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.”

Baseball: Bonnies reload with nine freshmen

By Nate Discavage 

Larry Sudbrook begins his 29th season at the helm of the St. Bonaventure baseball team. Even in a rebuilding season, the Bonnies look to out-perform their low preseason prediction of 12th place in the Atlantic 10.  St. Bonaventure finished 2013 with a 20-28 overall record and 9-15 in conference play.

The weather has always had an effect on St. Bonaventure early in the season.  The snow and freezing temperatures have limited outdoor team practice.  With little outdoor practice, the team has suffered at the beginning of the season.  The Bonnies are off to a rough start and have an 1-8 record.

Along with the weather, the team lacks experience. St. Bonaventure lost six seniors, including All-Atlantic 10 First Team Billy Urban.  Junior Bret Heath and sophomore Thad Johnson are the only two returning starting position players.  Sudbrook emphasizes the fact that although there is a lot of talent on the team it is very young.

Continue reading “Baseball: Bonnies reload with nine freshmen”

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

 

ST BONAVENTURE (Sept. 17) — St. Bonaventure Bonnies hosted doubler-header exhibition baseball games against Niagara University today at Fred Handler Park.

Click on pictures to see St. Bonaventure players’ names. 

[Photos by Tony Lee, @sHecKii]

Hitter Miss: Playing Division I baseball in the arctic northeast

Alex Calderon, a senior finance major and the starting third basemen, wrote a first-person feature, giving a never-before inside look to the St. Bonaventure University baseball team. 

On April 22, it’s exactly one month and one day into spring in West Palm Beach, Fla. where the St. Bonaventure Bonnies had spring training at a sunny 85 degrees.

The Bonnies on that day have a doubleheader against St. Louis, an Atlantic-10 Conference rival, due to pending inclement weather that is predicted to be 30 degrees with snow showers and upwards of 25 mph winds. 

And that was the day the team decided the weather would be good enough to play in. 

As a Division I athlete in western New York, playing in what would be considered playable—let alone ideal—conditions is rare. People in this area wouldn’t be caught dead drinking anything that didn’t have a “caution: contents hot” warning. 

Not only that, the resemblance between St. Bonaventure and a freshly shaken snow-globe is uncanny.

But at St. Bonaventure University, the student athletes and its coaches make do with what we have—and try not to make excuses for what we don’t.

Prior to my freshmen year, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have heard stories growing up about preferential treatment for standout athletes, so I figured some of that might go on at this university. 

Let me tell you; I had really underestimated the academic integrity of this institution. 

“We make up the work we miss, and we don’t get any preferential treatment in terms of scheduling, housing, etc…,” said sophomore first basement Austin Ingraham.

Brad Steinbach, senior center fielder and captain, agreed.

“I don’t feel like athletes get special treatment,” he said. “We do twice or sometimes even more in one day then normal students do and are not really recognized for any of it by professors.”

Collectively as a team, we feel that this is how it should be. We don’t feel like we’re better than the average student; we just have a little less time to get our schoolwork done. 

Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing about it because it taught me how to balance tasks, prioritize and focus. 

Senior pitcher Jamie Wallschlaeger added that most people learn time management and discipline from being a student athlete.

“Schoolwork comes first before baseball, and coach (Larry Sudbrook) is very strict about that, so I think the faculty does a good job and is at times lenient with us on getting our work done in time,” he said. “The toughest part is definitely when we have our road trip games and trying to focus on doing our work in the hotel room.”

But the weather remains the greatest competitive disadvantage.

Not having an indoor training facility on top of this weather forces the team into Butler Gymnasium, which consists of a single batting cage and two makeshift artificial pitching mounds on a less than regulation sized basketball court, for practice until we leave for Florida. 

We don’t have a full indoor facility to play long toss or take ground balls to prepare us for the beginning of our season.

Ingraham summed it up the best about how the weather impacted the Bonnies this season.

“It has been a battle to stay warm every home series we have had,” he said. “It really takes a toll on you throughout the course of a game, mentally and physically. What other team in the nation has jet engine heaters in their dugout the middle of April?”

I believe this is a testament of our passion for the game of baseball. Why else would we put ourselves through this for four years?  

But the bottom line is we chose to play baseball here. 

I have busted my butt here for four years alongside the rest of my teammates, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a single thing about the experience. 

I came in, created a bond with teammates and took gratification in seeing hard work translate into progress on the baseball diamond.

We may not have a state-of-the-art indoor facility, 75-degree weather or seemingly unlimited funds, but we have a band of hard-working brothers that share one mentality:

Play hard, play smart, and play to win, one blizzard at a time. 

Don’t look now, but we’re in the thick of the playoff hunt. It’s been a long time coming, but the Bonnies are back.

St. Bonaventure plays its final two regular season games today and Saturday at Fred Handler Park. The Bonnies’ 12-10-0 record puts them in tied-seventh in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings, trailing Xavier and LaSalle by only one game. Top six teams make the playoffs. 

Calderon hit a two-out, RBI double in Friday’s game against Massachusetts to help the Bonnies to a 10-0 win. All game recaps can be read on GoBonnies.com.

Alex Calderon

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