ECC Baseball Insider: Championship X-Factors

ECC Baseball Insider: Championship X-Factors

by: Greg Diener

With conference play already underway in the ECC, this edition of the ECC Baseball Insider takes a look at some players that have made an early impact this season. Here are some players that are hoping to lead their teams to a conference championship.

Bridgeport - Mike Olsyzk

Coming into this season the Purple Knights wondered who was going to replace hitters like Eric Schlitter and Matt Ranaudo in their lineup. Senior infielder/pitcher Mike Olsyzk has answered the call for Bridgeport and is looking to lead Bridgeport to another ECC Tournament appearance.

In 19 games this season, Olsyzk leads the ECC in batting average at .400 with 24 hits in 60 at-bats to go along with a homerun and 12 RBI. In the Purple Knights season opening game on March 2 against Merrimack, Olsyzk had three hits and scored three runs as Bridgeport came from behind to take a 4-3 victory.

In a wild high scoring game against Mass. Maritime on March 23, Olsyzk accounted for three of the Purple Knights 13 hits in the game. Olsyzk's two RBI highlighted Purple Knight rallies in the 2nd and 4th innings which accounted for 11 of their 13 total runs in the game. Bridgeport ended up winning that game by a final score of 13-12.

Dowling - JC Brandmaier

The junior infielder for the defending ECC champions is becoming one of the key contributors in the Golden Lions lineup. Brandmaier finds himself ranked in the conference’s Top 10 in doubles (6), RBI (12), and total bases (33).

In Dowling's conference opener against St. Thomas Aquinas on March 22, Brandmaier had his best day at the plate for Dowling this season, going an impressive 4-for-4 at the plate with two singles, a double, a triple, a stolen base and a run batted in.

The next day against STAC, Brandmaier followed that performance, scoring two runs and driving in two with a double as the Golden Lions got their first victory in conference play. In a recent ECC conference match-up against Molloy on April 1, Brandmaier's RBI single in the top of the 9th forced extra innings in a game Dowling would go on to win 2-1 in 10 innings.

LIU Post - Mike Eckerle

In his freshman season, Mike Eckerle appeared in seven games pitched went 2-0 for what was then the C.W. Post Pioneers. As a sophomore, Eckerle has added to his freshman effort with a 2-1 record in five games thus far for LIU Post.

Eckerle is tied for the team lead in strikeouts with senior Bo Budekvics with 37. He has only allowed three earned runs in 27 innings pitched and has an ERA of 1.00. Eckerle is currently ranked second in the ECC inERA behind Robert Naughton of St. Thomas Aquinas.

The shining spot on Eckerle's season occured on March 12 in Lantana, Fla. In a game against Nyack, Eckerle pitched 8.1 innings of shutout ball. Eckerle faced 31 Nyack batters on that afternoon while only allowing four hits, throwing 13 strikeouts, and only allowing one walk. Eckerle threw 112 pitches in the game before Anthony Zapulla retired the remaining two batters to get the save as the Pioneers earned a 1-0 victory in the Sunshine State.

Mercy - Jeremey Lovera

There haven't been too many reasons to get excited if you're a Mavericks fan this season, but Lovera has become a player that has given their fans a reason to cheer. The junior infielder is leading the Mavericks in hits with (21) and batting average (.318). Lovera also has a homerun and nine RBI through 19 games on the year.

On March 9 against Southern Connecticut St., Lovera went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a stolen base in Mercy's 8-7 victory. Lovera got the Mercy offense started in the 2nd inning with his two-run single, which started a six-run rally for the Mavericks. Lovera had another three hit performance on March 13 for Mercy against UMass-Lowell in Fort Pierce, Fla.

The infielder has also been outstanding on defense, committing only two errors in the 19 games in 2013. Lovera has made 39 putouts, along with 36 assists, has been involved in seven double plays, and boasts a fielding percentage of .974 on the season.

Molloy - Kris Kelly

The Lions’ senior shortstop has been very hot with the bat lately and has put Molloy in early contention to return to the ECC Championship this season. Kelly has a hit in nine of his last eleven games dating back to March 10 when he went 2-for-3 in the Lions 6-4 defeat at Lynn.

Kelly's best game during this period occurred in Molloy's conference opening series against Mercy. On March 23 in Dobbs Ferry, Kelly went 3-for-4 in the contest and drove in a run in the 7th inning on an RBI single to score Tom Szenczy. Kelly's RBI made the game 9-3 in favor of Molloy and the Lions went on to win the game by a final score of 9-6.

Kelly has a .279 batting average for the Lions in the 2013 season with 19 hits in 68 at-bats. He has also shown tremendous patience at the place, with nine walks which ranks him ninth overall in the ECC.

Queens - Joe Salanitri

When it comes to someone who is the definition of an all-around player, there aren’t many who fit that bill better than Joe Salanitri. The junior pitcher/infielder has proven to be very valuable for the Knights both in the field and at the plate.

In 20 games for the Knights, Salanitri is hitting .308 (20-for-65).  On the mound, he is 2-3 and has gone the distance in four out of the five games he has pitched so far this season. Salanitri is ranked fifth in the ECC in ERA with a 1.64 mark and has an impressive 33 strikeouts to lead the team.

On March 24 on the road against LIU Post, Salanitri pitched his best game of the season. Through 7.2 innings, Salanitri was working on a no-hit bid and was trying to be the first player from Queens to throw a no-hitter since Lou Ganci against Iona in 1975. Vinny Iacona broke up Salanitri's no-hit attempt with a two-out base hit in the bottom of the 8th.

Despite the Iacona base hit, Salanitri still managed to have an impressive performance with his one-hit shutout. Salanitri struck out 11 batters in the game while walking two.  The pitching performance earned him the ECC Pitcher of the Week award for Week Five and NCBWA East Pitcher of the Week honors for the week of March 18-24.

St. Thomas Aquinas - Stanley Susana

The Spartans once again have one of the top hitting offenses in the conference and sophomore infielder Stanley Susana is a big reason for that.

Susana's .356 batting average ranks him fourth in the ECC. If that’s not impressive enough, he is also leading the conference in RBI with 23. Susana has also been proven to be a tough out on the base paths with 15 stolen bases in 15 attempts.

In a doubleheader against Bridgeport on March 28, Susana had a pair of hits and accounted for four of the Spartans 16 runs in the contest, scoring two runs in the Spartans nine-run rally in the 3rd inning. Susana would ultimately finish with four runs scored in the game.

Susana took ECC Player of the Week honors back in Week Four when he hit .529 (9-for-17) with six RBI. Susana has also been a valuable part of the Spartan infield having not committed an error since March 1 against Nyack.

In a lineup full of many talented players like Mike Russo, Kenny Kirshner and Frank Salerno,  Susana maybe the ultimate x-factor in the Spartans’ quest for an ECC championship.