Queens baseball hoping for improvement in ’03

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Frank Battaglia has no problem admitting that last year could have been a little better. In his first season as the head coach of the Queens College men’s baseball team, the 27-year-old Archbishop Molloy alum guided an undermanned Knights squad to a dismal 7-25 record.

But the Queens-reared Battaglia is hopeful about his second season leading the team, pointing to his bulked up pitching staff and key acquisitions in the off-season to bolster the anorexic roster from a year ago.

“The major difference from last year to this year is without a doubt our pitching staff,” said Battaglia, who played baseball at both Queensborough Community College and Queens College. “We’re a lot deeper this year.”

The 2002 Knights had a pitching staff — starters and all — that topped out at seven hurlers. Leading the staff will be returning starter Keith Haack, who picked up the only win for the Knights through the team’s first four games of the season, tossing eight innings of shutout ball against New York Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Dowling in a 2-0 win.

Haack allowed just two his in the outing, which was saved by fellow returning player Carl Waldheim.

Freshmen Luke Fitzgibbon, from Valley Stream Central, and Michael Zeigler, from Kellenberg Memorial, are “two young pitchers who will develop into good prospects,” Battaglia said, while transfer Pat Hogarty may be the best of the bunch.

Hogarty, a sophomore out of Rosedale who came to Queens from Molloy College, has been “absolutely a sensation for us out of the pen,” and is one of the main reasons the team’s ERA is nearly half of what it was at this point a season ago, hovering at 3.86.

“This year we have 11 guys who can all throw strikes and get people out,” Battaglia said.

In addition to the team’s improved pitching rotation, Battaglia also pointed out that last year’s club was ravaged by injury and academic ineligibility, dwindling the team’s roster to 19 players.

This season Queens started with a 31-man roster, with only one player being lost to poor grades and a few more who decided not to play.

One of the players Battaglia will rely upon is first baseman Carlos Cruz. A catcher last season, Cruz was lost for the year in the second game of the season to a hernia. His added offense this year is something his coach is counting on.

‘He’s probably the best hitter we have on the team,” Battaglia said. “He has a lot of power, a pure hitter.”

Sean Kammerer, a freshman out of Kellenberg, takes Cruz’s old post behind the plate. He has proved a solid backstop through the first four games and is a player Battaglia is hoping to build his team around for the next four seasons.

Also expected to make contributions during the season will be second baseman Victor Pantopoulos, third baseman Rich Rivara and outfielders Mike Medea and Roberto Valdes.

While hoping to improve of last year’s record, Battaglia has set realistic goals for his club.

“I want to compete,” the coach said. “Last year we went 7-25 and it wasn’t like we were losing one-run ball games. This year we’ve been in every game. That’s pretty much what I want from these kids right now. If they can avoid getting blown out and stay in some tight games, I’m sure we’re going to pull a lot of them out.

“So far everything is intact,” he added. “Defensive and pitching, if we can do both of those things well we’re going to win. The pitching so far as a whole has been very good.”

Queens (1-3 overall, 1-2 NYCAC) will host Philadelphia University in a doubleheader Saturday at 12 noon.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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