Army Opens PL Tournament Play By Hosting Lafayette

Gunnar Carroll

Gunnar Carroll

May 11, 2012

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WEST POINT, N.Y. - For the eighth time in nine years, and the 12th time in program history, the Army baseball team will participate in the Patriot League Tournament. The top-seeded Black Knights begin their quest for the conference title this weekend (May 12-13) when they host fourth-seeded Lafayette in a best-of-three semifinal series at Doubleday Field.

Army and Lafayette will play a doubleheader on Saturday (May 12) beginning at 12 p.m., with a single game scheduled for Sunday (May 13) at 1 p.m. (if necessary). All games in the Patriot League Tournament will be nine-inning contests.

Video streamed broadcasts of this weekend's action will be available via ITT Exelis Knight Vision, with Rich DeMarco providing the play-by-play. Live stats for all three games will be offered through GameTracker by logging onto Army's official athletics website ( Twitter updates will also be provided throughout the weekend (@ArmyAthletics).

Second-seeded Holy Cross hosts third-seeded Navy in the other semifinal series this weekend, with the winners of the two best-of-three sets advancing to next weekend's Patriot League Championship Series at the home of the highest remaining seed.

Army, which has qualified for the conference's postseason tournament each of the last six years, captured Patriot League championships in 1997, 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2009.

Army and Lafayette will be meeting in the Patriot League Tournament for the second straight season and fifth time overall. Army bounced Lafayette from the conference tourney in 2004, 2009 and 2011, while the Leopards eliminated the Black Knights in 2007. Army will be looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last nine seasons.

Army (37-12, 18-2 PL) enters the conference tournament leading the Patriot League in both earned run average (3.15) and batting average (.290). The Black Knights' pitching staff is led by junior RHP Chris Rowley, who was named the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year earlier this week.

Rowley enters this weekend's series sporting a perfect 10-0 overall record and a 1.26 earned run average. He leads the nation in wins and WHIP (0.72), while listing third in ERA and fourth in hits allowed per nine innings (5.03). Rowley tossed a four-hit shutout in Army's 1-0 victory over Lafayette during the regular season.

Senior LHP Logan Lee, who was named to the All-Patriot League second team, figures to take the ball in the second game of this weekend's three-game set. He carries a 6-2 record and 3.62 ERA into Saturday's action. Lee was masterful against Lafayette during the regular season, carrying a perfect game into the seventh inning of Army's 8-0 win over the Leopards.

Sophomore LHP Nick Dignacco, who shows a 7-2 record and 3.26 ERA has emerged as a frontline starting pitcher this season as well. He struck out eight batters over 6.1 innings in Army's 4-2 victory over Lafayette during the regular season.

Army's bullpen has been stout this year with four relievers boasting earned run averages below 3.50. Senior RHP Kevin McKague, who holds down the closer's role, leads the way with a 1.46 ERA and five saves. Sophomore RHP Gunnar Carroll paces the Army relievers with 33 strikeouts and six saves, while authoring a 2.62 ERA over 44.2 innings of work. Senior RHP Manny Fernandez (4-0, 2.05 ERA) and freshman RHP Taylor Goucher (1-1, 3.24 ERA) have been effective as well.

McKague, who doubles as Army's starting first baseman, was selected as the Patriot League Player of the Year after topping the conference in batting average (.385), base hits (67) and on-base percentage (.481). He also leads the Black Knights with 14 doubles, five home runs and 41 RBI.

Freshman INF Harold Earls, who was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Year, is in the midst of an outstanding season. The scrappy third baseman leads the team with 19 stolen bases, lists second on the club with a .348 batting average and stands fourth with seven doubles.

Senior INF Zach Price, who was named to the All-Patriot League first team for the third time in his career, leads the conference with 44 runs scored and lists among the league leaders with a .323 batting average, 25 walks and 14 stolen bases.

Senior catcher J.T. Watkins (.294, nine doubles, three home runs) and senior OF Cody Murtle (.269, eight doubles, four home runs, 39 RBI) have supplied plenty of power in the middle of the Black Knights' batting order this season.

Lafayette (14-35-1, 7-13 PL) took three out of four games from Bucknell during the final weekend of the conference's regular season to sneak into the Patriot League Tournament. The Leopards enter Saturday's doubleheader on a bit of a down note after losing three straight games to Marist last weekend. The Red Foxes outscored Lafayette, 27-2, en route to the sweep.

Senior OF Bobby Fargnoli sparks the Lafayette offense, which shows a .229 team batting average and scores fewer than four runs per game. Fargnoli is batting .264 with 10 doubles, two triples and 25 runs batted in.

Sophomore OF Andrew Santomauro, who is the only Lafayette player to appear in all 50 games this spring, is batting .263 with 10 doubles, four triples, one home run and 20 RBI. He also leads the Leopards with 28 runs scored.

Junior first baseman Brad Hopek and junior second baseman Kevin Casey have supplied some of the team's best power numbers in 2012. Hopek has eight doubles, three home runs and 20 RBI, while Casey boasts four doubles, three homers and 17 runs batted in.

Senior RHP John Gentile (1-10, 5.29 ERA) has emerged as Lafayette's top starting pitcher. He enters this weekend's series with 33 strikeouts in a team-high 63 innings pitched. Gentile tossed a complete game against Army during the regular season, but was outdueled by Rowley in a 1-0 Army victory.

Senior RHP Jeff Snell has established himself as one of the top arms out of the Leopards' bullpen. The fourth-year hurler leads the team with six saves, while his 3.53 earned run average is among the best on the club. Snell has 28 strikeouts in 35.2 innings of work.

Army and Lafayette have met 129 times in a series that began in 1896. The Black Knights hold a 72-55-2 edge in the all-time series after winning all four regular-season meetings earlier this spring.

Army has compiled a 20-4 record against Lafayette over the last five years. The Black Knights have taken nine straight meetings from the Leopards dating back to last season. Army also owns a four-game winning streak against Lafayette in Patriot League Tournament action, having swept the Leopards out of the postseason in 2009 and 2011.

Army needs to win this weekend's series versus Lafayette in order to extend its season to next weekend's Patriot League Championship Series. The Black Knights would host either second-seeded Holy Cross or third-seeded Navy in a best-of-three series May 19-20.

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