PHILADELPHIA - Transition may be the word that best describes the prospects for the Saint Joseph's University baseball team in 2002. With the departure of 14 letterwinners, including 11 seniors which formed the nucleus of the most prolific offense in school history, the Hawks will revamp the lineup with a new emphasis on pitching and defense. "We obviously graduated a lot of great players," says Hawk head coach Jim Ertel. "But the kids we have this year are chomping at the bit to show what they have. We are going to be a different type of team then we've been the last couple of years, but there is no doubt in my mind we are going surprise some people." Offering the leadership for an inexperienced team that includes 14 newcomers will be seniors Justin Godusky and Pace Bradshaw and junior Scott Fremont. A third team Academic All-American as a sophomore, Godusky has been a mainstay in the team's lineup since his freshman year. A .336 lifetime hitter, Godusky has made 122 consecutive starts over the past three years. With a keen eye for the strike zone, the Hawks' leftfielder led the team in walks and on base percentage as a junior. He also managed to hit .320 and score 37 runs. Senior Pace Bradshaw Bradshaw, a fifth-year senior, stabilizes the Hawk infield. Having upped his offensive output each of the last two seasons, he will again be relied upon to provide punch in the clutch. Bradshaw batted a career-high .338 as a junior, including .431 with runners in scoring position. Fremont, who redshirted the 2001 campaign after having surgery on his shoulder, hopes to return to his sophomore year form. That season he emerged as the team's ace, topping the squad in wins, starts, complete games, appearances, innings pitched and strikeouts. After Godusky and Bradshaw, the Hawks will look to a group of upperclassmen, who excelled in limited action to fill out the lineup. Most likely to round out the infield are sophomore Jason Tarewicz and the junior trio of John Kokol, Michael Walls and Chris McLaughlin. The team's rookie of the year last season, Tarewicz will play second base and bat leadoff. Although playing behind former Hawk All-American Kevin Kirkby at the keystone sack, Tarewicz impressed by hitting .457 and scoring 11 runs. Walls (third base) and Kokol (first base) should man the corners. Walls hit .500 with a home run and 8 RBI, last season, while the lefthanded-hitting Kokol batted .391 at the plate. Both should also be primary cogs for the team in the pen. Walls is projected as the team's closer, while Kokol ranks as the team's most effective middle relief pitcher. Meanwhile, McLaughlin, who rallied to hit .310 as a sophomore, is the most seasoned reserve infielder. Two other sophomores, Bill McCollum and Scott Gehringer, will also see action at first and third base, respectively. McCollum is the squad's best defensive first baseman and Gehringer possesses great athleticism. Both players will also be utilized out of the bullpen by the Hawks. Of the newcomers, Matt DiGirolamo is the most likely to contribute immediately, while Rob Pimpinella, Alex Layton, William Menke and Nick Baldasari round out the freshmen infield reserves. In the outfield, Godusky should be joined by a pair of excellent defensive players in juniors Jim Kelly and Kevin Douger. Kelly redshirted the 2001 season, but was a regular for SJU as a freshman and sophomore. Dougher, who doubles as the starting goalkeeper on the Hawk soccer team, could be the team's best all-around athlete. Two other players, red-shirt freshman Joe DiNubile and true-freshman Brian Anecharico, should also find regular playing time either in the outfield or at designated hitter. DiNubile, who really hit the ball well in preseason, saw action in just three games in 2001 before being sidelined with a broken hand. Anecharico is compared favorably to former Hawk star Eric Wyatt. Freshmen Jason Merrill and Brian Brown round out the outfield reserves. Sophomore Justin Wolfer leads a four man contingent that includes juniors Mike DeLorenzo and Pat Reilly and freshman Anthony Del Gaudio for the everyday slot behind the plate. Wolfer played in just eight games as a rookie, but swings a powerful bat. DeLorenzo, a switch-hitter, is solid defensively and possesses perhaps the best batting eye on the team. Reilly, the younger brother of former Hawk Academic All-American Jim Reilly, is an experienced backstop. Pitching was expected to be one of the team's strengths in 2002, but injuries have left question marks surrounding the once promising staff. Fremont and sophomore Al Braun are both coming off red shirt seasons, while highly-regarded junior college transfer Chris Wicks has already been lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Fremont is projected to return by midseason. Braun, meanwhile, who pitched for the American Legion National Champion Brooklawn (N.J.) Team in the summer, seems to be back in stride after missing all of last year following surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. Braun was 5-1 on the hill as a prep senior two seasons ago. While Braun and Fremont recover, Erik Holman, another highly-touted junior college transfer, will be asked to lead the staff at the season's outset. Holman was a second team junior college All-American last season at Cumberland (N.J.) County College. After Holman, senior Mike Minerva and sophomore Eric Vardijan should hold down spots in the rotation. Minerva has been an on-and-off conference starter the past two years and possesses good velocity. Vardijan, who transferred to SJU from Arizona State in 2001, has the ability to mix pitches well and has good movement on his fastball. Freshman Ryan Hoagey could be the surprise of the staff this season. Like former Hawk Doug Sieger, Hoagey has the ability to change speeds and keep batters off balance. The relief corp will feature the likes of two-way performers Anecharico, Gehringer, DiGirolamo, Kokol, McCollum, Merrill and Walls. "We're going to look different on the field," concludes Hawk head coach Jim Ertel. "We've got a lot of new faces. But you know what? Keep an eye on the Hawks. We're going to surprise people." Little doubt exists that 2002 will be a season of transition for the Crimson and Gray. Nonetheless with 16 letterwinners back, the cupboard is not completely bare for Jim Ertel and the team's coaching staff. Instead of the offensive juggernaught the team sported the past few seasons, SJU will become more relaint on pitching and defense to be the trademarks of the next generation of Hawk Diamondmen.
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