John Carroll University’s baseball team will rely on both experience and youth as it begins the 2007 campaign.
In 2006, the Blue Streaks went 21-17, 8-10 in the Ohio Athletic Conference as it tied for fifth with Capital and Muskingum.
Although the team graduated some key players, others are ready to pick up where they left off.
Junior Sean McCarthy will provide stability in the outfield. McCarthy returns with a .398 batting average, while collecting 33 RBI in 38 games played.
Sophomore Michael Krainz also returns in the outfield. Krainz started in 16 games last season. Sophomore Matthew Pangallo and junior Joe Bott are expected to also challenge for time in the outfield.
JCU’s infield will be staffed by several players, including junior Dan Sabella, sophomore Doug Snider and junior Dan Madden. Sabella will hope to provide the Blue Streaks with swift base running.
Snider and Madden will be counted on to give stability. Snider hit three home runs last year. Madden had a .377 batting average.
Senior Warren Ciabattoni, junior Adam Sockel and sophomore Adam Milanovich will also contend for playing time in the infield.
Four upperclassmen will provide the needed experience to help guide the pitching staff this season.
Senior Matt McKinnon will enter this season after going 5-3 last year.
Juniors Matt Fort, Brandon Kurtz and Marty Smith will round out the experienced staff. Fort returns after striking out 22 batters in ten appearances.
“Our lineup is solid and has a lot of depth,” said Fort. “Our pitching staff is also solid. The starting combo of myself, Kurtz, McKinnon, and O’Donnell should be one of the best in the OAC.”
No matter who is throwing, 8th year coach Marc Thibeault will have either sophomores Chris Cairo or Russell Toth behind the plate.
JCU has started the season strong, compiling an 8-4 record. The Blue Streaks went 5-4 during spring break at the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Ft. Myers, Florida.
However, JCU has lost their first two games. Thiel College beat JCU 6-5 on March 4, while Worcester Polytechnic handed JCU its second loss later that day, winning 7-4.
McKinnon delivered a solid performance on March 5 to help defeat WPI. Ciabattoni drove in the winning run as the Blue Streaks rallied to win 3-1.
JCU again defeated WPI later that day, 11-10. Krainz was the star, hitting a double and a triple.
On March 6, JCU fell victim to St. Vincent, 12-7. However, JCU rebounded, beating OAC rival Baldwin-Wallace College on March 8.
Fort pitched, winning 10-0. He struck out 11 batters. Milanovich scored three runs and hit his first home run.
In the second game, JCU beat B-W 8-4. Both JCU and B-W scored four runs each in the fifth inning. JCU quickly responded in the sixth, scoring another four runs.
A somber attitude surrounded the games. JCU was scheduled to play Bluffton University, which lost five players in a bus accident.
“This tragedy made us enjoy all the time we have with our teammates and coaches,” said Kurtz.
Milanovich said, “It put things into perspective to the point where a strikeout with the bases loaded wasn’t such a tragedy.”
Added Fort, “The Bluffton community is in all of our prayers.”
The next day, Thiel would beat the Blue Streaks, 9-5.
JCU beat Nichols, 18-1 on March 10. McKinnon picked up his second win of the season.
JCU’s success at the plate and at the mound continued into the Wittenberg Baseball Classic, where they beat Hiram 19-8 on Saturday and 4-3 on Sunday.
After Milanovich hit a homerun and two doubles to beat Hiram Saturday, JCU was more challenged by the Terriers on Sunday.
Hiram held a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning. JCU would strike back, tying it in the ninth after a home run by Toth. This sent the game into extra innings, where the Blue Streaks capitalized on an error to win the game 4-3.
On Sunday, JCU defeated Wittenberg, 14-2. Eight of JCU’s runs came in the first two innings.
Freshman Mike Carbo went 4-5, while Fort improved his record to 2-1 by striking out seven in six innings.
Many JCU players agree that one of their main goals is to secure a spot in the OAC playoffs, and eventually win the conference championship.
Milanovich said, “Since fall ball, winning a championship has been first on our list of goals.”
Fort added, “It is about time we get back and make a run for the conference championship.”
On Thursday, March 22, JCU will play their home opener against Case Western at 3 p.m. Mount Union will come on Saturday, March 24 to begin OAC play. Game time will be 1 p.m.