Jan. 18, 2007
Link to Season Outlook and Future Position Preview Dates
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The first of a four-part series previewing the upcoming 2007 Navy baseball season focuses on its starting pitchers. Part II will take a look at the relief pitchers (Jan. 24), Part III views Navy's catchers and infielders (Jan. 30), while the final part focuses on the outfielders (Feb. 5). Navy is scheduled to open up its 2007 season with a three-game set at Florida A&M on Feb. 9-11 in Tallahassee, Fla.
STARTING PITCHERS PREVIEW
Going into the 2007 season, perhaps Navy's strongest area will come from its starting pitching corps. This year's group owns significant collegiate experience, in addition to a list of talented freshmen that could compete for time in a starting role this spring.
Heading this year's cast is junior right-hander Mitch Harris, who earned Third-Team All-American honors on the mound in 2006 and was selected a preseason All-American this fall. Harris emerged as the team's No. 1 starter and enjoyed a sophomore campaign in which he wrote his name into the Navy record books. The Mt. Holly, N.C., native went 10-3 with a miniscule 1.74 ERA in 82.2 innings of work. During that time, he allowed only 57 hits, limiting the opposition to a .189 batting average, and struck out 113 batters while issuing only 20 walks. His 12.30 strikeouts per nine innings were the most in school history, while his 113 strikeouts ranks second in the program's all-time annals. The right-hander won each of his first-seven starts of the year, becoming the first Navy pitcher in 45 years to reach that feat. During his final start of the year against Coppin State, Harris became the fifth pitcher in school history to toss a complete-game no-hitter, pitching to only one batter over the minimum.
"Mitch truly had a breakout season last year," stated Kostacopoulos. "He certainly was our No. 1 in the truest sense. The questions this year are can he repeat this and can he get better? Mitch definitely has some challenges in front of him."
Another dependable arm that had produced for the Midshipmen in each of his first-two seasons in Annapolis is junior right-hander Mark McCoy. Serving in the No. 2 role much of last season, McCoy produced a 5-2 record with a 3.42 ERA in 76.1 innings on the hill, walked 20 and struck out 63 batters. The product of Parkland, Fla., came through during the Patriot League portion of the season, as he went 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 34.2 innings during his five starts. McCoy tossed at least six innings in each of his last nine starts, eight of which were quality starts (6+ IP, 3- ER). The right-hander also struck out more batters than innings pitched on three occasions, including a 10-strikeout performance against Holy Cross. Already after two years with Navy, he ranks among the program's top-10 pitchers in career strikeouts per nine innings and fewest walks per nine innings.
"Mark is a rock solid pitcher that we are confident in each time he gets the ball," said Kostacopoulos. "He can throw three pitches for strikes and is an intelligent pitcher that knows how to execute a game plan. When he is on, he's a very solid No. 2 pitcher."
In just his first season with the Midshipmen last year, sophomore right-hander Matt White stepped in as a starter mid-way through the year and will look to be counted on again in 2007. In 15 appearances, seven of which were starts, White went 1-3 with a save in 34.1 innings of work. The Esperanza, Calif., product struck out 29 in those innings, but also struggled at times with his command, walking 27 and hitting seven batters in the process. When working in and around the strike zone, White was a solid groundball pitcher, evidenced by his 0.6 flyout/groundout ratio. During his start against Mount St. Mary's, he tossed 7.1 innings of one-run baseball with two walks and three strikeouts.
"Matt is going to be the key to this year's staff," commented Kostacopoulos. "He has showed at times great stuff, but has never put it all together. He still remains to be seen when it's all working for him."
Catching the eye of the coaching staff this fall and expected to step up and round out the Patriot League weekend rotation is freshman right-hander Oliver Drake. The product of Gardner, Mass., was a two-time first-team all-league selection and struck out 55 batters in 44 innings for Northfield Mount Hermon High School as a senior.
"I was really impressed with Oliver this fall," stated Kostacopoulos. "He's got a good presence for a freshman. He will not overpower batters, but has three pitches at his disposal. We think he'll continue to get better as time goes on."
Also competing for time in the weekend starting rotation and taking the ball during mid-week contests are senior Daniel Kovalcik, freshman Yale Eckert and freshman Alec Thomas.
Kovalcik, a 6'3"-southpaw from Westwood, Mass., appeared in 13 games a junior last season, the final-four of which were starting nods. He gave up only two hits and one run over 5.2 innings at UMBC and yielded only two earned runs in five innings against Army. Eckert, standing 6'7" tall, struck out 73 batters while walking only 12 in 56 innings with Aptos (Calif.) High School last year. Thomas, a product of Kernersville, N.C., was a second-team all-state selection after posting a 1.74 ERA during his senior year at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School.
Player Th. ERA W-L APP GS CG SHO/CBO SV IP H R ER BB SO
Mitch Harris R 1.74 10-3 13 13 6 2/1 0 82.2 57 22 16 20 113
Daniel Kovalcik L 7.31 1-3 13 5 0 0/0 1 32.0 39 31 26 19 17
Mark McCoy R 3.42 5-2 14 12 0 0/1 1 76.1 79 33 29 20 63
Matt White R 7.86 1-3 15 7 0 0/0 1 34.1 51 36 30 27 29
Player Th. Hometown / High School
Oliver Drake R Gardner, Mass. / Northfield Mount Hermon
Yale Eckert L La Selva Beach, Calif. / Aptos
Alec Thomas R Kernersville, N.C. / Bishop McGuinness Catholic