Point Park University Baseball 2012 Season Preview & Outlook
Feb. 23, 2012
Point Park Head Coach Loren Torres preseason interview taped Feb. 16, 2012
The Point Park Pioneers made major strides toward reclaiming their strong tradition of NAIA Baseball with an outstanding 2011 season. Point Park was 38-13 overall, won the American Mideast Conference Regular Season Championship at 14-6 and reached the finals of the AMC Tournament as the No. 1 seed. The Pioneers were ranked No. 23 in the Final NAIA Baseball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll of the year, but were the first team left out of the at-large bid to the NAIA Opening Round, the regional tournament prior to the NAIA World Series.
The Pioneers begin 2012 with their eyes set on building off last year’s success under head coach Loren Torres, who is now in his third year at the helm. Point Park had a big turnaround — a 25-win improvement — from Torres’ first season of 2010, which ended at 13-26 overall. Point Park had a senior-laden roster in 2011, one that had experienced losing seasons prior to their final year.
The Pioneers must replace six of their nine position starters, including five seniors who were the leaders of the team and all hit over .315. But the pitching staff returns virtually intact as the Pioneers have three of their four starters back as well as their top two relievers. The voids left by the departed starters in the batting order and in the field figure to be filled by several talented newcomers, most of them transfers who can help out right away.
In the NAIA Baseball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll released Nov. 15, Point Park was just outside the Top 25 at No. 26. The Pioneers will have their chance to breakout of the ‘others receiving votes’ section with a challenging, 55-game schedule that begins Feb. 24. Point Park will be tested early with a five-game trip Feb. 24-26 that includes games versus NAIA No. 7 Cumberland (TN) as well as ‘receiving votes’ teams Martin Methodist (TN) and Campbellsville (KY). The tough, early opponents continue with a 10-game trip to the Russ Matt Central Florida Invitational March 4-10. There the Pioneers face No. 23 Madonna (MI) as well as traditional NAIA powers St. Xavier (IL) and Olivet Nazarene (IL).
The northern portion of the Pioneers’ schedule begins with their home opener March 14 vs. Penn State-Beaver. First pitch is at 12 p.m. at Green Tree Park. Point Park figures to be the favorite in the new-look American Mideast Conference, which is down to three teams . Along with Point Park are new AMC member Fisher (MA) and Houghton (NY), the latter of which is a long-time AMC member that is about to embarked on its first-ever season of baseball. The conference schedule includes a four-game series with each team.
The AMC will send its top two teams to an Unaffiliated Group Tournament May 2-5 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The winner of the six-team, double elimination tournament will advance to the NAIA Opening Round. The six-team field will be made up of two teams each from the AMC, the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. The AMC, KIAC and GCAC all fall short of the required six teams needed for a conference to have an automatic bid to nationals. So, the Unaffiliated Group was formed.
The following is a positional breakdown of the 2012 Point Park baseball team:
It makes sense to start with pitching because that’s where the Pioneers return most of their talent. Top three starters Derek Peluso (RHP, Sr., Zelienople, Pa.), Ryan Loutsenhizer (RHP, Jr., N.Huntingdon, Pa.) and Sean Clark (RHP, Jr., Titusville, Pa.) all return as well as top relievers Mike Tullio (RHP, Sr., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) and Ben Rodriguez (RHP, Sr., East Dundee, Ill.). All of those pitchers are upperclassmen, and they are joined by some newcomers who will challenge for the fourth starting spot and positions in the bullpen.
Peluso (7-1 in 2011), Loutsenhizer (7-3) and Clark (7-2) all started 10 games and had ERAs under 4.00 last year. Tullio was a stopper in the bullpen with a 6-0 record, a 0.98 ERA and three saves. Rodriguez was used as a spot starter and long reliever. Tullio and Rodriguez will be used as starters in the early part of the year vying for the No. 4 role. Sophomore Jon Cororan (RHP, Fox Chapel, Pa.) is also back after posting a 4.50 ERA in seven outings.
Newcomers added to the staff include transfers Horacio Acosta (Wabash Valley (IL)), Josh Brooks (Ottawa (KS)), Manny Perdomo (St. Thomas (FL)), Nathan Spohn (West Chester), Isaiah Marsh (Clearwater (FL) Christian), Jon Burns (Mercyhurst NE) and freshman Ben Wiedemer (Central Catholic HS). All of those arms will be in the mix for roles on the staff
Lee Bodnar is the top returning position player for the Pioneers, and the senior from Chartiers Valley HS is a two-time All-AMC First-Team selection. He was all-conference at first base last year and at third base the year before. As a senior, he will play third. As the Pioneers No. 3 hitter last year, Bodnar hit .351 with 11 doubles, six homers and 52 RBIs.
Also returning on the infield is senior shortstop Dillon Sauers, a two-year starter out of South Fayette HS. Sauers hit .355 with seven doubles and 23 RBIs last year. At second base, sophomore Tom Birko is back on the active roster after sitting out the 2011 season with a shoulder injury. The Montour HS grad was All-AMC Honorable Mention in 2010 when he hit .330 as a freshman utility player.
Mike Ganley, a sophomore from Bethel Park, Pa., is a backup on the middle infield. He appeared in 34 games and made 20 starts as a freshman infielder at Duquesne University in 2010 before the program was cancelled.
A few players will battle at first base with Marlon Leyva, Jonathan Tasis and Steve Dujka in the mix. Leyva is a junior from Miami, Fla., who transferred this year from NAIA St. Thomas (FL) Univ. Tasis is a sophomore from Miami, Fla., and the former All-Dade County player hit .364 with an on-base percentage of .531 as a freshman backup. Dujka is a senior from St. Charles, Ill. He transferred to Point Park last year and hit .257 with two HRs and 19 RBIs. All three players are able to catch and may see time there with Leyva being the most-likely one to do so.
Departed seniors from last year include second baseman Bryce Pfeuffer, who hit .315 with 37 RBIs and third baseman Frank Marko, who hit .333 with 21 RBIs. Both players were very sure-handed and All-AMC selections.
The Pioneers had one of the best outfields in the NAIA last year in terms of defense and base stealing. Gone are All-AMC seniors Brian Grise (CF, .320, 27-33 SBs) and Kyle Lucot (LF, .335, 29-32 SBs), who were the No. 1-2 hitters in the lineup and AMC-Rawlings Gold Glove winners. Tom Pasinki (.314, 16-21 SBs) earned the starting right field spot midway through last year, and the West Mifflin, Pa., native returns as a candidate in right and center.
Rob Novia, a junior from North Port, Fla., has bided his time as an underclassman and is vying for the left field spot with transfer Don McDuffee. Novia hit .333 as a backup last year. McDuffee is a junior from Champain, Ill., and a transfer from Lake Land (IL) College. Vying for the right field spot is sophomore Javier Marticorena, a native of Miami, Fla., who was the Florida 6A Player of the Year in his last season of high school baseball in 2010. He spent his freshman year at St. Thomas (FL) Univ.
Phil Navatsyk is a transfer for former AMC member Malone University. He is a speedy utility player who can play outfield and infield. He played in 25 games at Malone and was 10 for 11 in stolen bases.
Graduated senior Dave Angle was a three-time All-AMC performer. He was the starting catcher and batted .324 with seven homers and 46 RBIs as the Pioneers’ No. 4 hitter last year. The top candidate to fill in that void is Ossie Alfonso, a sophomore from Hialeah, Fla. The former All-Dade County selection started his career at junior-college baseball power Miami Dade College, the same school that produced Mike Piazza.
Also in the mix at catcher are Marlon Leyva, who will see time at first base, and junior transfer Tyler Cattapan, a native of Canada who was at Hill (TX) College for two years.
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