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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

MU baseball story for Thursday Press/baseball and other sport capsules


The firm of Brach and Brach hopes to lend a firm hand to the 2007 pitching rotation of the Monmouth University baseball team.

It opens its 2007 season 6:30 p.m. Friday at the University of Central Florida.

""We've been on the same team together but not like this, it's pretty cool to have your younger brother with you at a Division I program,'' said Monmouth junior Brad Brach who will be joined this spring by freshman brother Brett. The right-handers are former aces at Freehold Township High School.

""It's good for our parents too,'' said Brad. ""Easier for them.'' The older Brach is already a career 12 game winner for Monmouth. He was named 2006 New Jersey Pitcher of the year by the NJCBA (New Jersey Collegiate Baseball Association) after going 6-4 with a Northeast Conference best 2.44 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 84.2 innings.

. ""This is really awesome,'' said Brett who, like Brad, pitched the Patriots deep into state tournaments.

""Coming here to have a veteran on your team like your older brother, you can ask him anything,'' said Brett. ""He's just made the adjustment so much better for me. He makes me better.''

With the graduation of the middle of the 2006 batting order, the Monmouth staff, always formidable, may be asked to play an even more prominent role. And with the demise of baseball at St. Francis, N.Y., the NEC has gone to a four-game weekend series format as opposed to three making quality starting pitcher essential.

""Brad arguably is one of the better pitchers around,'' said Dean Ehehalt, entering his 14th-year as Monmouth coach. ""So of course he's our number one. ""Brett is a kid who is a guy who is going to be right in the mix for somebody who's going to pitch our conference games. So we quite conceivably could be throwing two Brachs in conference games.''

Brad Brach said he's ready to accept the responsibility of leading the staff. He is eight career victories shy of Monmouth all-time winner Mike Benfield who won 20 from 1998-2001.

""I've been here now for two years, I pretty much have gotten experience against every (NEC) team we'll face,' Brach said. ""It's a lot of hard work but I think I'll be able to do what we need us to do.''

Brett said the opportunity to impact the rotation immediately is one reason he chose to attend Monmouth, along with Brad's presence. ""As a freshman you don't get to start everywhere,'' he said. ""But here I'm going to get a good shot at making it into the starting rotation. ""So I'll just work as hard as I can hoping I can pitch well and stay there all season.''

Ehehalt is hoping Matt Coulson, a senior graduate of Freehold High School and Brookdale Community College, maintains last season's effectiveness. Monmouth is also banking on a successful return from off season shoulder surgery by senior left-hander that Matt Marc-Aurele.

"And then it's a matter of how quickly the young arms come a long,'' said Ehehalt. Junior right-hander Justin Esposito, a graduate of Red Bank Regional High School and Brookdale, is penciled into the closing role after serving as a set up man last season. Esposito saved 13 games for the Jersey Blues in 2005. ""He's got a real, good breaking ball and we're looking for big things from him,'' Ehehalt said.

As a team Monmouth will try to rebound from last season's late crash dive. It lost 10 of its last 11 games including its last seven and failed to qualify for the NEC Tournament after a league record eight-year run.

"We have to use it as a learning experience, to not rest on our laurels,''said Brad. ""Last year early we blew out a bunch of teams. Then it came to the end of the season when the games got tougher it was harder for us to pull out those type games.""

""I couldn't believe it,'' said Brett who said he attended the first game of the losing streak and the season finale, an extra-inning loss at Wagner that sealed Monmouth's fate. ""Every time my Dad game me updates on all the games it was like, "Oh, my gosh, you've got to be kidding me.'

' "Baseball is very humbling game,'' said Ehehalt whose 2006 Hawks won 10 games in a row, lost one, and then reeled off another 12 consecutive victories before the startling slump.

""Last year, since I've been at Monmouth, it was one of the greatest rides we've had as far as doing everything right for almost a five week period,'' he said.

""Then we were disappointed at the end when we couldn't win the games we needed to win.'' Ehehalt said Monmouth begins the season in a positive frame of mind. ""The kids don't think they can lose,'' he said.

2007 Monmouth University Baseball
Coach: Dean Ehehalt (16th season, 14th at Monmouth 344-360-1)
Last year: 27-22 (14-9/t4th NEC)
Key returnees: Brad Brach (RHP, Jr., 6-4, 2.44 ERA); Matt Marc-Aurele (LHP, Sr., 4-2, 2.91 ERA); Matt Coulson (LHP, Sr., 5-4, 4.21 ERA); Justin Esposito (RHP, Jr., 1-2, 1.37 ERA, 24 Ks, 26.1 IP); Andy Meyers (1B, Jr., .280, 40 RBI); Kyle Higgins (SS, Jr., .287); Kyle Messineo (RF, Sr., .295, 32 SB); Mike Casale (IF, So., .291); Rick Niederhaus (DH, So., .383, 54 H, 28 RBI, 4 HR).

Key newcomers; Shawn Teters (CF, Jr., transfer from Arkansas-Fort Smith College); Brett Brach (RHP, Fr.); Andy McDonnell (IF, Fr.); Nick Vallilllo (LHP, Fr.); Matt Frazier (RHP, Fr.).
Outlook:The strength of this season's baseball squad will be on the mound, as Monmouth welcomes back Brach and Marc-Aurele, both all-conference performers. Monmouth's offense will rest with 2006 NEC Rookie of the Year, Rick Niederhaus, and returning juniors Meyers and Higgins. Messineo will team with Teters as table-setters for the offense.

2007 Monmouth Softball
Coach: Carol Sullivan (103-108, sixth year).Last year 20-25 (8-10, T/6th place Northeast Conference).Key Returners – Heather Gordon (Sr., OF/P, .326, 10 HR, 36 RBI), Dawn Gilchrist (Sr., SS, .319, 19 RBI, 11 SB), Angela Rand (Sr., P, 5-9, 3.24 ERA), Danielle Ellement (Sr., P, 6-4, 2.53 ERA), Nicole Alvarez (So., CF, .374,17 SB); Lee Simonetti (So., INF., .288); Kristine Sawlsville (So., P, 6-8, 3.56 ERA, 109 K’s in 108.0 innings).

Outlook: Monmouth returns its entire roster from a season ago minus two seniors lost to graduation. Offensively the Hawks return 87% of their home runs and runs batted in from a year ago and all four pitching arms. Alvarez (Brick) and Simonetti were first team NEC selections. If pitching can match the firepower Monmouth could go a long way. .

2007 Monmouth Women's Lacrosse
Coach: Kelly McCardell (2nd year, 13-7, 8-0 1st NEC)

Key Returners: Katie Degen (Sr., MF, 33 g, 21 a); Monica Johnson (So., GK. 10.30 gaa, .535 save %); Erin Marley (So., D); Megan Nutter (Jr., MF, 32 g, 6 a); Jess Picciuto (Jr., D); Carolyn Raviea (Sr., A, 48 g, 2 a); Kaitlyn Robinson (Sr., D, 14 g, 4 a); Ashley Waldman (Jr., MF, 13 g, 3 a).

Key Newcomers: Megan Brennan (Fr., A); Ali Pollock (Fr. MF); Kelly Bosco (Fr, D).

Outlook: The 2006 NEC champs are already 2-0 in 2007. With the loss of five starters from last year’s team, including the NEC Player of the Year Jeanette Stott, McCardell will look to Raveia to jump start a young attacking unit. However, with six returning midfielders/defenders including senior midfielder Kaitlyn Robinson, and 2006 standout freshman goalie Monica Johnson, the Hawks appear poised for another run at an NEC championship.

Georgian Court University Softball

Coach: Jeff Franquet (1st year) Last year: 29-17 (16-7, CACC) Key returners: Sam Sasko (So., P, 15-9, 1.61 ERA); Mallory Kirchner (So., IF, 15 RBI); Heather Walker (Jr., IF, 12 HR, 39 RBI); Anna Leighty (Sr., OF, 12 2B, 27 RBI); Vanessa Piepszak (So., OF, 27 RS, 13 RBI).

Key newcomers: Amanda LaFrance (Fr., P); Chelsea Long (Fr. P). Outlook: Franquet, former head coach at Jacksonville University, will look to Sasko, a potent lineup, and 17 letter winners to lead the Lions' bid for an NCAA Division II Tournamenth berth. GCU was
picked third in the Central Atlantic College Conference preseason coaches poll. .

- Tony Graham

e-mail Read his blog at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey tony,

how about writing on some of the sports that are winning all the time? (Track) Sports that have athletes ranked in the nation? Not mid-major, not fake polls, not 1AA, but ranked among the best in the USA, College and Professional. When people are ranked in the USA in Track and Field, that puts them among the best in the world. Monmouth has that. Instead we are discussing a team who didn't make the NEC Tourney, how about shedding some positive light on MU sports.

-MU Sports Fan '89 alum

10:05 AM, March 01, 2007  
Blogger Tony Graham said...

I appreciate your passion for track and for the championship efforts that MU athletes have displayed.

However, overall interest in spring sports in the east in college and track pales in comparison to sports such as football and hoops and now, in MU's case, men's soccer.

As for spring sports we can only go by crowds, what there are (not including friends and families) and reader interest in which track, while it has an audience, appeals to a more specialized following that is not wide spread.

Having said that - any comments anyone wishes to make here involving track or any other local college sport will be published , and thank you for your interest.

By the way..MU baseball, while it did fail to make the NECs last year, before that enjoyed a league record eight-year NEC Tournament run and has been to the NCCAs on several occasions.

11:53 AM, March 01, 2007  

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