Queens Knights banking on pitching

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Yuki Yamada did not have the best sophomore campaign at the helm of the Queens College men’s baseball team. The club went just 17-19 last year, collapsing down the stretch and finishing in fifth place, one game out of the New York Collegiate Athletic Conference playoffs.

And with the loss of last year’s team leader and offensive standout Brad Beamer to graduation, one might expect an even tougher road ahead for the Knights. But Yamada is excited about the coming season, itching to see his new team in action.

“This is my third year as head coach and I think this is the best team I’ve put together,” he said. “The team chemistry is a lot different. I think we’re a far better team than we were last year.

“We needed to replace our team leader, the presence of leadership,” he added. “I think all the seniors can bring that leadership. That might be one of the things we might be missing.”

In fact the Knights may be a lot better if the pitching staff comes through. The team’s offense is not in doubt, but Yamada’s hurlers will need to have a big season if the Knights are going to make any noise in the NYCAC.

Steve Moore and Jarod Harling are the team’s top starters. Moore, a senior, has shown tremendous improvment, his coach said, dedicated himself to the game and added some speed to his fastball.

Harling, a transfer student from Suffolk Community College, throws just a bit harder than Moore in the high 80s, making for a solid 1-2 punch for the Knights.

“The key to our success is these two pitchers,” Yamada said. “I have no doubt they will be two of the best pitchers in the league. They just want to win.”

The pair will be complemented by two sophomore starters in Keith Haack and Lou Welsh. Haack, Yamada said, has hit 90 mph with his fastball this season.

“I’m hoping to see a lot of improvment from those two,” the coach said.

In the bullpen, Yamada will look to Mike Pulice, Danny Santa Cruz, Carl Waldheim and Michael Paolucci.

The Knights will have veteran Rocco Rotundi at the team’s main backstop with Shaun Manning and Matt Derba backing him up. Manning and Derba should also see some time in the DH slot.

Junior Michael Eddy will patrol first base, while freshman Vic Tantopoulos, our of Francis Lewis High School, will start at second. Last year’s batting leader, Carlos Cruz, moves from left field to third base this season, alongside junior Pete Cabrouto at short.

Only one of the team’s starters in the outfield played for Queens last season, junior right-fielder Vic Lara. Nick Gulotta, a transfer from Suffolk Community College, and Rob Valdes, who played for Kingsborough Community College last year, will play left and center, respectively.

“The strength is our lineup,” Yamada said. “I think one through eight, we can compete against any pitching staff. We have a lot of depth.”

Austin Shafran, Michael Medea, Stewart Goodwin, Joe Rogosich, Robert Berman and Richard Rivera are all capable and will come off the bench for Yamada.

The Knights played five non-conference games in Savanna, Ga. to kick off this season, losing four, but Yamada was still pleased with his team’s performance. Queens’ one win came against the No. 24 ranked Division II team in the nation, Armstrong Atlanta State University, 10-6.

“We have the potential of being good enough to be ranked,” he said, adding that some of the upperclassmen stepped up on the trip to provide leadership, the one thing that Queens sorely needs. “We are all going toward one common goal, which is winning.”

Queens opened its NYCAC season Tuesday against Molloy College before two road games at St. Thomas Aquinas and New Jersey Institute of Technology. The Knights return to Queens Saturday for a doubleheader against Bridgeport starting at noon. Yamada’s club will travel to Connecticut Monday to complete the three-game series.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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