Early awards for baseball

James Evans

The baseball team comes into this season with a head of steam. The men are coming off of their 30-23 campaign from last year and are only looking to improve.

The team returns many of its players last year and with a roster full of veterans the outlook can only be good.

This past week the ’Cats received many pre-season awards.

The awards included one for Villanova’s top recruit from last year , first baseman Freddie Thon, a native Puerto Rican.

Thon was named Baseball America’s Big East Conference Freshman of the Year.

Thon’s decision to play for the Wildcats came after he forwent his 43rd round amateur draft to Major League’s Houston Astros.

Also receiving an award was senior pitcher James Russell, named to Baseball America’s Big East Conference team.

Russell, a dominate closer, earned this honor based on his performance last year, appearing in 22 games for the ’Cats and closing out 15 of them.

Also, he led the team in ERA with a miniscule 2.33. The native New Yorker was among the nation’s leaders in saves and set the Villanovan school record.

Russell’s season last year could be summed up by his performance in the ’Cats game against 19th-ranked Notre Dame when coach Joe Gordi called on him to bail the ’Cats out.

With two on and two outs in the eighth inning and the ’Cats only up one, Russell entered the game and calmly struck out the last batter.

Then he came back in the ninth and closed the door in Notre Dame, as he was able to retire the side in order.

Furthermore, senior outfielder Chris Graziano was voted to the best athlete in three separate categories in the Big East.

Graziano was voted to be the best baserunner, the fastest runner and the best defensive outfielder.

Last year Graziano should have been put in jail for his thefts, stealing a career high 38.

This easily shattered the old Villanova record, which he also held. His steals pushed his career record to 81, also a Villanova record.

Graziano showed his patience at the plate last year as he led the team in walks with 37 and had an on-base percentage of .401. Graziano is also a durable player, as he appeared in every game last year.

The ’Cats first game of the year is not until mid-February, when they travel into Philadelphia and take on Big Five rival Temple.

However, with this group of guys the ’Cats appear ready to only improve upon last season’s success.