2022 Baseball Season Preview


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Chris Rotondo (above) was named to the Big East All-Preseason Team.

Zac Tipton, Staff Writer

Villanova baseball is coming off one of its best records in a long time and best under head coach Kevin Mulvey, going 21-14 in the 2021 shortened campaign. Mulvey is entering his sixth season at the helm for the Wildcats after retiring from the MLB.

From last year’s team, the Wildcats lost a lot of key players, most notably pitchers Gordon Graceffo and Jimmy Kingsbury, who both were selected in the MLB draft, and infielder Nick Lorusso, who transferred to Maryland. Mulvey will try to keep this team on the upward climb and go for a third straight winning season.

Villanova brought in some key freshmen and transfers to make up for these losses. The Wildcats are joined by Cole Patton, a junior from Seton Hall, and Cade Udell, an underrated pitcher who transferred from Duke and can hit 97 on his fastball. They also added senior first baseman Joey Castellanos, a four-year player at UMass-Lowell.

The Wildcats’ offense this season will be led by senior Chris Rotondo, who was named Big East All-Preseason Team and is coming off a year where he led Villanova in almost every offensive category including extra-base hits, home runs, stolen bases, RBIs and runs scored. 

Villanova is bringing back a ton of pitching talent, including closer Danny Wilkerson, who led Villanova in appearances and finished second in the Big East in saves. Senior Cameron Mathes had 26 strikeouts in 18 innings last season, so he will be looking to continue that in his senior year. Senior Tyler Arella is entering his sixth season on the team and will look to continue his impressive stature of holding batters to a .242 batting average. Devin Rivera is hoping to continue bringing in strikeouts in his sophomore season after averaging 8.5 per nine innings as a freshman. The last big name returning for the Wildcats is senior Jonathan Cole, who missed all last season due to Tommy John surgery and will play his first season at Villanova after transferring from Franklin & Marshall.

On the offensive side of the ball, Villanova is bringing back a few players to go along with Rotondo. Senior Pat O’Neill hit .278 last year in 22 starts and will be trying to take the next step as a senior. Sophomore Jack O’Reilly averaged .318 last year in 11 games started and drove in 20 RBIs. O’Reilly’s classmate, Cameron Hassert, was very impressive in the field and on the bases but hit just .182 in 77 at-bats. Sophomore AJ Hansen had a .385 on-base percentage a season ago.

Both O’Reilly and Hansen can play infield and outfield, which helps a very depleted outfield that might rely on a couple of freshmen in Connor Hale and Shane Solari. Will Reiner will start at catcher in his junior season, with sophomore John Whooley and freshman Josue Valdez backing him up on rest days.

Villanova’s season will start on Feb. 18 when it will face off against a top-100 team in Pepperdine for a three-day series. The Wildcats will have 47 non-tournament games to go along with the Liberty Bell Classic midseason tournament at home. Villanova will have 16 games at home this year, including a non-conference tournament against New Jersey Institute of Technology. In the Wildcats’ non-conference schedule, their big matchups are against Tulane, Virginia Tech and Richmond, not to mention the fact that they will also face Big East heavyweights in UConn, St. Johns and Creighton.

The top four teams participate in the Big East Tournament, and, for the Wildcats, they have a shot of being one of those four.