Siena Baseball opens its 2018 season when the Saints face defending National Champion and unanimous preseason No. 1 Florida for a three-game weekend series in Gainesville. The season commences Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at McKethan Stadium, and the entire series will be streamed live on SEC Network + via the WatchESPN app.
Sophomore righthander Brendan White draws the Opening Day start on the mound for the Saints, and will matchup against Preseason First Team All-American and junior righthander Brady Singer for Florida. Junior southpaw Tommy Miller is Siena's projected Game Two starter Saturday (4 PM), while junior righthander John Nolan is scheduled to toe the slab for Siena in the series finale Sunday (1 PM).
Click the corresponding links at the top of the page to watch, listen, and follow the live stats for all three games of the series. Follow @SienaBaseball for LIVE twitter updates all weekend long from on-site in Gainesville, and join the conversation by using the hashtags #SienaSaints, #MarchOn, and #MAACBaseball.
"Obviously Florida is a very formidable team, winning the National Championship last year and being picked No. 1 this year," said head coach Tony Rossi. "They have an outstanding pitching staff, and a core of good hitters returning. For us though, it's about ourselves and just trying to improve every outing, every at-bat, every pitch, and hopefully that will prepare us for the long run."
Rossi embarks upon his 49th season at the helm of the Siena Baseball program as the Dean of all active NCAA Division I Baseball head coaches. The longest tenured active Division I head coach in the nation and the longest tenured active coach at the same institution in any NCAA Division I sport, Rossi is also both the winningest coach in school history in any sport, and the winningest coach in MAAC history in any sport with 869 career victories to his name.
Siena enters the season both a year older and a year more experienced, looking to build off an encouraging 2017 campaign with a more veteran roster this spring. Featuring a squad which included a total of 22 freshmen and sophomores, the Saints' youthful 2017 team posted a 20-28-2 overall record including an 11-13 conference mark, as Siena just missed out on qualifying for the six-team MAAC Tournament by one game. Despite their youth and inexperience, the Saints were road warriors as they recorded 16 of their 20 victories away from home to tie for the program's most road wins in 12 years.
Despite returning six of its top-seven hitters and two-thirds of its weekend rotation, Siena was projected to finish seventh out of 11 teams according to the MAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Saints will thus need to outperform preseason prognostications if they hope to return to the MAAC Championships, which will be held Memorial Day Weekend in Staten Island. Siena had advanced to the MAAC Championship Series for four consecutive years and five times in the previous six seasons, prior to just missing out on postseason play last spring.
The Saints are led offensively by MAAC Preseason Player of the Year and senior first baseman Joe Drpich. Also predicted to be the MAAC Player of the Year by Baseball America, Drpich was named an ABCA/Rawlings All-Northeast Region First Team, ECAC First Team, and First Team All-MAAC selection after leading the MAAC with a whopping .577 slugging percentage last spring. Siena College’s 2016-17 Male Student Athlete of the Year, Drpich ranked second in the conference in both home runs (10) and RBI (46) in 2017, and was tied for third in total bases (105), while standing fifth in batting average (.346).
"Being able to start a season playing the best of the best is going to be an experience and something we'll never forget," explained Drpich, who is the first Saint to be named MAAC Preseason Player of the Year in seven years. "We had a young team last year, and we return a lot of players in a lot of key roles. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I'm really looking forward to this season."
Drpich is joined on the right side of the infield by classmate and fellow Preseason All-MAAC selection Jordan Bishop. The Saints' four-year starting second baseman led the 2017 squad in both doubles (13) and sacrifices (six). He hit .313 in 45 appearances (44 starts) while manning the keystone, and drove in 24 runs. Other key offensive returnees include junior third baseman and clean-up hitter Brian Kelly who hit .323 last spring, and senior starting catcher and two-time team captain Phil Madonna.
However, as with most teams, the amount of Siena's success this spring will likely be predicated upon the success of its pitching staff. White and Miller return to anchor the Saints' weekend rotation following solid underclassman campaigns last season. White was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week Mar. 28, and made 14 weekend starts as freshman while tying with Miller for the staff lead in victories with five. A weekend starter in each of his first two seasons, the now veteran Miller will be leaned upon heavily for his unmatched experienced in the rotation. The junior has made 27 weekend starts over his first two seasons, and tied for the staff lead with 49 strikeouts last spring.
The bullpen will be headlined at the start of the season by sophomore righthander Danny Hobbs, who led the team with six saves in 2017, and classmate Matt Pierce who was the staff leader with a 3.21 ERA. Red-shirt junior righthander Ryan Bellomo is also expected to return to a high-leverage late-inning role after returning to the squad late last season as he worked his way back from injury.
Siena will once again be tested early to begin its 2018 season, as the Saints open with a 22-game road trip which marks the program's longest since playing 34 straight away from home to open the 2014 campaign. The season-opening road trip includes seven opponents in five different states scattered along the eastern seaboard. Overall, the Saints are slated to play 10 games this spring against 2017 NCAA Tournament teams, and 15 contests vs. squads which won either or both their conference’s regular season and/or tournament championships last season.
Siena opens its season in the Sunshine State for the eighth time in the past nine years with this weekend's slate at Florida. The Gators have captured all 12 previous meetings between the programs, including all three games to open the 2008 season in Gainesville the last time the two schools met.
The defending National Champions, Florida opens its title defense ranked No. 1 in the country in all major national preseason polls. The Gators won 52 games last season, and boast five Preseason All-Americans in addition to welcoming in the nation's second ranked recruiting class.