Pitcher Graceffo Named to Preseason All-Big East Team


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

The baseball team celebrates after last season’s win over Arizona State.

Colin Beazley, Co-Sports Editor

Villanova pitcher Gordon Graceffo was named to the preseason all-Big East team on Wednesday, the only representative from a Villanova team predicted to finish in sixth place in the conference.

Graceffo, a junior, will be expected to lead the Wildcat pitching staff alongside senior Jimmy Kingsbury. Before the 2020 season halted, Graceffo won all four of his starts, going 4-0 with an ERA of 1.42. Graceffo was the winning pitcher for one of the biggest wins in school history, as the Wildcats knocked off number three Arizona State, 3-1, in the second game of the season. The win in Phoenix is the highest ranked in Villanova history.

The 2020 season was setting up to be a success for the Wildcats, as the team raced to a 9-5 record before the season was shut down. A vast majority of last year’s core returns this season, including three starting infielders and three outfielders with significant playing experience for Villanova. 

Much of the offensive load will be handled by outfielder and freshman All-American Lucas Latrenta, who led the Big East in slugging percentage over the shortened season. Hopefully his sophomore campaign is as successful as the beginning of his freshman year, as he batted .333 with three home runs over his first 14 collegiate games. 

2018-2019 Big East Freshman of the Year Nick Lorusso hopes to rebound after a disappointing sophomore season, as he struggled with a leg injury for much of the year. However, the potential is there, as shown in his standout freshman year. Lorusso hit .302 with four homers during his last full season, finishing second on the team with 29 RBIs and leading the team in hits, walks and total bases.

The strength of this Villanova team is in the pitching staff, as the team led the Big East in wins, ERA, WHIP, batting average against, runs allowed, earned runs allowed and saves in 2020. The Wildcats weren’t just atop the Big East, as they were in the top 25 nationwide in earned runs allowed and hits allowed per nine innings. Behind the headliners Graceffo and Kingsbury, sophomore Brandon Siegenthaler rebounded from a difficult first appearance against Arizona State to earn a spot in the starting rotation, starting and pitching six innings against both St. Louis and Bucknell. 

Graduate pitcher Tyler Arella is one of manager Kevin Mulvey’s most trusted arms out of the bullpen, tying for the team lead in appearances last year and earning a save against Eastern Michigan. 

Graduate transfer Johnathan Cole also joins the Wildcat pitching staff after four years at Franklin and Marshall, where he was named a preseason Division III All-American before his senior season. The team will not be short on leadership, with six seniors and six graduate students.

Three freshman pitchers join the Wildcats to combine with the talented sophomores who got to experience collegiate baseball for the first time in the limited 2020 season. Jack Povey, Cole Vanderslice, Chic DeGaetano, Siegenthaler and Arizona State hero Danny Wilkinson are all expected to take a step forward during the season as they develop further and gain more experience. 

Two impact transfers join the team for the 2021 campaign, as sophomores Vance Anderson and Jack O’Reilly moved from Stetson and Notre Dame, respectively. O’Reilly, who went to high school at Episcopal Academy outside Philadelphia, was a Perfect Game Preseason Underclassmen All-American in 2017 and 2018, as well as an All-Philly honoree.

The season was scheduled to open this past weekend with games against Fordham and Hofstra, but both games were cancelled. The Hofstra game was postponed because of weather and the Fordham game was scrapped due to COVID-19 concerns in the Rams program. The season will now open at home on Feb. 26 with a three-game series against Northeastern. 

Big East play begins April 1, with four games at home against Georgetown, and the home slate is highlighted with four games against the preseason Big East Champion UConn in the penultimate series of the year, starting May 14. The Wildcats will travel to Omaha, Indianapolis and Queens for their three away series of the season, looking primed to surprise many as an improved squad takes on the Big East.