Pack and Steve Vik are also returning veterans with good experience we'll be leaning on especially as our young arms get acclimated to college baseball."
Kabacinski, Vik and Pack finished two, four and five on the team in strikeouts in 2016, while Vikand Kabacinski tied for the team lead in wins. The three were also ranked in the top five for innings pitched last season.
Utility player Dylan Haak (Depew, NY/Depew) had a very strong freshman season and has the ability to play all over the field. He finished first in hits (30) and runs (20), tied for first in triples (2), was second in stolen bases (6), third in batting average (.273) and fourth in doubles (5). Adding to his versatility, Haak made five appearances as a pitcher, starting one game. He pitched 9.2 innings, striking out six batters. He spent a majority of the season in center field, but also saw time at shortstop. Dandes knows that Dylan will again be a big part of the team in 2017.
"Dylan Haak had a very strong freshman year in 2016 and he has had a great pre-season and has done everything we need him to do to be a successful two way player," said Dandes.
The team's outfield has plenty of options and versatility this season. Lone senior Michael LiPani (Irondequoit, NY/Irondequoit) served as an outfielder and catcher last season, but looks for more playing time in right field in 2017. Former second baseman Josh Hammer (Amherst, NY/Sweet Home) shifts to the outfield this season, but his bat will still be a big part of the team as the sophomore tied for fourth in RBI (9) in 2016. Khaled Numan-Ali (Cheektowaga, NY/Cheektowaga) came on throughout the season to turn in a solid freshman campaign with the fourth highest batting average (.262) on the Spartans.
Behind the plate, Matt Critelli (Camden, NY/Camden) was the starting backstop in 2016 and will look to help a young staff this season. On offense, he was tied for the team lead in home runs (1) and was tied for fourth in RBI (9). Joining the Spartans in the infield is junior college transfer Devon Kelly (Rochester, NY/Olympia), bringing speed and a solid bat to contribute to the lineup. Pitcher Sean Corp (Clay, NY/Cicero-North Syracuse) has steadily improved over his career with an opportunity for a bigger role this year.
D'Youville welcomes in a pair of young arms that can help build a solid rotation for the Spartans and help make the team more complete. Freshmen Tyler Siegmann (Wheatfield, NY/Niagara-Wheatfield) and Justin Uhteg (Arcade, NY/Pioneer) have chances to earn places in the rotation and be reliable arms for coach Dandes.
"Tyler Siegmann and Justin Uhteg are two freshmen pitchers we are excited about," said Dandes. "Each approaches the mound in a different manner, but each has good 'pitchability' and we think they will be successful arms for us for years to come."
Several other freshmen will hope to make immediate impacts this season in the field and at the plate. Brendan Burke (Collegeville, PA/Spring-Ford) and Mitchell Mason (Eden, NY/Eden) offer different abilities and will be utilized at third base. Patrick Mulligan (Buffalo, NY/Hutch Tech) is another catching option for D'Youville, adding much needed depth. Matt Guenther (Cheektowaga, NY/Maryvale) and Braden Bova (Lancaster, NY/Saint Mary's) round out the roster and give solid options for the Spartans.
The Spartans have a chance to make noise in the AMCC this season with a solid mix of veterans and youth. Their balance throughout the lineup in the field, accompanied with their potential on the mound, gives D'Youville a chance in every game they play.
Former players Eric Simoncelli and Dan Fox join the team as assistant coaches after their final seasons as Spartans last year. Each hold several school records and will offer leadership and insight to their former teammates.
The first game for the Spartans comes on Sunday, March 5 as they travel to Wells. Game one begins at 12pm with game two scheduled for 2pm.