ARMY BASEBALL OPENS SEASON IN NORTH CAROLINA
WEST POINT, N.Y. – The Army baseball team caught the national media by surprise last spring with its record-setting postseason showing that culminated in the Black Knights reaching the finals of the Austin Regional and nearly upsetting top national seed Texas on two occasions. Army returns six positional starters and 10 of their top 11 pitchers from last season as the Black Knights open the 2010 campaign with a three-game swing through Winston-Salem, N.C.
The first of two trips to North Carolina over the first three weeks of the season, head coach Joe Sottolano has enjoyed great success recruiting out of North Carolina. Of the four Tar Heel State natives, junior 1B/RHP Kevin McKague (Fayetteville, N.C.) and junior SS Clint Moore (Greensboro, N.C.) were both first team All-Patriot League performers a year ago. Moore, a 2009 Brooks Wallace Award semifinalist, garnered American Baseball Coaches Association NCAA Division I All-America Team in June. Sophomore OF Cody Murtle (Huntersville, N.C.) and junior 3B/SS Shaun Wixted (Matthews, N.C.) also call North Carolina home.
Already forecast as the preseason Patriot League favorite to repeat their conference championship by several national outlets, the Black Knights were listed among teams receiving votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association preseason poll released on Feb. 1.
Army has posted at least 25 victories each of the past six years and captured three Patriot League championships during that stretch. The Black Knights return 16 letter winners, six positional starters, 10 of their top 11 pitchers and all four weekend starting pitchers from last year’s club that finished 36-21 overall, captured a fourth regular season conference title in six years and reached the finals of an NCAA Regional for the first time in school history.
After dropping a 3-1 decision to overall No. 1 seed Texas in the first game of the Austin Regional last May, the fourth-seeded Black Knights went on to upset No. 2 Texas State (7-4) and #3 Boston College (4-3) to earn a spot in the regional final opposite the host Longhorns. Holding a 10-6 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, Army let a four-run lead slip away during a wild eight-run Texas rally. The Longhorns avoided extra innings when Preston Clark blasted a walk-off grand slam to end Armyâ€™s magical run. Texas went on to play in the College World Series where the Longhorns fell to now defending national champion LSU.
Army is set to play three games during its brief stay in Winston-Salem. The Black Knights will kick-off the 2010 season with a doubleheader against Dayton (12 p.m.) and Wake Forest (4 p.m.) on Friday, Feb. 19. Army and the host Demon Deacons will square-off again on Saturday, Feb. 20, with a single game at 4 p.m. The Black Knights return to the south for a three-game series at UNC-Greensboro, March 5-7.