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Armed and Ready

Senior Jeff Butler and the Leopards head to Army in search of another Patriot League title.

May 14, 2009


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Date: May 16-17, 2009
Match-Up: No. 4 Lafayette (24-27) at No. 2 Army (31-18) (best of three series)
First Pitch: Noon (DH-Sat.) / 1 p.m. (Sun.)
Site: West Point, N.Y.
Stadium: Doubleday Field (880)

THE STORY LINE: The Leopards are making their return to the Patriot League championship series for the first time since their title season in 2007. The Black Knights are in the finals for the first time since falling to the Leopards in straight games in 2007.

WE MEET AGAIN: Lafayette and Army have met in two Patriot League Tournaments: 2004 and 2007. Both squads swept the years they met, with the Black Knights winning both matchups in 2004 to win the title and the Leopards taking both 2007 contests en route to their championship.

TWTITER ME THIS, TWITTER ME THAT: Fans can now interact with the Lafayette Leopard through Facebook and Twitter. By accessing the official Facebook page, Lafayette fans can see exclusive photos that highlight various Lafayette College athletic events and athletic news. Leopards' fans can also get quick, up-to-the-minute updates anywhere through the use of the GoLeopards Twitter account.

Facebook and Twitter are both accessible by computer or mobile phone, and scores and updates about Lafayette Athletics are posted frequently.

UPSET ALERT: The Leopards are looking to make it two straight years in which the No. 4 seed wins the Patriot Leauge Tournament. Bucknell was last year's No. 4 seed, the first time the Tournament included the top four seeds. The Bison promptly pulled off the upset by defeating No. 1 Army two games to one in the opening round, before winning in straight games over Navy to capture the championship.

TWO, THREE, FOUR: Last season marked the first year of a four-team Patriot League Tournament. In 1993 and 1994, the top two teams battled it out for the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. From 1996-2007 (no Patriot League Tournament was held in 1995), the top three teams competed for the title.

LAST TIME OUT FOR LAFAYETTE: Pitcher Ryan Hanna tossed seven innings of one-run ball against Bucknell to help advance the Leopards to the Patriot League Championship series with a 10-2 win over the Bison.

Lafayette scored in all but two innings as the team's 10 runs gave Hanna all the run support, and more, that he needed. Leadoff hitter Rob Froio led the offense with a 4-for-5 performance that included two RBI and a run scored. Senior tri-captain Jeff Butler went 3-for-5 while four other batters had multi-hit days.

SCOUTING ARMY: The Black Knights enter this weekend with an overall record of 31-18 after taking two of three from Holy Cross in the opening round of the Patriot League Tournament. Army won three of four games against Lafayette in the regular season series, although the Leopards did score a combined 27 runs against the Black Knights in those games.

Sophomore Ben Koenigsfeld is the reigning Patriot League Pitcher of the Year and holds a 5.43 ERA with a 7-4 record in 11 starts. Freshman Zach Price was named the league's Rookie of the Year and enters this weekend with a .365 batting average and 14 stolen bases. Kevin McKague (.426), Joey Henshaw (.412) and Clint Moore (.401) are all batting above .400 for the Black Knights, placing them first, third and fourth, respectively, in the league standings.

Army is coached by 9th-year head coach Joe Sottolano, who has led his squad to two NCAA Regional appearances (2004, 05).

ALL-TIME VS. ARMY: The Black Knights hold a slim, 55-52-2 edge in the all-time series against the Leopards. Lafayette is 8-6 against Army over the past three seasons, including a perfect 6-0 mark in 2007 when the Leopards captured the league title with a two-game sweep of the Black Knights.

TWENTY-TWENTY VISION: The Leopards scored 20 runs in their game two 20-9 victory over Bucknell last Saturday. Those 20 runs not only marked the most scored by a Lafayette team in postseason history, it also matched a Patriot League Tournament record (Bucknell defeated Navy 20-9 in 2003).

THE .500 CLUB: Four Lafayette players hit for a .500 average or better against Bucknell in the opening round of the tournament. Sophomore centerfielder Rob Froio led the squad with his .571 average (8-for-14). Jeff Butler (.538), Matt Hall (.538) and Matt Fenster (.500) also reached the .500 mark.

HIT, HIT HOORAY: The Leopards combined for 49 hits in their three games against Bucknell, including 36 over the final two. Lafayette even out-hit the Bison 13-8 in the team's 6-4, game one loss.

DOUBLING UP: Jeff Butler not only hit for a .538 average against the Bison pitchers, he also knocked them around for four doubles to account for more than half of his seven hits in the series.

WORKHORSE: Senior pitcher Ryan Hanna, the team's No. 4 weekend starter for the majority of the season, moved to the bullpen for the three-game series against Bucknell. In the game one loss, he tossed the final 3.2 innings against the Bison and gave up only one run on two hits while striking out three.

Head coach Joe Kinney then called on Hanna to start Sunday's decisive game three after using his original starter - Jeremy Atkins - in relief on Saturday. Kinney was hoping Hanna could last four innings; instead, he tossed seven innings of one-run ball to pick up his sixth win of the season and help send the Leopards to the championship series. It was the first time in his career Hanna had pitched more than two consecutive innings of scoreless ball (he did not allow a run until the sixth inning) and he logged 10.2 innings of work in his two appearances.

ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE: Every batter in the Lafayette lineup scored at least one run, had at least one hit and drove in at least one run in the 20-9 win over Bucknell in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader. In fact, all but one starter had multiple hits and all but one batter scored more than one run.

THE HEAD COACH: In 10 seasons, Joe Kinney (211-251) has turned the Lafayette baseball program into a consistent Patriot League winner. His 2007 squad captured its first-ever league title to advance to the NCAA Regionals. Kinney has led the Leopards to five Patriot League Tournament appearances, the only berths in the program's history. Lafayette reeled off a school-record 33 wins in 2007, including 17 in league play. In his 10 seasons as head coach, Kinney's players have had 38 All-Patriot League selections while two have been named Patriot League Player of the Year (Vince D'Angelis '02 and Adam Rosenberg '04).

ALL-LEAGUE LAURELS: Three Lafayette baseball players earned All-Patriot League honors as senior shortstop Daniel Bierce, junior outfielder Matt Hall and sophomore pitcher Corey Shea were named to the Second Team. It was the second all-league honor of Bierce's career while Hall and Shea picked up their first career all-league selections.

BEEP, BEEP! Senior Daniel Bierce is 21-for-21 in stolen bases this season and has stolen 27 consecutive bases dating back to last spring. That marks the ninth best streak nationally among all divisions of college baseball.

His team and career-high 21 swipes (good for 62nd nationally) also give him 56 for his career, placing him fourth all-time in Lafayette history and 10th in Patriot League history. Bierce has had double-digit steal totals in three straight years.

NOT GOING DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT: Leadoff hitter Rob Froio has struck out just 12 times in 189 at-bats, making him the 28th hardest player in the nation to strike out.

A DEFENSIVE BATTLE: Just one percenge point separates Lafayette and Army as the top fielding teams in the Patriot League. The Leopards boast a .968 fielding percentage, placing them just behind the Black Knights' mark of .969. Army has made 55 errors in 49 games while Lafayette has just 58 miscues in its 51 contests.

WE'RE GOING STREAKING!: Junior Justin Shepherd is the holder of the longest hitting streak by a Lafayette player this season with a 16-game hit streak (April 11-May 2). That marks the longest streak since Ty Gonser '02 also went 16 straight games with at least one base hit during the 2002 campaign. During Shepherd's run, he hit for a .393 average (22-for-56) with 13 RBI and six multi-hit games.

WATCH LIST: Senior shortstop Daniel Bierce has been named to the Brooks Wallace Shortstop Award Watch List. He is the only Patriot League player to earn a spot on the list. For the first time since its creation in 2004, the Wallace Award will honor the country's finest shortstop. Previously, the Wallace Award was given to the national player of the year.

BUCKING THE BISON: Lafayette finished the spring with a 5-2 record against Bucknell that included three wins during the regular season. Over the last four years, the Leopards have a 14-5 record against Bucknell, including a 4-0 mark in 2007. The Leopards have not lost a series against Bucknell since 2005.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Lafayette has seen five of its players combine for six Patriot League Player of the Week honors. Senior Daniel Bierce has twice been named the Patriot League Player of the Week and sophomore Rob Froio has also earned the same honor.

Sophomore Zach Fritz collected Pitcher of the Week honors on March 10. Classmate Corey Shea joined him as Pitcher of the Week on April 14. On May 4, junior Jeremy Atkins became the third Lafayette pitcher to pick up the honor.

SEVENTH INNING STRETCH: The Leopards are 12-2 this season when leading after seven innings. On the flip side, they are 0-14 when trailing after the eighth inning.

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL: Senior shortstop Daniel Bierce and junior rightfielder Matt Hall are the only two players to have started all 51 games for the Leopards this season. Bierce has started all but 10 games over his four year career while Hall has 92 starts in his 108 career games.

POWER PARK: Twenty-six home runs were hit at Kamine Stadium this season with 13 coming off the bats of Leopard hitters. Junior Matt Hall hit four of his eight homers this season at Kamine. Senior Daniel Bierce is the only other Lafayette player to have multiple roundtrippers at home this season with two.

THAT BALL'S OUTTA HERE! With one out, two runners on base and Lafayette trailing 7-6 in the eighth inning of its series finale with Lehigh, A.J. Pisarri came to the plate and knocked a go-ahead, three-run homer to right field to give his squad a 9-8 lead over Lehigh. Rookie Jeff Snell pitched a one-two-three ninth inning to clinch the win as the Leopards took three of four from the Mountain Hawks.

DID YOU SEE THAT? Lafayette turned a triple play (3B Shepherd to 2B Pisarri to 1B Butler to C McCutcheon) in its series finale with University of Maryland-Eastern Shore on March 8. It was the first triple play head coach Joe Kinney has been a part of as either a player or a coach.

SENIOR MOMENTS: The 2009 Lafayette roster includes nine seniors: six position players and two pitchers. Daniel Bierce and Jeff Butler are both four-year starters in the infield. Chris Luick was forced to sit out his senior season due to injury but was a three-year starter at first base. Ian McCutcheon has seen the majority of his playing time as a catcher.

Ryan Hanna has logged more than 90 career innings of work, including a season-high 62.1 this season. Brian Mostek has been a mainstay in the Lafayette bullpen since his freshman season.

THE CAPTAINS: Seniors Daniel Bierce, Jeff Butler and Chris Luick were selected as tri-captains of this year's squad. Bierce, the starting shortstop, has started all 51 games this season. Butler has started all 50 of the games in which he played, making the majority of his starts at first base. Luick entered the season expected to be the team's starting first baseman but has been forced to sit out the season due to injury.