It has been quite some time since the Villanova Wildcats even sniffed the .500 mark. That's in baseball at least. That's right, folks. While Jay Wright's squad has dominated the hardwood and the Fighting Brian Westbrooks have been strong on what your strange uncle calls the gridiron, Villanova's baseball team has been more accustomed to the loss column. The Wildcats haven't had a winning record since 2012, when it went 29-23, and between 2013 and 2014, they collected 30 wins combined.
Last season, the team took a much-needed step forward, finishing up at 22-28 and 7-11 in conference play. In 2016, the goal is clear: break past that pesky .500 barrier and maybe, just maybe, make teams think twice before penciling in wins when the ol' Wildcats come to town.
Players to Know
Todd Czinege, 2B - On a team with more offensive talent than you might expect, Czinege was the team's most consistent hitter, turning in a .327/.372/.425 slash line to go with a team-high 70 hits as well as 15 doubles and 29 RBI. Czinege's offensive prowess was dampened a bit by some miscues in the field, as he led the team in errors (12). More consistent play in the field could make him the type of player that powers Villanova into the upper echelon of the conference.
Eric Lowe, SS - Lowe teams with Czinege to form one of the better offensive up-the-middle tandems in the conference. Your prototypical table-setter, Lowe batted a team-high .328 last season, scored 21 runs and drove in 13. He was also a nightmare on the base paths, stealing 10 bags, while getting on base at a .411 percent clip.
Max Beermann, 1B - If you're looking for pop, Beerman is your guy. Really, he's your only guy. The first basemen swatted six home runs last season, which was just one less than the rest of the team had combined. Beerman hit a solid .280 and slugged a team-high .490, but his OBP leaves a little to be desired (.348).
Mike Sgaramella, SP - The sophomore southpaw (alliteration, yo) will get the ball on most Friday's as the team's ace. Sgaramella went 4-3 with a 3.79 ERA in 13 total appearances last season, including nine starts. He also struck out a team-high 48 batters, but that isn't saying much on a staff that struggles to get swings and misses. Sgaramella needs to keep it up, because the staff behind him isn't exactly the New York Mets, with Hunter Schryver (1-6, 5.46 ERA) and Ryan Doty (2-7, 4.71 ERA) the next guys in line.
What They Do Well
With Czinege, Lowe and Beerman, the Wildcats have a solid top part of the lineup and a pretty sturdy infield. Led by those three, Villanova was a middle of the road team in most areas last season in comparison to the rest of the league, ranking fifth in batting (.267), pitching (4.14 ERA) and fourth in fielding (.968). Plus, the rest of the lineup fleshes out nicely with Adam Goss and Kevin Jewitt manning spots in the heart of the order.
What They Don't
We all know that pitching is the most important part of this little game and Villanova isn't all that hot in that area. The bullpen helped keep the team's ERA down, but too often, Villanova's starters dug the 'Cats into holes they just couldn't climb out of, even if Uma Thurman and her five-point palm exploding heart technique were to bat in the seven-hole. With a rotation that is still a bit of question mark since the top three spots aren't exactly locked in, the fate of the 'Cats will balance on how much improves on the mound at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth Meeting. (I guess you could jot the team's mouthful of a field down as something to improve on as well).
Even though they turned things around to an extent last season, the Wildcats are far from ready to rub shoulders with the St. John's and Creightons of the world. Villanova has the type of lineup and aggressive play style that will keep opposing staffs a little wary, but even another fantastic season from Czinege (who was a unanimous preseason All-Big East selection) and company won't be enough if the pitching staff can't throw some donuts on the scoreboard more than once or twice a game.