On paper, the pitching situation for the St. Bonaventure baseball team seems strong.
There appears to be quality arms for the weekend rotation and depth in the bullpen to give the Bonnies a chance to move back into the Atlantic 10 Tournament picture.
Unfortunately for the Bonnies, as much as anything else this year, the team has been watching injuries this spring – a continuation of something that followed the staff a season ago.
"Last year, we had several pitchers pitch well for three or four weeks at a time, but no one that stayed healthy and pitched well for the entire year," head coach Larry Sudbrook said. "There's some quality there, but we really need some guys to get healthy."
Senior Ben Contento figures to start the year atop the rotation after returning last year from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2017. When healthy, Contento proved his ability – he was selected as the A-10 Pitcher of the Week last March after striking out 11 in a performance at James Madison. Injuries limited him to just eight appearances during the year, however.
"When healthy he was very good for us. He was coming off surgery and had some good outings, but had injury issues at the end of the year," Sudbrook said. "So far (this spring) he's been healthy and we hope he continues that. He's an upper-80s guy and his best pitch is his changeup. He's a fifth year senior and we hope he can bring that leadership this year."
Junior Casey Vincent has been a stalwart for the Bonnies staff the past two years – an Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team selection in 2017, last year he led the team with a 4-3 record and 3.88 ERA, but was also limited to 46 innings due to injury and will start the season looking to work his way back.
"When he was healthy he had three straight weeks where he beat VCU, Dayton and GW. We didn't give him much support and he beat three pretty good teams," Sudbrook said.
Sophomore Braydon Nelson gives the Bonnies another power arm in the A-10 rotation after impressing as a rookie in 2018. He finished the year 1-3 with a 4.45 ERA, striking out 53 in 58.2 innings. He also worked out of the bullpen, notching a save against VCU. An Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week pick after his first two outings, he started the year with 18.0 consecutive scoreless innings – the most of any true freshman in Division I last season.
"He came out the first three weeks and was lights out. He started to struggle with location a bit and then looked a bit more like a freshman," Sudbrook assessed. "He's taken another step up this year with his velocity; he's a low 90s guy with a plus-breaking ball and changeup. He has three plus-Atlantic 10 pitches."
Injury concerns will likely open starting opportunities early in the season.
Among the contenders for spots is junior transfer Elijah Baez, who pitched last season at Lackawanna Community College. The Vermont native throws upper-80s with a strong breaking ball.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Germanowski has perhaps the most electric arm on the roster with the ability to consistently hit 92-94 on the radar gun and has touched 95 mph in spring.
"He has always had velocity, but has worked on command issues," Sudbrook said. "He had a good summer as a closer in the Perfect Game League and has been very good so far this spring. He's throwing strikes and they're crazy good strikes."
Junior Murphy O'Brien will look to bounce back from a tough sophomore campaign and return to his freshman season form when he had a 4.01 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 33.2 innings.
Redshirt junior Brian Pulli became a consistent performer last year during Atlantic 10 play, posting a 2.62 ERA in six appearances including three starts against conference foes. He was also a New York Penn-League All-Star during the summer with the Olean Oilers. Like several of his teammates, though, he's recently starting back up after being sidelined with injury and will need to work up his pitch count during the team's trip to Florida.
In the bullpen, junior lefty Donovan Moffat was also on the A-10 All-Rookie team as a freshman and went 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA in 17 appearances last season. "He had a great freshman year, but had some minor injuries that affected his effectiveness last year," Sudbrook said. "He will be the number one answer out of the bullpen."
Redshirt junior James Wetter has made 33 appearances over the past two years including a 3.65 ERA as a sophomore. He, too, will be working his way back from injury this spring.
Michael Krauza returns for his second season with the program and has the ability to throw upper 80s with a solid breaking ball.
Also in the mix for innings are sophomore Joshua Pittman as well as redshirt sophomore Jake Miknis who has been in the infield and outfield previously, but is transitioning to the mound. Junior transfer Andrew White is another power arm, but is approximately a year removed from Tommy John surgery and will need to work his way back before debuting with the Bonnies. The roster also includes freshman right-hander Cody Shimp.
Behind the plate, the Bonnies return a pair of experienced backstops.
Sophomore Daniel Stauffer saw time in 23 games last year including 15 starts in his rookie campaign, hitting .214 with a .327 on-base percentage. In six starts during A-10 play, he hit .313 and his continued improvement during the last year has given him first crack at the starting job this spring.
"Like most freshmen he struggled last year, but kept getting better and better," Sudbrook said. "He's a plus thrower and has gotten way better at the receiving and blocking. He's a big, strong physical kid and will start the year as the number one."
Redshirt junior Ben MacDonald fought injuries last year, but has experience playing in 39 games the past two seasons.
Junior Kevin Koziol is also in his first year with the program after playing at both Erie Community College and Mercyhurst the past two years. The Bonnies are also high on the potential of freshman Darren McKeown for future seasons.
The Bonnies open the 2019 season March 2 with the first of seven games in Florida.
-By Scott Eddy, Director of Athletics Communications
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