Scouting Villanova

LSU opens the 2009 season against Villanova on Friday and here is a look at the Wildcats from the Big East Conference.

Overview

In 2008, Villanova was led last year by a group of seniors and two notable players were Drafted, P Jordan Ellis ( 28th round by Philadelphia ) and SS Derek Shunk (17th Round by San Diego).  The Wildcats finished 30-28 overall last season, and made it to post-season play for the second straight year.  2007 was the first time in 10 years the Wildcats saw the post-season earning the No. 6 spot in the Big East Tournament.

In the 2008 Big East tournament (No. 8 seed):

·         Round 1: Defeated #1 St. John’s 12-0

·         Round 2: Lost to #4 Louisville 14-3

·         Elimination Round: Defeated #5 Seton Hall 10-0

·         Semi-Finals: Lost to #4 Louisville 13-6

Head Coach

The Wildcats are coached by Joe Godri, who is in his eighth year as head coach, and his program has posted a .500 or better record six out of seven years. This is actually Godri’s second stint with the Wildcats, previously serving as the hitting coach from 1991-1993.  He left Villanova to take an assistant head coach’s position at New Mexico State where he remained in that role until 1997. 

During his tenure at New Mexico State, Godri had two top 40 recruiting classes and the Lobos earned their first ever top 25 ranking.  Prior to returning to Villanova as an assistant in 2000 (for 2001 season) Godri served as a scout for the Cleveland Indians for a year and pitching coach for two years at Utah.

After taking over the program, Godri had a lot of work to do.  He has stressed through his tenure the importance of building the program on small milestones.  As he has been able to accomplish those goals, he has set higher goals, and now the program must live up to much larger expectations. 

Godri has had numerous players selected in the MLB draft.  One of his biggest milestones came in 2005 when Villanova beat Florida 11-1 when the Gators went on to advance to the CWS final series.  Later in the year the Wildcats achieved another milestone when two pitchers threw no-hitters exactly one month apart.

After bringing Villanova back to post-season play in 2007, Godri began focusing on the next step, NCAA post-season play.  He is hopeful that a veteran pitching staff an injection of youth into the positions will help him reach that goal in the 2009 campaign.

Assistant Coaches

Jim Carone, who is a young up and coming coach, is the pitching coach for the Wildcats and the 2009 campaign will be his first on the staff.  He graduated from Monmouth in 2003, and began his coaching career shortly after.  Carone spent the previous two seasons at Rider serving as their pitching coach.  Rider won the 2008 MAAC tournament and earned a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade.

Rod Johnson serves as the infield coach and the third base coach.  Under his guidance, Villanova has become a very solid defensive squad.  Prior to his arrival at Villanova, Johnson was a very successful American Legion coach, and is known for his baseball expertise.

Their hitting coach is Chris Madonna, who is in his second year with the program.  He also serves at the first base coach.  After graduating from North Carolina in 1994, Madonna spent the next decade or so playing for various organizations in the pros as well as abroad.  He is just starting his career as a coach.


2008 Team Statistics

Batting

AVG.

GP

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

Totals

.273

58

1938

363

530

92

20

41

329

Opp.

.297

58

2070

399

615

128

28

27

357

 

Pitching

ERA

W-L

APP

CG

SHO

SV

ER

BB

SO

Totals

5.56

30-28

58

4

3

9

313

258

366

Opp.

5.02

28-30

58

0

3

12

281

301

366


Top Returning Players

·         Joe Cotter

o         Senior Outfielder

AVG.

GP-GS

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

.300

52-51

190

51

57

9

0

5

29

 

·         Dain Hall

o         Sophomore Third Baseman/Second Baseman
 

AVG.

GP-GS

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

.292

54-44

161

33

47

5

1

1

21

 

·         Wesley Borden

o         Senior Catcher
 

AVG.

GP-GS

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

.270

49-48

159

23

43

10

0

5

22

 

·         Brian Streilein 

o         Junior Right Handed Pitcher

ERA

W-L

APP/GS

CG

SHO

SV

IP/ER

BB

SO

5.26

6-4

13/11

2

1

0

78.2/46

25

56

 

·         Chris Pack

o         Sophomore  Right Handed Pitcher

ERA

W-L

APP/GS

CG

SHO

SV

IP/ER

BB

SO

5.17

4-3

16/11

0

0

0

55.2/32

25

38

 

·         Josh Eidell

o         Senior Right Handed Pitcher

ERA

W-L

APP/GS

CG

SHO

SV

IP/ER

BB

SO

4.63

4-6

22/3

0

0

7

46.2/24

17

37

 

2009 Scouting Report

Designated Hitter

Joe Godri has already said that Joe Rosati, who is a senior and four-year starter, will be the DH to start the season.  He hit .254 last year while swiping 24 bases, and is the best player on the base paths for Villanova.  Rosati has good speed and finished the 2008 campaign with five doubles and three triples.

Catcher

After serving as a back-up in 2007, Wesley Borden stepped into a starting role in 2008 making 48 starts last year for the Wildcats.  He hit for .270 last year with five home runs.  He looks to improve on his hitting stats during the 2009 season.

Behind Borden, Villanova will use sophomore John Dunham and freshman Adam Nelson as the back-ups.  Nelson had an impressive fall according to Godri, but is still making the transition to Division-1 baseball.  Dunham only started catching when he arrived on campus two years ago and is continuing to learn the position. 

Infield

Both corner positions will see new starters for the 2009 campaign.  Redshirt Freshman Matt Szczur will likely be the starting third baseman, while Kyle Carver will likely get the start at the other corner. 

Szczur is a two sport athlete who also is a wide receiver on the football team.  He was drafted by the Dodgers out of high school and is excited about his return to the diamond after missing the 2008 season due to a football related injury. Freshman Kevin Wagner will also compete for playing time at third base.

Carver will likely start at first base the majority of the time, but he is also a pitcher.   Last year he hit for .254 with five home runs, and had a .447 slugging percentage.  Godri will continue to use Carver as a pitcher, so look for two freshmen to fill the void when he shifts to the mound.  Those two freshmen are Scott Buckwalter and Kevin Stephens.  The two freshmen hit from opposite sides of the plate, so Godri has flexibility based on the opposing pitcher.

While the corners are new, Godri has a lot of flexibility and a lot of guys that fill into either position.  He won’t hesitate to use the freshmen, so it will be up to them to perform.

At shortstop, Villanova must replace Derek Shunk who was one of the best players in Villanova history.  Villanova brought in a slew of freshmen and Tyler Sciacca has the inside track at this point.  While Sciacca has the best arm and defensive skills out of the bunch, he will have to show improvement offensively to lock himself in as a starter.  He should be the starter for the opening series and will likely hit at the bottom of the lineup.

The other freshmen trying to find their way into the lineup include Cuyler Esposito, Carl Fiebig, and Marlon Calbi.  All these guys need to develop offensively like Sciacca, but the good news for Villanova is that Godri has options if one struggles.

Last but not least, sophomore Dain Hall rounds out the infield.  He is the only remaining infield starter from last year, but he was at the hot corner in 2008.  Hall has a very large upside as he hit .292 as a freshman while stealing 13 bases.  The Wildcats will look for Hall to be the leader on the infield and  Godri will count on him to improve on his freshmen stats at the plate.

Esposito and Fiebig are also capable of playing second base.  It isn’t likely either will become the everyday starter at second unless Hall moves back to third or is injured.  Defensively they are solid, but again they need to improve offensively.

Outfield

The outfield is perhaps the deepest position at Villanova as the Wildcats return all three starters from last year. 

Joe Cotter will shift from center to right this year and the fifth-year senior has the best arm out of the bunch. He hit an even .300 last year in the leadoff spot. 

In center, Justin Bencsko will get the nod and like some of his teammates, defensively he is very solid, but needs to continue to improve offensively.  Bencsko hit .226 last year and stole six bases. 

Senior Matt McFolling will  be in left field and he has the most career home runs on the team with eight, and hit .229 last year in 25 starts.

Many of the guys already mentioned as backups at other positions have the ability to make the shift to the outfield if needed.  Once again, Godri won’t hesitate to play a freshman in the outfield if needed.

Pitching

Junior RHP Brian Streilein will lead the pitching staff.  In 2008 he posted a 5.26 ERA while striking out 56 in 78 2/3 innings.  Streilein is a power pitcher who is a hard thrower and he changes speeds well.  He will be looking to improve on his 2008 campaign with the hopes of being drafted in June.

Sophomore Chris Pack, who posted a 5.17 ERA last year, was a weekday starter last year who will likely be moved into a weekend role for 2009. Pack is in his third year with the program after redshirting in 2007.  Godri will depend on his experience and maturity to help him make the transition from weekday to weekend starter.  He should be able to solidify himself as the #2 pitcher in the rotation. 

In the bullpen, Josh Eidell returns for his senior campaign as the closer.  Eidell looks to build on last year’s success as a closer.  He is a former starter for the Wildcats and has the ability to go longer than an inning or two if needed.  If the Wildcats make it to post-season play again, Godri might consider using Eidell as the fourth starter. 

Series Outlook

It’s very hard to tell what type of team Villanova is going to be this year since they lost the heart and soul of last year’s team to graduation. Last year’s team included 12 seniors that were all major contributors, and losing that large of a group left this year’s team very inexperienced and very young.  Their 2009 squad is comprised of 18 freshmen, 8 sophomores, 3 juniors, and 6 seniors.  Godri is a solid coach and certainly has made incredible strides with that program. 

The Wildcats return some decent pitching that has a lot of experience with two starters back along with their closer.  Eidell is a solid closer and I would expect that he will have a much better year this year.  Much like LSU, Villanova is dominated by right-handed pitching as they list only four lefties on the roster.

Offensively it’s going to be up to the returning position players to lead by example since Villanova returns five to the starting lineup.  They need to have a more productive year than last year in order for this team to compete.  Godri is going to have to rely on some of the younger players to step in and be productive.  How quickly they develop will tell a lot about how the season is going to go.

The program has traditionally been led by very solid fielding and strong pitching.  As a result, they play very well with a lead letting their defense and bullpen close out the game.  A higher scoring game plays right into the strength of LSU this year which will once again be led by its offense.  Although high scoring games would likely benefit LSU, Villanova usually wins ball games when they get a lead.  The proof is here:

2008 record when leading after:

Inn

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

W-L

14-1

18-2

20-5

19-5

22-7

22-2

23-2

26-0


2008 record when trailing after:

Inn

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

W-L

6-13

6-20

6-20

8-19

7-19

5-22

2-21

0-23


2008 record when tied after:

Inn

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

W-L

10-14

6-6

4-3

3-4

1-2

3-4

3-4

2-4

 

Coming into Baton Rouge and seeing the New Box is going to be a shock for the Wildcats.  They usually play in front of less than 500 fans, but that might not matter.  This will be the first game of the season for both squads, but emotions for the LSU team should be very high.  I fully expect the atmosphere to be very electric and loud with the opening of the New Box.  Like many smaller programs, Villanova needs to just enjoy the experience and take in every aspect of this series.  The more they relax, the better off their chances are of stealing a game from the Tigers.

Villanova was predicted to finish 10th in the Big East Conference by the coaches and they did not have any pre-season Big East First Team players.  Godri is hopeful that they will finish between fifth and eighth in the league.  He understands that the top four teams in the Big East are significantly ahead of the other eight, so he would love to fall in right behind those four.

 


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