BIG EAST Coaches Pick Wildcats to Finish 10th in Coming Season
Jan. 4, 2011
PROVIDENCE, R.I.--League head coaches have predicted Villanova to finish in 10th place in the BIG EAST in 2011, as the conference today announced the results of its annual preseason coaches' poll. Following a 29-win season a year ago the Wildcats return 26 players to the team this spring, including 15 position players and 11 pitchers.
Villanova went 29-23 last season and came within one game of returning to the BIG EAST Championship for a third time in the last four years. Among the returnees to the squad are six starting position players - including the entire infield - along with three starting pitchers and three of the top four relievers.
Joining the fold for the Wildcats is a class of 14 newcomers which features 12 freshmen and two transfers. The recruiting class as a whole is a strong one for 10th year head coach Joe Godri and his staff and the incoming players are capable of making immediate contributions to the team.
Villanova received a total of 31 points in the preseason poll, in which Connecticut was tabbed as the favorite to win the conference title. In all, seven of the eight teams which qualified for the conference tournament last year were once again picked to finish in the top eight of the league standings this season.
Leading the way among the returning players for the Wildcats are junior pitchers Kyle Helisek (Cranberry Township, Pa.) and Kyle McMyne (Old Forge, Pa.) in the starting rotation, where they will be joined by sophomore Kevin MacLachlan (Matawan, N.J.) who comes off of a strong freshman campaign. In the bullpen, senior closer Mike Francisco (Newtown Square, Pa.) is back along with two of his primary setup men in juniors Julian Diaz (Trenton, N.J.) and Jerry Battipaglia (Katonah, N.Y.).
The team's top returning hitter is senior Dain Hall (Barrington, Ill.), who can play both the infield and the outfield. Junior outfielder Matt Fleishman (Commack, N.Y.) will also be back at one of the corner outfield spots, while Villanova returns first baseman Kevin Wager (Fairfax, Va.), second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.), shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) and third baseman David Koczirka (Thornton, Pa.).
The Wildcats were picked ahead of Seton Hall (25 points) and Georgetown (13) in the poll, while preseason favorite Connecticut earned nine of the 12 first-place votes and a total of 117 points. Following the Huskies were St. John's (two first-place votes, 107 points), Louisville (one, 105), USF (87), Pittsburgh (82), Rutgers (75), Cincinnati (56), Notre Dame (56) and West Virginia (38) ahead of Villanova.
Connecticut also featured the Preseason Player of the Year in junior outfielder George Springer and Preseason Pitcher of the Year in junior Matt Barnes.
Villanova opens the 2011 season with a three-game series at Norfolk State from February 18-20.