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Georgia Tech Baseball: 2020 Atlanta Challenge Preview

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Opening Day is HERE!

Georgia Tech Athletics

Opening Weekend on the Flats has finally arrived! Get yourself ready for this weekend’s slate of games with a three-pack of previews for Tech’s opponents: Saint Peter’s, Cincinnati, and St. John’s.


Here’s a brief overview of how this weekend’s opponents performed in 2019:

2020 Atlanta Challenge Opponents

Dates Team Conference 2019 Final RPI Rank 2019 Overall Record 2019 Record vs GT 2019 Postseason Finish
Dates Team Conference 2019 Final RPI Rank 2019 Overall Record 2019 Record vs GT 2019 Postseason Finish
2/14 vs Saint Peter's MAAC 299 5-46 N/A N/A
2/15 vs Cincinnati AAC 96 30-29 N/A Won AAC Tournament Championship; Lost in Corvallis Regional
2/16 vs St. John's Big East 110 31-23 N/A Eliminated in Big East Tournament
Data provided by D1Baseball.com.

Saint Peter’s

Given that their 5-46 record was their best in three years (and featured more than 2017 and 2018 combined), the Peacocks are undoubtedly not a great baseball team. Not convinced about their lack of baseball prowess? Here’s a snippet on Saint Peter’s from Baseball America’s MAAC preview (emphasis mine):

The 10.58 team ERA will have to drop significantly for the Peacocks to be more competitive. A rotation of Dawy Lebron (22.20, 15 IP), Ian Concevitch and Stephen Carbonara (15.63, 19 IP) will be tasked with doing so.

Not great! The Peacocks have had four different head coaches in eight years (including this season, with Lou Prioetti taking the helm), which is...not particularly conducive to program growth. However, as Joe Healy from Baseball America notes, five wins last year showed potential; Saint Peter’s just has to capitalize on that to build back up to competency in the MAAC.

The hope in Englewood Cliffs is that aforementioned new head coach Lou Prioetti builds off the momentum from 2019. Prioetti has no previous head coaching experience, but competed in the MAAC while at Rider from 2012 to 2015 and brings a wealth of experience as a hitting coach to Saint Peter’s, which should helps the Peacocks improve at the plate.

But there’s a problem in the batter’s box: 3B Peter Feony, Saint Peter’s leading hitter, has graduated and taken his .302/.340/.423 slash line, 57 H, and 17 XBH with him. The two hitters below him, senior OF Hunter Mason and redshirt junior OF Andrew Connor, return to Englewood Cliffs, NJ for 2020, but they’ll have to up their contributions to make up for Feony’s absence — no other Peacock hitters came as close to breaking the .300 mark last season.

Meanwhile, on the mound, the Peacocks were a disaster, allowing 596 runs and putting together an absymal K/BB of 0.72 to pair with their 10.58 team ERA. No pitcher posted an ERA under 4.7 or a WHIP under 1.67, and the Peacock with the most strikeouts only racked up 33. Any hopes Saint Peter’s has of being competitive in the MAAC most likely rest on its ability to find any number of serviceable pitchers on its roster. However, to their credit, the Peacocks worked on this weakness in the off-season, bringing in three transfer pitchers, including Roswell native Ian Concevitch, but it remains to be seen how they contribute this season.

Look for the Peacocks to improve this season. They may not make up much ground out of the MAAC basement, but development at the plate and experience on the mound will help build them momentum as their program rebuild continues.

Players to Watch

All stats from TheBaseballCube.com

P Ian Concevitch (Sr): Georgia native, JuCo transfer

OF Hunter Mason (Sr): 2019 - .300/.379/.453, 57 H, 35 R, 3 HR, 37 RBI, 35.1 XBH%, .397 BABIP

OF Andrew Connor (RS Jr): 2019 - .296/.386/.389, 48 H, 28 R, 2 HR, 18.8 XBH%, .455 BABIP

RP Jean Candelaria (Sr): 4.71 ERA in 21.0 IP (lowest on team), 8 K, 17 BB, 1.67 WHIP

Probables

Saint Peter’s: RHP Ian Concevitch

Georgia Tech: RHP Zack Maxwell

Cincinnati

In 2019, the Bearcats put together arguably their best season in program history, winning an AAC tournament title and appearing in their first NCAA tournament in 45 years. Down the stretch, they played some excellent baseball, capped off by their 22-5 demolition of UConn in the AAC Tournament championship game.

But that fireworks show buries the lede a bit: for most of the regular season, the Cincinnati lineup was not particularly great overall. As a team, the Bearcats slashed .258/.251/.367, and their best hitter, Wyatt Stapp, only posted a slash line of .294/.360/.374. Things don’t get better from there: 2019’s second-best hitter AJ Bumpass is now with the Reds’ rookie-ball club, and the Bearcats will miss his .290/.369./.521 slash-line and eight home runs. Stapp and strike partners Joey Bellini and Joe Wiermer will need to take great strides to become the battery the Bearcats will need to build on their AAC championship in 2020.

There’s not much better news on the mound: Baseball America notes that graduation has raided the Cincinnati pitching staff, taking with it starter David Orndorff, reliever AJ Kullman, and trusty closer Korren Thompson. After the team posted a combined ERA of 5.54 in 2019, the lynchpin of the Bearcats’ 2020 season might be finding consistent pitching — but how far will they really have to look? Baseball America’s Chris Hilburn-Trenkle spotlights reliever Nathan Moore and starter Nathan Kroger (who was injured for much of 2019) as potential high contributors in 2020, and seven underclassmen other than Kroger may be able to eat innings to make up the difference.

But will that be enough to keep the Bearcats consistent? As pointed out by their Regional opponent Oregon State last year, Cincinnati struggled against the creme de la creme of the AAC last year, but got hot at the right time last in the season to win the conference. Can the Bearcats prove that the end of 2019 wasn’t a fluke? It’s possible, but they’ll need to take some big steps forward on both sides of the ball to do so.

Players to Watch

All stats from TheBaseballCube.com

INF Wyatt Stapp (Jr): 2019 - .294/.360/.374, 69 H, 35 R, 35 RBI, 12 XBH, .324 BABIP, 11.74 K%

OF Joe Wiemer (Jr): 2019 - .263/.360/.408, 63 H, 42 R, 28 RBI, 21 XBH, .324 BABIP, 21.22 K%

SP Nathan Kroger (So): 2019 (missed most of season with injury) - 1.86 ERA in 29.0 IP, 27 K, 1.10 WHIP, 9.53 K/9, 1.64 K/BB

Probables

Cincinnati: RHP Nathan Kroger

Georgia Tech: RHP Jonathan Hughes

St. John’s

The Red Storm were...just ok in 2019: an RPI of 110 is nothing to write home about, but making the Big East tournament for the 16th year in a row and posting the program’s 29th winning season out of the last 30 are achievements in and of themselves. With head coach Ed Blankmeyer at the helm for the past 25 seasons, St. John’s was a model of consistency, but with Blankmeyer having retired at the end of last season and assistant Mike Hampton taking over in Brooklyn (although oddly enough, the university’s address is in Jamaica, NY...), the theme for the 2020 Red Storm is going to be maintaining that consistency.

Unfortunately, the attrition St. John’s suffers on the mound is not going to help things. The Red Storm pitching staff was very effective in 2019, posting a team ERA of 3.89, but it now loses four major contributors from that group: SP Joe Lasorsa (1.66 ERA in 86.2 IP), SP Jeff Belge (73 Ks in 61.2 IP), RP Gavin Hollowell (11.27 K/9 in 38.1 IP), and RP Turner French (2.70 ERA in 26.2 IP). To make matters worse, underclassmen were few and far between on last year’s staff — only six pitchers from 2019 were freshmen or sophomores, so it’s likely that these holes in the bullpen and rotation will be filled by younger, less experienced players. If that’s the case, the Red Storm’s performance on the mound could be...stormy.

This regression in pitching would be more palatable if St. John’s had little trouble lighting up the scoreboard, but for the most part, the Red Storm’s lineup was not particularly impressive in 2019. However, junior OF Mike Antico regularly provided the fireworks for St. John’s, slashing an incredible .386/.500/.598 to go with 6 HR, 71 H, 29 RBI, and a .489 BABIP and performing head and shoulders above any other Red Storm hitter. The 2020 Preseason Big East Player of the Year and #41 hitter in the nation is part of a Red Storm lineup that returns 75% of its hit production from 2019, but in many ways, it feels like Antico makes up most of that mark himself. The pickings get really slim after Antico — redshirt-junior INF Ryan Markey was the only St. John’s player even close to batting .300. The Red Storm have to prioritize helping Antico out at the plate — he himself will (probably) be fine, but St. John’s will struggle without other hit machines in the lineup. Someone has to step up to be Antico’s strike partner (or maybe partners, for his sake), or it could be rough sailing for St. John’s in 2020.

Players to Watch

All stats from TheBaseballCube.com

OF Mike Antico (Sr): 2019 - .386/.500/.598, 6 HR, 71 H, 29 RBI, .489 BABIP, 32.4 XBH%

LHP Nick Mondak (Sr): 2019 - 3.86 ERA in 35.0 IP, 34 K, 16 BB, 2.13 K/BB, 8.74 K/9

INF Ryan Markey (Rs-Sr): 2019 - .291/.365/.407, 50 H, 36 RBI, 1 HR, .318 BABIP, 32.0 XBH%

Probables

St. John’s: RHP Ian Murphy

Georgia Tech: RHP Cort Roedig


Catch up on all of our preview coverage of the 2020 baseball season here.