Baseball Opens 2014 Season at FIU Tonight
The Games: Dartmouth (0-0) at #30 FIU (9-0)
Location: FIU Baseball Stadium (2,000), Miami, Fla.
First pitches: Friday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m.; Saturday, March 1 at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 2 at 11 a.m.
Series Record vs. FIU: Big Green lead 1-0
Video (Friday) - PantherVision
Audio (Sat. & Sun.) - FIU Game Central
Live Stats (available once games begin)
Complete Game Notes
• Dartmouth begins its 142nd season of varsity baseball with a three-game series at Florida International. The only other time these two teams met came at the 2010 NCAA Regional at which the Big Green ousted FIU in an elimination game by a final of 15-9.
• Head coach Bob Whalen enters his 25th season with an overall record of 489-453-1, including last year’s record-breaking 32-9 mark. In 2010, he surpassed former big league pitcher Jeff Tesreau as the Big Green’s all-time winningest coach. Tesreau coached Dartmouth for 28 seasons (1919-46).
• Dartmouth is 12-12 in the first game of the season under Whalen, having beaten Minnesota at the Metrodome last year, 10-3.
• Last year the Big Green won their sixth straight Rolfe Division title with a 15-5 mark, but fell to Columbia in the best-of-three Ivy Championship Series held at the Lions’ Satow Stadium, keeping Dartmouth from winning a third Ivy Championship in the past five seasons.
• The 32 victories in 2013 gave the Ivy League a 30-win team for a third consecutive year; Cornell won 31 in 2012 and Dartmouth had an even 30 in 2011. Before that, no Ivy team had reached 30 since Harvard in 1998, and the feat has been acomplished just nine times ever.
• The Big Green placed an Ivy-record eight players on the all-conference first team, six of whom return this season: senior outfielder Jeff Keller, junior infielders Nick Lombardi and Matt Parisi, junior catcher Matt MacDowell, junior reliever Thomas Olson and sophomore DH Joe Purritano, who was also named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year.
• Keller, who was an All-America honorable mention and Academic All-American last year, has been chosen as the Ivy League Preseason Player of the Year by Baseball America and
• The entire four-man weekend rotation signed contracts with MLB organizations after the 2013 season, three of whom were taken in the draft — lefty Mitch Horacek ’14 (Orioles), lefty Michael Johnson ’13 (Dodgers) and righty Cole Sulser ’13 (Indians). Southpaw Kyle Hunter ’13 signed a free-agent contract with the Angels as well.
• While this won’t come into play for a month, the Big Green have an .870 winning percentage (67-10) at Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park since the facility was renovated prior to the 2009 season.
The Overall Record vs. FIU
• Dartmouth has squared off against the Golden Panthers just once, a 15-9 Big Green win in an elimination game at the 2010 NCAA Regionals.
• After falling into an early 6-2 hole, Dartmouth scored five times in the third, capped by the first of two Zack Bellenger home runs.
• Both teams hit three homers, but it was Jason Brooks’ two-out grand slam in the sixth that broke an 8-8 tie and sent Dartmouth on to the win.
Scouting the Golden Panthers
• Picked to finish sixth in Conference USA, FIU has started the season 9-0 for the fourth time in program history. The last time it happened came in 2000 when the Golden Panthers won 13 in a row and eventually advanced to an NCAA Regional.
• FIU is led by catcher Aramis Garcia, the C-USA Preseason co-Player of the Year, who is hitting .484 with a homer and nine RBIs. But Josh Anderson has been even better at an even .500 with six doubles, a homer and 17 RBIs.
• While the bats are hitting at a .341 clip, the pitchers have limited the opposition to a .196 average over 79 innings with 79 strikeouts.
• The defense has made its share of errors, however, with 14 miscues for a .958 fielding percentage.
Probable Starting Pitchers
• Getting the ball for the Dartmouth season opener will be junior LHP Adam Frank (3-0, 4.22 in 2013), who has a 7-1 record in 15 starts over his first two seasons with the Big Green. On Saturday, sophomore RHP Beau Sulser (0-1, 5.40) is expected to make his first career collegiate start with just 10 innings under his belt. Another sophomore RHP in Duncan Robinson (0-0, 4.32) will get the first start of his young career on Sunday after hurling 16.2 innings out of the pen.
• FIU will counter with a trio of right-handers in Mike Franco (1-0, 2.89), Mike Ellis (2-0, 0.00) and Robby Kalaf (0-0, 0.00). The three have combined to throw 23.2 innings and surrendered a total of five runs (three earned) on 19 hits with 10 walks and 26 strikeouts.
What’s Up Next
Winter exams are what’s next. But after a 12-day layoff, Dartmouth gets another tough test during a nine-game trip beginning wtih a three-game set at 12th-ranked TCU on March 12-14.
Preseason Player of the Year
For the fourth time in the past five seasons, Baseball America has selected a Big Green player as its Preseason Ivy Player of the Year. Senior outfielder Jeff Keller is coming off a terrific junior campaign, leading the Ivy League with 39 runs, 41 RBIs, 99 total bases, a .702 slugging percentage, 4 triples and a school-record 21 doubles. He also ranked among the top six in five other offensive categories and was perfect in eight stolen base attempts. Among the national rankings, he led the country in doubles per game and was fifth in slugging percentage. Baseball America wasn’t the only organization to recognize Keller as College Sports Madness bestowed the same honor on him.
Other Preseason Honors
Dartmouth is the consensus pick to win the Rolfe Division in the Ivy League for a seventh consecutive year. Aside from Jeff Keller’s selections for Preseason Player of the Year, here are some other individual honors from the preseason:
• Jeff Keller — Preseason All-Ivy First Team (CollegeSportsMadness.com); 10th-best Ivy prospect for 2014 draft (Baseball America)
• Nick Lombardi — Preseason All-Ivy 2nd Team (CollegeSportsMadness.com)
• Matt MacDowell — Preseason All-Ivy First Team (CollegeSportsMadness.com)
• Matt Parisi — Preseason All-Ivy First Team (CollegeSportsMadness.com)
• Joe Purritano — Preseason All-Ivy First Team (CollegeSportsMadness.com)
Big Green Are Road Warriors …
As is custom for Dartmouth, it will begin the season on the road all of the way into April. The first 17 games will be played away from Hanover, and the home schedule doesn’t begin until April 2 against Quinnipiac.
… But Love the Homestead
Dartmouth enters the 2014 season with a 67-10 record (.870) at its home venue, Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park, the best record over the past five seasons. Last year the Big Green went 12-3 in the games they hosted, but did lose a non-conference game for the first time since the facility was renovated prior to the 2009 season. Dartmouth enters this year with a nine-game home winning streak, currently the seventh longest in the country.
Going for 7th Straight Rolfe Title
Dartmouth has won six straight Rolfe Division titles, the second longest streak for any team in either division in the Ivy League since divisions were instituted 20 years ago. Princeton won nine straight Gehrig Division crowns from 1996-2004 and 11 total in the 20 seasons. The Big Green have the most Rolfe titles with nine, all of which have come in the last 14 years.
2013 All-Ivy Honors for the Green
After winning the Rolfe Division for a sixth straight year then falling in the best-of-three Ivy Championship Series at Columbia, Dartmouth had a league-record eight players make the All-Ivy First Team in 2013, and a total of 10 earn all-conference honors. The players on the first team were outfielders Jeff Keller and Ennis Coble, third baseman Nick Lombardi, second baseman Matt Parisi, catcher Matt MacDowell, pitcher Michael Johnson, reliever Thomas Olson and DH Joe Purritano. Dartmouth had one on the second team — pitcher Kyle Hunter — and another earned honorable mention in starting pitcher Cole Sulser.
School-Record 32 Wins
For just the second time in school history (both coming in the last three years), Dartmouth won at least 30 games in a season, setting a record in 2013 with 32 victories. The .780 winning percentage is the third-best ever for a program that began in 1866, and the best mark in 88 years when the 1925 squad set the standard at .828 (24-5). The 2011 Big Green won 30 games to accomplish the feat first.
Not Settling for Spares
Well, this isn’t bowling, but if there is one thing the Big Green pitching staff does, it throws strikes. For the past five years, the staff has been one of the stingiest in the country in terms of issuing free passes. In both 2009 and 2010, the Big Green hurlers walked fewer batters per nine innings than any other Division I team. Although they didn’t lead the country in the category either of the last two years, they did still rank among the top 15, placing third in 2011 at 2.24 behind only Florida (1.82) and Dayton (2.18), eighth in 2012 at 2.33, and 13th a year ago at 2.52.
Whalen Approaching 500 Wins
Now in his 25th season, Bob Whalen is just 11 victories shy of 500 for his collegiate head coaching career, served exclusively at Dartmouth. No other Big Green baseball coach is within 100 wins of his total, and his 489 triumphs are more than any other coach in any sport in the school’s history.
In 2013, Dartmouth had at least one player selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft for the sixth straight year. That 2013 squad produced no less than three draft picks, the most ever for the Big Green in one season. Junior LHP Mitch Horacek was the first one chosen, selected in the ninth round as the 279th overall pick by the Baltimore Orioles. The next draftee was senior LHP Michael Johnson in the 14th round as the 424th overall selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Finally, senior RHP Cole Sulser was taken by the Cleveland Indians in the 25th round with the 741st overall pick.
The fourth member of the starting rotation, LHP Kyle Hunter, also signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as a free agent.
Revamping the Rotation
Since the four weekend starters (who threw 212 of the 346.2 innings in 2013) signed with MLB organizations after last season (three of which graduated anyway), head coach Bob Whalen has to rebuild his rotation. Only one of the returning pitchers has started a conference game on the mound, that being junior LHP Adam Frank, who was in the rotation as a freshman and even started the decisive game of the Ivy League Championship Series. But only one other pitcher on the entire roster has started a collegiate game, that being senior RHP Louis Concato, a mid-week starter for the past two years. The other potential starting candidates have all thrown less than 20 innings in their college careers.
Plenty of Offense Returns
With nearly the entire starting lineup back from last year’s team, Dartmouth is expected to put some runs on the board after easily leading the Ivy League in scoring. The players that scored 204 of those 267 runs (76.4 percent) and produced 201 of the 243 RBIs (82.7 percent) are back this season, as are 22 of the 24 home runs and six of the seven regulars that slugged at least .420.
Last year, RHP Beau Sulser got the opportunity to play with his older brother, RHP Cole Sulser, for one season before Cole was drafted by the Cleveland Indians. This year there is another brotherly tandem on the mound for the Big Green as freshman RHP Michael Concato joins the staff with his big brother, RHP Louis Concato. Before the Sulser and the Concatos, the last set of brothers to be teammates on the Big Green were LHPs Russell and Robert Young during the 2007-08 seasons. Interestingly enough, the three pitchers who have graduated from this group have all been drafted by major league organizations.
The Big Green feature a two-sport athlete on their roster in junior Bo Patterson. A starting wide receiver on the Dartmouth football team, Patterson worked his way into the starting lineup on the gridiron as a freshman and finished his rookie campaign leading the team in receiving yards (301) and second in receptions (24) with a pair of touchdowns. This past season, he led the Green with 25 catches, 395 receiving yards and six TD receptions.