For the fifth consecutive season and sixth time in the past seven years, Siena Baseball will begin its season in Orlando. The Saints embark upon their 2017 campaign when they open a three-game weekend series at Central Florida Friday night at 6:30 p.m.
Sophomore southpaw and 2016 weekend No. 1 starter Tommy Miller gets the ball to open the season Friday night, matching up against UCF righthander Robby Howell who led the American Athletic Conference with a 1.96 ERA last season. Freshman righthander Brendan White is the Saints' projected Game Two starter Saturday (3 p.m.), with senior lefthander Chris Amorosi scheduled to toe the slab in the series finale Sunday (1 p.m.).
Click the corresponding links at the top of the page to both watch and follow the live stats for all three games. Additionally, Friday night's season opener will include a complimentary audio stream. Follow @SienaBaseball on twitter for in-game updates, and join the conversation by using the hashtags #SienaSaints and #MAACBaseball.
“We have reason to be cautiously optimistic (about the upcoming season)," said head coach Tony Rossi, who enters his 48th season leading the Siena Baseball program. "We have a nice core of veterans returning, and a large group of quality offensive players joining us as part of a deep incoming class. However, to go along with this offensive group are 10 freshmen and five sophomore pitchers which makes for the cautious label. How quickly our group of young pitchers mature, will dictate the course of the season."
Rossi is set to make history Friday night as he officially opens his 48th season at the helm. Following Augie Garrido's departure from Texas at the end of last season, Rossi will now become both the longest tenured active Division I head coach in the nation, and the longest active tenured coach at the same institution in any NCAA Division I sport. The winningest coach in any sport in MAAC history, Rossi has amassed 849 career victories while leading the Green and Gold.
Siena enters the season with high expectations for a program which has advanced to the MAAC Championship Series in each of the past four years, and five times in the last six seasons overall. The Saints return seven everyday starters from one of the most potent offenses in the Northeast for a team which posted a 25-32 overall record last spring and finished second in the MAAC with a 16-8 league mark.
Despite returning a solid core mostly intact, Siena will look to prove the conference's coaches wrong who projected them to finish sixth out of 11 teams according to the MAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll. In addition to their solid returning core, the Green and Gold also welcome the largest freshman class in program history at 16 strong. The Saints are anchored up the middle by 2017 Preseason All-MAAC selections in senior centerfielder Dan Swain and junior second baseman Jordan Bishop.
The 2016 First Team All-MAAC selection at second base, Bishop was the only Saint to start all 57 games last season. He ranked fifth in the MAAC with 43 RBI, and also led Siena in both batting average (.318) and hits (71). Bishop recorded 23 multiple hit performances, and strung together a 16-game hit streak last season.
Named to last year's MAAC Second Team, Swain ranked fourth in the league in triples (four), fifth in slugging (.531), and led the Saints in runs scored (42), total bases (94), on-base percentage (.423) and walks (28) despite missing 11 games due to injury. A two-time MAAC Player of the Week last spring, he hit .311 with six homers and 33 RBI and ranked second on the team to Bishop with 14 multiple hit efforts.
Other key offensive returnees include 2015 MAAC Rookie of the Year Joe Drpich who was also named a Second Team All-MAAC selection after hitting seven home runs and knocking in 34 runs despite missing the final month of last season due to injury. Junior backstop and team co-captain Phil Madonna anchors the Saints' behind the dish where he hit .300 last season while also throwing out 25% of would be base stealers. Sophomores Jordan Folgers and Brian Kelly also saw significant action last season as they look to build upon their rookie campaigns.
While Siena returns a well-established offense, the Saints have some questions marks with their pitching staff. Miller anchors a talented, but inexperienced unit. He emerged last season as the Saints' weekend ace where he posted a 5-2 record in conference starts. Senior co-captain Chris Amorosi is the veteran on the staff who has been a big game pitcher for Siena over his three years. Past those two, the Saints will look to versatile sophomore Dylan D'Anna and the highly touted freshman White as well as several unproven underclassmen to emerge this spring.
Siena will be tested early once again in 2017, as the Saints once again open with another long, challenging southern road trip bridging February and most of March to well-prepare the team for its return north. Siena will play its first 19 games this season on the road, marking the program's longest season-opening road trip since the Saints' played their first 34 games away from home to open the 2014 season.
Siena will play its first eight games in the Sunshine State, before making stops in Kentucky (Murray State), North Carolina (Davidson) and Ohio (Ohio University), before finally returning home to the Empire State in late March. The Saints' home opener is scheduled for Sunday, Mar. 26 for a doubleheader vs. NYIT, which will kick off a stretch where Siena is set to play all 20 of its home games over a 26-game stretch encompassing the tail end of March and entire month of April.
The Saints have faced Central Florida more times than any other non-current or former MAAC school. However, the perennial southern power as won 48 of the 51 all-time meetings between the programs, including 10 straight.
UCF is under the direction of first-year head coach Greg Lovelady, who spent the previous three years as the head coach at Wright State. The Knights return 12 seniors from a team which posted a 26-33 overall record last season, and finish tied for seventh in the American Athletic Conference with a 8-16 league mark. UCF was once again predicted to finish tied for seventh (last) in the AAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.