[Photo courtesy of Tony Lee ]
By Kevin Smith, Staff Writer, @kevsmith88
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.”