BULLDOGS HEAD TO HOUSTON TO OPEN 2013 SEASON ON FRIDAY
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University baseball team opens it 2013 season in Houston, Texas, this weekend with three games against Houston Baptist. Opening day is on Friday, Feb. 22 at 3:00 p.m. and the series continues on Saturday (3:00) and Sunday (1:30).
With the first pitch on Friday, the Bulldogs will be officially underway on their first season of full Division I eligibility. The reigning Northeast Conference regular-season championships, Bryant is coming off a season in which it was 33-21 overall and 24-8 in league play. The Huskies have already played four games this season, opening up last weekend with a three-game series against Nicholls State. They defeated Prairie View A&M on Tuesday to even their record.
This weekend's series will mark the third time the teams have met in the past four years. In 2010, they met at Nicholls State with the Huskies earning a 15-5 victory. Bryant returned the favor the following season, sweeping HBU in a three-game series at Husky Field in Houston. Then-freshman Daniel St. George (Shelton, Conn.) had an outstanding weekend for the Bulldogs, driving in seven runs.
HBU, a former member of the NAIA, became fully eligible for postseason play last season after completing its four-year transition process. The Huskies went 28-33 overall and 15-13 in the Great West Conference last season, falling in the championship game to Utah Valley. This season, however, will be the final season in the Great West for the Huskies as they will join the Southland Conference starting on July 1. This season, the Huskies won their season-opener 9-0 but have struggled to score since. Josh Foust is hitting .429 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and five RBI but the Huskies are hitting just .200 as a team. Friday starter Tyler Hoelscher was dominant last Friday against Nicholls State, striking out three over eight shutout innings. Ryan Lower (0-1, 11.57 ERA) and Brandon Hammerly (0-1, 9.00) will start the final two games of the series.
Bryant begins its quest for a seventh-straight 30-win season on Friday and will send senior Peter Kelich (Jackson, N.J.) to the mound for the third-straight time on opening day. Kelich is the reigning NEC Pitcher of the Year and has posted a 23-7 record in his first three years in Smithfield, four shy of becoming Bryant's all-time winningest pitchers. Following Kelich will be junior Craig Schlitter (Guilford, Conn.) and sophomore Kevin McAvoy (Syracuse, N.Y.). Schlitter went 6-6 with a 2.70 ERA last season and McAvoy went 5-1 with a 2.94 ERA on his way to NEC Rookie of the Year honors.
Offensively, the Bulldogs will look to the senior leadership of Dan Muscatello (Hopkinton, Mass.) and Kevin Brown (Northborough, Mass.). Muscatello hit .290 last season, tying for the team lead in hits (56) and walks (23). Brown is Bryant's all-time leader in doubles (55), triples (13) and home runs (20) and has been earned all-conference honors in each of his first three seasons. The rest of Bryant's opening day lineup will be fairly young as it will likely feature two juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.
Following this weekend, the Bulldogs will head to Corvallis, Ore., to face sixth-ranked Oregon State in a four-game series beginning on Friday, March 1.