Bonnies’ Phillips opens up about draft day nerves and “the grind”

By Jeff Uveino @realjuveino 

It is every college baseball player’s goal to get drafted by a major league team. However, only about 10% of NCAA players nationally accomplish this, most of them coming from large schools in the south.

In the 9th round of the 2017 MLB draft, the San Francisco Giants made St. Bonaventure’s Aaron Phillips one of these select few.

A key part of the Bonnies for the past three seasons, Phillips excelled as an elite two-way player. A leader both on the mound and at the plate, Phillips was named a finalist for the John Olerud National Two-Way Player of the Year.

However, it is Phillips’ arm that got the Giants’ attention.

Continue reading “Bonnies’ Phillips opens up about draft day nerves and “the grind””

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St. Bonaventure Baseball Coach Enters 30th Season

By Nate Discavage

[image courtesy of gobonnies.com]

The last time St. Bonaventure University made a baseball coaching change, the Soviet Union was a world power.  Four men have sworn the presidential oath since Larry Sudbrook took over for Jim Pransky as the St. Bonaventure baseball coach in 1986.

Over the past 30 seasons, Sudbrook has led St. Bonaventure to a record of 632-664-9 giving him a .488 winning percentage, third among the five Atlantic 10 baseball coaches with at least nine years experience.  Under Sudbrook, the Bonnies have made eight Atlantic 10 tournament appearances and won one conference championship in 2004.  Since Sudbrook took over as head coach, 10 St. Bonaventure student-athletes have been drafted by Major League Baseball.  He currently ranks in the top 100 for most wins by an active coach.

There are students who have never heard of Sudbrook despite his accomplishments on the field.

“I have no idea who our baseball coach is,” sophomore Kristen Caputo said.  “I couldn’t tell you anything about him.”

“The guys I know never really talk about the team until this year,” senior Matt Moretti said.  “I don’t know the baseball coach’s name.”

While students at St. Bonaventure may not know who Sudbrook is, other baseball coaches in the Atlantic 10 have had an opportunity to see Sudbrook in action.

On April 13, 2013, Sudbrook won the 600th game of his career against Saint Joseph.

“You hate losing, but 600 wins is pretty impressive,” Saint Joseph coach Fritz Hamburg said.  “I respect what he has done.”

In his 16 years serving as head coach for the University of Dayton, Tony Vittorio has seen Sudbrook coach the Bonnies from across the diamond.

“From day one, he knows his style of play,” he said.  “He is a competitor and instills an ‘us against the world’ mentality.”

That competitive nature, however, has gotten Sudbrook into trouble on the field.  He is not afraid to run on to the field and challenge an umpire’s ruling – occasionally leading to an ejection.

“He’s animated and not afraid to tell you if he thinks you are wrong,” John McArdle, an Atlantic 10 umpire since 1983, said. “When he comes out of the dugout, you better rethink your call because he doesn’t nitpick.”

“He isn’t afraid to confront a player and tell them what he thinks of them,” pitching coach and former St. Bonaventure player BJ Salerno said.  “He expects a lot out of you.”

After 30 years of coaching, Sudbrook has no intention of stepping down.

“I love that nervous feeling I get in my stomach before every game,” Sudbrook said.  “Above all else, I enjoy the players.”

Sudbrook’s one dark spot in his 30-year tenure came in 2007 when he accidentally left a .357 Magnum revolver in his travel bag when boarding a plane to Charlotte for a three-game series with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

The felony charges were dropped when Sudbrook agreed to pay a $1000 fine and forfeit the gun.  St. Bonaventure University required that Sudbrook reimburse the school for his travel expenses but did not issue a suspension.

As St. Bonaventure continues its 2015 baseball season, the players will look to their coach for guidance.

“I think coach Sudbrook knows what he’s doing out there,” senior St. Bonaventure outfielder Jonathan Diaz said.  “He is just so passionate about the sport.”

World Series Preview

By Nate Discavage @DiscavageSavage

 

Nobody predicted that the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants would make this year’s World Series (let alone make the playoffs), but that’s the beauty of baseball.  After 162 regular season games and three playoff series, it all comes down to four more wins.

The Giants won their third National League pennant in the last five years and are loaded with playoff experience.  The Royals, on the other hand, have not made the playoffs since 1985.  The Giants return playoff veterans Madison Bumgardner, Buster Posey, and Pablo Sandoval.  The Royals are trying to brush off comparisons to the 2007 Colorado Rockies (sweep through the playoffs before getting swept in the World Series).

Here’s a position-by-position breakdown comparing the two squads:

Catcher:

While the Royals’ Salvador Perez came through with the game-winning hit in the Wild Card Game against Oakland, he has done little to help the team throughout the rest the of postseason.  2012 NL MVP Buster Posey has led the Giants from behind the plate and looks to win his third World Series Ring.

Advantage: San Francisco

1st Base:

Brandon Belt has resurrected his career with the Giants after teetering on the brink of being a draft-day bust.  Despite spending some time on the disabled list during the season, he has performed well for San Francisco this year.  Eric Hosmer had a bounce back year for the Royals after a disappointing 2013 season.  He has been one of the sparkplugs in Kansas City’s rejuvenated offense this postseason.

Advantage: Kansas City

2nd Base:

Omar Infante has played for four teams in his 11 year career but has provided veteran leadership for the young Kansas City squad.  Although he may not have the best offensive statistics in the league, his strong defense and advice for younger players has led the team to where they are now.  Giants’ rookie Joe Panik was not even born the last time Kansas City made the playoffs.  He had a great season with San Francisco the second half of the season and has come through in the clutch when needed to.

Advantage: Kansas City

3rd Base:

San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval won the World Series MVP in 2012.  He has the experience needed to lead a team and will sign a huge contract this offseason as one of the league’s best available free agents.  Mike Moustakas has been clutch in the playoffs hitting four homeruns in the eight games but barely hit his own weight in the regular season (.212 AVG).

Advantage:  San Francisco

Shortstop:

Brandon Crawford has been the definition of an average MLB player since his career began in 2011.  While he is not a superstar, he will be remembered in San Francisco for his great defensive play and long hair.  The Royals’ Alcides Escobar definitely has one of the league’s most unique names.  He has speed which has helped Kansas City throughout the playoffs, but has hit an empty .278 though the playoffs without much to show for it.

Advantage: Even

Left Field:

Five days before the regular season ended, Giants’ Travis Ishikawa had never played a game of left field in his career.  He wrote his name in San Francisco history, however, with a walk-off homerun to send the Giants to the World Series.  Kansas City’s Alex Gordon has become a nationally recognized star this season.  He has wowed MLB with his great defensive ability along with his amazing offensive performance.  Gordon has solidified himself as a leader on the Kansas City team for years to come.

Advantage: Kansas City

Centerfield:

Gregor Blanco was brought on to replace injured Giants’ centerfielder Angel Pagan late in the season.  He has superb range in the outfield and has excelled as Pagan’s backup.  Lorenzo Cain is the reason the Royals are still in the playoffs with a key double and stolen base in the Wild Card game against the A’s.  Cain is just as good defensively and definitely faster.

Advantage:  Kansas City

Right Field:

All-Star Hunter Pence has already won his first ring with the Giants in 2012 after being acquired halfway through the season from Philadelphia.  Since joining San Francisco, he has hit 78 homeruns in the three-and-a-half years he’s been there.  Nori Aoki has come up big for the Royals in the playoffs; however, he cannot match the talent of Pence.

Advantage: San Francisco

Designated Hitter:

For Kansas City home games, the Designated Hitter rule will be in effect allowing longtime Royals DH Billy Butler to contribute for his team.  While his offensive contribution has dropped slightly in recent years, he seems just like his young self in the playoffs this year.  San Francisco will go with Michael Morse as a DH in the World Series.  Morse hit the game-tying homerun to set up Ishikawa’s game-winning in the NLCS but is still recovering from an injury sustained earlier in the season.

Advantage: Kansas City

Starting Rotation:

While the Royals have their ace James Shields leading them in game one, they will have a hard time matching up with the potent San Francisco rotation.  Madison Bumgardner, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, and Ryan Vogelsong look to shut down the streaky Royals’ offense in the Fall Classic.

Advantage:  San Francisco

Bullpen:

The Giants have a solid bullpen with relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, and Santiago Castilla.  The Royals, however, are loaded with the “Three-Headed Monster” of Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, and Greg Holland.  Brandon Finnegan has been solid out of the pen for Kansas City.

Advantage: Kansas City

Final Prediction:  Giants win four games to two over Kansas City

Tune in tonight at 8PM for first pitch tonight on FOX for Game 1 in Kansas City.

Sudbrook Continues To Lead Bonnies’ Baseball In Right Direction

image

[Image courtesy of gobonnies.com]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13

St. Bonaventure University pitcher Billy Urban stood tall on the mound with runners on first and third with one out. His team had just taken the lead in the top half of the ninth inning, putting head coach Larry Sudbrook just two outs away from a career milestone.

Urban, the team’s starting third baseman with all of 39 appearances on the mound under his belt, struck out the first Saint Joseph’s University batter on a high fastball and recorded a fielder’s choice to close out the game, sending the Bonnies to their third win in four games and handing Sudbrook his 600th career win.

It’s a feat that is even more special when realizing Sudbrook, in his 28th season at the helm of St. Bonaventure, has done it with a shoe-string budget and a no-nonsense approach.

But while 600 wins is a mark that no other St. Bonaventure head coach has come close within earshot of, Sudbrook has not yet taken the time to appreciate what he has accomplished.

“We’re in the midst of a season that we had high hopes for and we are not playing well,” Sudbrook said as he focused on the team’s next opponent. “Maybe in the Fall when I’m sitting in a tree bow-hunting, I’ll get around to thinking about how neat it was.”

The Bonnies are currently sitting in 12th place in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings with a 13-20 overall record, surely a far cry from the circumstances surrounding the program when Sudbrook nabbed his 500th career win.

St. Bonaventure was in the midst of making the A-10 postseason Tournament six out of nine years with one conference title and a second-place finish in the mix.

“The last four or five years, we’ve been mediocre,” Sudbrook said. “That takes away a little bit of the overall enjoyment of winning the 600.”

The honesty in which Sudbrook discussed the state of the baseball program does not surprise his team’s starting third baseman since his freshman season. In fact, Urban who has compiled 220 hits in his career — good enough for a career average of .333, said it would not have happened without his coach.

“I could tell you countless stories about him being brutally honest and it may not always be what you want to hear, but it’s what you need to hear,” Urban said of Sudbrook. “You always know exactly where you stand and that honesty goes a long way. He also relates to all of his players really well.”

Relating to players is something that has set Sudbrook apart and has helped him complete 12 winning seasons at St. Bonaventure, including being named the 2004 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year Award.

Baseball is a sport that is littered with failure no matter how one tries to decipher the small army of numbers available in the stats. The greatest players are considered hitters who compile a batting average of .300, meaning they actually are failing at their job 70 percent of the time.

But starting first baseman Austin Ingraham says Sudbrook understands that some situations call for a humorous environment.

“Baseball is a long season of ups and downs, and coach having the sense of humor that he does helps us all get through it with our sanity,” Ingraham said. “Guys may take it the wrong way sometimes if they’re having a bad day, but you’ll never be successful in this game if you can’t learn to laugh at yourself. Coach definitely encourages that. And for others to laugh at you as well.”

And it’s the old-school approach to the game, always focusing on the task at hand and helping keep the mood light that has led to Sudbrook developing 30 Atlantic 10 All-Conference Selections, 10 Major League Baseball draft picks and 14 Professional Players.

He’s accomplished all this at a school where his program is not fully funded and deals with constant game cancellations due to weather even with McGraw-Jennings Field being completely turf.

“How many programs do you see going through a new coach every four years? That’s a real testament to what coach is and what he’s been for this program and school,” Urban said. “It’s an incredible feat to be coaching for that long.”

“For him to be able to stick with this program and bring it to the top tier of A-10 baseball for as long as he has says a lot about his attitude and work ethic,” Ingraham added.

Right.

Because even with the miniscule budget and a coaching staff not even half the size of the institutions St. Bonaventure faces, Sudbrook keeps the Bonnies afloat in the A-10 using smoke and mirrors.

“Sr. Margaret always likes to talk about the David versus Goliath aspect, so there is that satisfaction when you get wins against schools that have twice the scholarships that we do, bigger coaching staffs and facilities,” Sudbrook said. “But when you’re David, you don’t take a whole lot of time to enjoy beating Goliath because he’s going to get back up.”

While Goliath does get back up, St. Bonaventure’s baseball team continues to fight back, knocking down Goliath with more and more frequency as the man at the helm continues to put his team in the best position to succeed — a total of 605 times and counting.

Bonnies Inconsistent Offense the culprit in Series Loss

[Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com ]

By Kevin Smith, Staff Writer, @kevsmith88

St. Bonaventure baseball team defeated Fordham 12-0 in their Atlantic 10 home opener at Fred Handler Park over the weekend, but it was not a foreshadowing of how the series would turn out.

The Bonnies could not capitalize on their dominating series-opening performance, dropping the last two games, sending them below .500 on the season at 10-11 (2-4).

But first the positives.

An ace is someone who can take the hill on any day and completely shut down the opposition and the Bonnies have exactly that in redshirt senior Eddie Gray.

Gray was masterful on the mound, twirling seven innings of shutout ball, allowing just two hits and racking up seven strikeouts.

“Gray pitched like he always does,” Bona coach Larry Sudbrook said. “We just didn’t get that repeat quality start from our other starters. Pitching is our strong point on this team; we need to make sure that’s still the case.”

However, after this past weekend there are questions about the once preconceived strength of the team.

Facing a team that had a team batting average of .228, Jordan Crane and Cael Johnson surrendered a combined 16 hits in only 12 innings pitched, limiting the chances of a Bona win.

“I have given Eddie’s performance an A cause he didn’t even allow a run on 2nd base,” Sudbrook said. “The other pitchers are stuck with a C because their performances were mediocre.”

But Sudbrook’s is not concerned about the pitching. His focus is entirely on the lack of consistent hitting.

After scoring 12 runs in the opening game of the series, they managed just a total of six over the final two.

“Our hitting just needs to improve there’s no question about it,” Sudbrook said. “We are swinging too early, too late, and not taking enough pitches.”

But there is one Bona player who is on a tear — senior center fielder Nick Brennen. 

Brennen had a down season last year, but his current 16-game hit streak has him pointed in the right direction.

“As you can see from Brennen’s numbers last year he struck out a lot and wasn’t patient with his pitches,” Sudbrook added. “Now, he is more patient, taking walks, and contributing any way he can even as a lead-off hitter.”

However, the hit streak has not translated into wins on the field as the team is only 7-9 through his stretch of hot hitting.

But they hope to change their fortunes against Big 4 rival Buffalo today, while taking advantage of a pitching staff that has surrendered 156 runs in only 181 innings pitched.

smithkl09@bonaventure.edu

Baseball Preview: A-10 Tournament is the goal

[Photo courtesy of Tony Lee ]

By Kevin Smith, Staff Writer, @kevsmith88

Unity. 

 That is how the St. Bonaventure Baseball team has been built up to since the 2010 season. 

The 2010 season was a learning curve with a mostly freshman team, ending in a 17-31 finish.

Last season, with one year under their belts, the Bonnies fell just short of advancing to the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament.

Now, with the team filled with two-year veterans, the Bonnies could have the breakout year they have been waiting for.

However, St. Bonaventure had been picked to finish 10th in the A-10 coaches poll, a mark head coach Larry Sudbrook said means nothing. 

“This preseason ranking is just a number; it means nothing to me and my team,” Sudbrook said. “My gut tells me we have a lot of promise to have a good season and punch our ticket for the Atlantic 10 tournament.” 

The Bonnies certainly have the players capable of making a run.

As always, it starts with pitching and junior Eddie Gray leads the pack with a chance of being drafted by Major League Baseball later this season.

Last season, Gray led the team with 80 innings pitched, recorded six wins and compiled 57 strikeouts. 

Additionally, his earned run average of 3.47 was second-best on the team, trailing only Jordan Crane’s 2.76.  

Sudbrook said his No. 2 and No. 3 starters will be Crane and Cael Johnson, both seniors and who he calls the foundation of the team.

“These three guys are rock of this team because they have the potential to go deep into game and get us a win,” Sudbrook said. “These guys want to win now cause they might not be back next season.”

Strength up the middle is essential to win and the Bonnies middle infield is in good hands with junior shortstop Billy Urban and junior second baseman Jason Radwan.

Urban, an all-academic selection, led the A-10 with a .359 Batting Average and led the Bonnies with 13 home runs and 41 runs batted in. 

Radwan, a second-team all conference selection, led all A-10 second baseman with a .324 batting average and clubbed five home runs along with 34 RBI’s.

Sudbrook has most of his team’s roles filled except the bullpen roles of lefty specialist and a closer.

“Those holes are very important to fill,” Sudbrook said. Hopefully we’ll be able to find out who will be able to fill those holes during our trip to Florida.”

St. Bonaventure begins their 2012 campaign Feb. 24 against Western Michigan. 

The Bonnies will play their first conference game in Ohio against Dayton for a three-game set, beginning March 23. 

This year’s Atlantic 10 tournament will be hosted by Fordham starting on May 23 and the final will be televised on CBS Sports Network. 

But Sudbrook does not allow himself to think that far ahead.

“I’m not thinking too far here.” Sudbrook said. “We still have a long ways to go and our first step is the first game down in Winter Haven.”

However, Sudbrook has his goal in place and believes it can be accomplished.

“My goal is to make it to A-10 Championship, no question,” Sudbrook replied. “We have the talent to make it far; we just need to bring chemistry as well.”

smithkl09@bonaventure.edu

 

Two Bonnies sign with championship team for summer

By Tony Lee, Editor In Chief, @sHecKii

Two Bonnies baseball players will play for the 2011 Coastal Plain League champions this summer, according to a press release.

The Gastonia Grizzlies announced Wednesday juniors Austin Ingraham and Billy Urban will play for a wood-bat, collegiate summer league in Gastonia, N.C. this summer.

“(Ingraham) is an athletic kid who is versatile that will help us in the outfield, first base and at the plate,” Grizzlies coach Kyle Surprenant said in a press release. “Billy is an athletic infielder who also has the ability to be effective on the mound for us as well.”

Ingraham, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound first baseman, finished fourth on St. Bonaventure with a .323 batting average, finished second in slugging percentage at .470 and led the team in fielding percentage.

Urban, a 6-foot, 185-pound infielder, led the Bonnies with 41 RBIs, had a .470 slugging percentage and finished with a .327 batting average. Urban was a Coastal Plain League All-Star for the Fayetteville SwampDogs last summer, finishing second on the team with a .325 batting average.

tony.lee@theintrepid.org