April 7, 2011
PHILADELPHIA - Fresh off its walk-off win over Temple on Wednesday night, the Saint Joseph's baseball team returns to Atlantic 10 play as the Hawks start a three-game set with the Charlotte 49ers on Friday afternoon at Campbell's Field.
The Hawks have bounced back from a rough stretch just in time for the start of conference play, winning four of their last eight, including a 3-3 mark in the A-10. Last weekend, the Hawks won the middle of a three-game series at George Washington, taking Saturday's contest by a 9-5 score. In that game, Chad Simendinger notched his second win of the year, allowing three runs on two hits in five innings. Kevin Taylor hit the first grand slam of his collegiate career in a six-run sixth inning that broke the game open before Ryan Kemp slammed the door with a two-inning save. Kemp entered with the bases loaded, nobody out, and a four-run lead in the eighth inning and proceeded to strike out the next three batters in succession to preserve the margin. He then fanned two more in the ninth to lock down the save.
First baseman Mike Muha was the hero in a 4-3 victory against Temple on Wednesday night, going 2-for-4, with one of those hits being the walk-off single that drove in the winning run for the Hawks. Daniel Thorpe also earned the first win of his career, as he threw a scoreless ninth inning. Thorpe allowed one hit, but picked off the pinch runner to neutralize the threat.
This will be Charlotte's first conference road trip of the 2011 season as the 49ers enter this series with a 23-6 overall record and sitting at 5-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The 49ers have won four straight - as well as 11 of their last 12 - as they topped sixth-ranked North Carolina, 4-3, at home on Tuesday, March 29, before sweeping conference rival Xavier last weekend.
On Tuesday night, the 49ers took on the Charlotte Knights, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, in an exhibition game. The Knights were held to just five hits, but made them count as the professional squad emerged with a 5-3 win.
The 49ers are nationally ranked this week, finding a spot at number 28 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Poll. Charlotte's team earned run average through 29 games sits at 1.90, good for second in all of Division I, and their win total ties them for fifth in the nation. The 49ers' four-run per game scoring margin is also tied for seventh nationally.
Charlotte as a team is hitting at a .298 overall clip this season, with a .260 mark in conference play. The 49ers also sport a sparkling 1.00 ERA in Atlantic 10 contests. The Charlotte pitching staff has been outstanding, posting a 2.59-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the year.
Pacing the 49er offense is Ross Steedley, whose .342 average makes him the only Charlotte regular over .300. Cory Tilton leads the squad with 31 runs batted in while Justin Seager and Corey Shaylor are tied for the team lead with a pair of home runs apiece.
On the bump, Tyler Barnette is 3-0 with a 0.91 earned run average in seven starts. Corey Roberts and Andrew Smith complete a dominant starting rotation that has a combined 14-1 record with a 1.20 ERA and 108 strikeouts against just 32 walks.
Roberts has tossed three complete games on the season, but if the 49ers need someone to lock down the ninth, it will likely be Bryan Hamilton. Hamilton is 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA and a team-high four saves on the year.
For Saint Joseph's, Greg Kumpel leads the team in many categories, posting a .424 batting average, a .565 slugging percentage and a .491 on-base percentage. He also leads the team with 39 hits, 18 RBIs, and 10 doubles, while he is also tied for first on the squad with 16 runs scored.
Kumpel is in third place in the Atlantic 10 in overall batting average, and his .440 mark against conference teams finds him among the league leaders as well.
Taylor leads the team in roundtrippers with two on the year; he is also second on the club in RBI with 17. Brett Tiagwad is the Hawks' top threat to steal, converting on 12 of 15 attempts thus far. Joe Cook has drawn 20 free passes on the year, on pace to find himself among the school's all-time single-season leaders in walks by the end of the season.
This season, Saint Joseph's has had solid starting pitching from its weekend rotation, with none better than Kyle Mullen. Mullen has already tossed a pair of complete game shutouts and won both an Atlantic 10 and a Philadelphia Big 5 Baseball Pitcher of the Week Award en route to a 3-3 record and a 2.45 earned run average in seven starts. Mullen is averaging nearly seven innings per start and has a 2.8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Rounding out the weekend rotation are Simendinger and A.J. Holland. Simendinger is now 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in conference play, while Holland leads the Hawk staff in strikeouts.
In the bullpen, the Hawks have relied on Kemp and Brett Koliani at the backend. The pair has combined for all five saves that SJU has recorded on the year. In front of those two, Thorpe has been an absolute horse for head coach Fritz Hamburg, appearing in 12 games with a 1-0 record and a 3.38 ERA. Dominic Favazza has also made double-digit appearances, seeing the ball in 10 games, all in relief, with a 2-1 record and a 3.60 ERA.
On the whole, Hawk pitchers have combined for a 3.29 earned run average in conference play, good for fifth-best in the league.
First pitch in Friday's series opener is set for 3:00 p.m. at Campbell's Field. If you can't make it to the ballpark, live stats and streaming audio will be available on SJUHawks.com.
Friday: RHP Kyle Mullen (3-3, 2.45 ERA) vs. RHP Andrew Smith (5-1, 1.65 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Chad Simendinger (2-2, 3.90 ERA) vs. RHP Corey Roberts (6-0, 1.04 ERA)
Sunday: RHP A.J. Holland (1-4, 4.98 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Barnette (3-0, 0.91 ERA)