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Opponent Preview: Army

Meet the Black Knights... Your 2018 Patriot League Champions

Army vs Navy Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Army

Mascot: Black Knights | School Location: West Point, NY | Conference: Patriot

2018 Record: 36-22 (18-7, T-1st)* | 2018 RPI Rank: 83

2017 Record: 25-31 (10-10, T-3rd) | 2017 RPI Rank: 234

2016 Record: 16-32 (6-13, 6th) | 2016 RPI Rank: 255

*Patriot League Tournament Champions


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Doak Field at Dail Park, Raleigh, NC

Game Time: Friday, June 1 @ 7:00pm

TV: WatchESPN/ESPN3/ESPN+/ACCNE/All the acronyms owned by the world wide leader...

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh

Live Stats: NCAA Stats


Tell me about this team

Army has never been a baseball juggernaut, but they’ve been more than respectable for the majority of this century. Former coach Joe Sottolano (391-286-5) led the program to six NCAA Regional appearances in his 14 years (five appearances in his last ten years) and won either the league regular season or tournament championship (or both) in eight seasons while routinely fielding teams in the 150-200 RPI range. Sottolano, the school’s all-time winningest coach, was shit-canned before the 2014 season due to some off-the-field issues (treat people well, y’all...), and his replacement, Matt Reid, was unable to maintain that momentum after the 2014 season and the program fell hard and fast.

So West Point went out and hired Jim Foster to resurrect the program. Foster is a former Rhode Island head coach (269-230-3, two conference titles in nine seasons) and was the pitching coach at Boston College during their 2016 NCAA Super Regional run. After a pretty bad first year for Foster in 2017, Army finished this season in a tie for the regular season Patriot League title and won the conference tournament to earn the NCAA Regional bid as the #4 seed in Raleigh. The current RPI ranking of 83 is the highest for the program this century, and based on the other teams in the Raleigh regional, even an 0-2 showing wouldn’t lower that. This season has been an unmitigated success for Army.

This 2018 Black Knights team has reached the NCAA tournament on the backs of experienced and tested players, both in the field and on the mound. The lineup features six position players who are multi-year starters (and one of the others is the conference rookie of the year), while two of the three weekend starters had 16+ career starts each heading into this year... and the third starter had nine career starts coming into 2018; not exactly new to the role. The top three relievers are also juniors with plenty of experience.

While the team ran roughshod through the Patriot League, Army went just 18-15 out of conference play, including 5-10 against OOC teams in the RPI Top 150, so the talent disparity can rear its head. Still, this isn’t going to be the easy out that you’d expect of an NCAA Regional #4 seed. This won’t be a deer-in-headlights opponent.

Key Players:

Offense

C Jon Rosoff (SR) - .351 BA, .445 OBP, .441 SLG, 202 AB, 14 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 39 R, 45 RBI, 27 BB, 21 K, 3-9 SB. The 2018 Patriot League Player-of-the-Year and a three time All-Patriot League selection (2016 2nd team, 2017 1st team, 2018 1st team), Rosoff is one hell of a hitter. He’s a four-year starter (202 career starts) who has had more BB than K in each of his four seasons. Rosoff has produced multi-hit efforts in seven of the last eleven games. He’s no slouch behind the plate, either, throwing out 18-of-55 would-be base stealers this year and allowing just 2 PB and committing 0 errors.

2B/3B Josh White (JR) - .294 BA, .374 OBP, .407 SLG, 204 AB, 11 2B, 6 3B, 0 HR, 40 R, 38 RBI, 22 BB, 39 K, 6-17 SB. White is a three-year starter and 2018 2nd Team All-Patriot League selection who feasted on conference competition this year, slashing .342/.415/.443. He finally realized that he probably shouldn’t be trying to steal bases and has just one SBA in the last 16 games.

3B/1B Anthony Giachin (FR) - .293 BA, .372 OBP, .395 SLG, 205 AB, 9 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 32 R, 32 RBI, 23 BB, 55 K, 5-5 SB. Giachin is the 2018 Patriot League Rookie-of-the-Year, beating out Navy rival and Raleigh native RHP Jared Leins (All-Patriot 2nd Team), and is also a 1st Team All-Patriot League selection. Strikeouts can be a serious issue; he has 15 multi-K games this year.

OF Drake Titus (SO) - .293 BA, .429 OBP, .377 SLG, 167 AB, 11 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 40 R, 29 RBI, 29 BB, 39 K, 17-19 SB. Titus is doing his best Evan Mendoza impersonation... he was pretty atrocious as a freshman pitcher, then moved to a position player this year with great results, earning 2nd Team All-Patriot League honors. He’s also worn 12 pitches this year, so pitching him in probably won’t move him off the plate.

OF Jacob Hurtubise (SO) - .284 BA, .428 OBP, .333 SLG, 204 AB, 4 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 54 R, 22 RBI, 46 BB, 22 K, 40-46 SB. Another 1st Team All-Patriot selection for the Black Knights, Hurtubise is a speedy CF and leadoff hitter. There’s hardly any pop in his bat, but the dude has a great approach at the plate (a greater than 2:1 BB:K ratio) and wheels to turn a 1B or BB into a 2B.

SS Trey Martin (JR) - .275 BA, .370 OBP, .423 SLG, 142 AB, 13 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 23 R, 26 RBI, 18 BB, 42 K, 4-5 SB. Martin is a three-year starter for Army. He’s been on a tear of late, sporting a nine-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .412 (14-for-34) with 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 BB and 4 K.

Pitching

RHP Daniel Burggraaf (JR) - 7-2, 3 SV, 2.34 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .191 OBA, 57.2 IP, 40 H, 21 R, 15 ER, 25 BB, 78 K. The 2018 2nd Team All-Patriot League selection moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation in late March. He’s gone 5.0+ IP in nine of his ten starts (the other was a planned Johnny Wholestaff day) and has only allowed more than 2 ER in a start once (that one time was when he allowed 3 ER over 6.0 IP, but only one hit - a 3-run HR). You could say the dude has done well.

LHP Tyler Giovinco (JR) - 8-5, 3.39 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .244 OBA, 87.2 IP, 79 H, 35 R, 33 ER, 30 BB, 76 K. I haven’t seen an announced starter yet for Army, but my guess would be Giovinco. The 2nd Team All-Patriot League selection both in 2017 and 2018, Giovinco has been solid in pretty much every start, plus as a lefty he provides the better match-up against State. Over his last four starts, he’s gone 27.0 IP, 20 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 8 BB, 23 K.

LHP Cam Opp (JR) - 5-2, 2.34 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .204 OBA, 57.2 IP, 43 H, 25 R, 15 ER, 23 BB, 67 K. A 2018 All-Patriot League 2nd Team selection, Opp put together decent but not really noteworthy freshman and sophomore campaigns before bursting out as a force on the mound this year. He’s pretty much filled every role the team has needed this year: short relief, long relief, spot starter, closer... and he’s been very successful at them all. He’s also essentially the only lefty bullpen arm for the team.

RHP Matt Ball (SR) - 7-2, 3.33 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, .286 OBA, 78.1 IP, 90 H, 36 R, 29 ER, 21 BB, 88 K. Ball is the Black Knights third weekend starter, but I doubt we see him in this game. He’ll likely be saved until Saturday to see if they can eek out a win and have him pitch their potential third game of the regional. He has plunked 13 guys in 13 starts, for what it’s worth.

RHP Jacob Carte (JR) - 1-2, 5 SV, 3.35 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, .248 OBA, 37.2 IP, 34 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 12 BB, 30 K. Carte was the team’s closer in the early going of the season before Cam Opp took that role from him. Still one of the top bullpen options for the Black Knights, Carte is an experienced pitcher with 51 career appearances and a career .234 OBA.

RHP Sam Messina (JR) - 2-5, 0 SV, 4.23 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .229 OBA, 38.1 IP, 32 H, 20 R, 18 ER, 21 BB, 43 K. Messina was a starter earlier in the year (including pitching a gem in their win over Boston College - 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) before moving to the bullpen, a role his familiar with as he led the team in relief appearances in 2017. It’s been a good transition back to the bullpen for Messina, as he hasn’t allowed a run in five of his six relief appearances


Quick! Fun Facts!

After winning the Patriot League Tournament Championship on Monday, May 21, with a win over Navy, Army played a random single game against Ivy League champion (and Gainesville Regional #4 seed) Columbia this past Sunday. Army won the contest 8-7.

Army is just as good in true road games (14-7) as they are in home games (16-7), but oddly they are below .500 in neutral site contests (6-8).

NC State and Army share just a single mutual opponent this year: Boston College. NC State went 2-1 against the Eagles (2-1 W, 13-7 W, 3-11 L) while Army won their lone game against BC, 11-1.

Army features four players from the State of North Carolina: RHP Jacob Carte (JR, Charlotte), C Jon Rosoff (SR, Durham), RHP Blake Walters (JR, Wake Forest), RHP Matt Ball (SR, Charlotte). Rosoff is a team captain.


Prediction

Army won’t be rattled by the environment, and they have enough hitting and pitching to make them a scary opponent and keep them in games, but I still see a two-and-out scenario for the Black Knights; this is a strong regional field unlike anything Army has seen this year.

State wins the Friday night game 7-2.