This week, Saint Louis travels south to Winter Haven, Fla., to take on Mount St. Mary’s at Chain of Lakes Park. The Mount will open their season against the Billikens, while SLU will try to rebound from a 1-3 opening weekend. This is the first meeting between the teams.
The Billikens went 1-3 in Tennessee, defeating Bowling Green but suffering defeats against Belmont, Lipscomb and Middle Tennessee. Against Middle Tennessee, junior RHP Alex Alemann had a strong showing, hurling 6.1 innings, allowing three hits and one earned run, while striking out three and walking one. In the Bowling Green matchup, the duo of RHP James Norwood (4.0 IP, three hits, no earned runs, two strikeouts, one walk) and RHP Jerry Mancuso (3.2 IP, three hits, two strikeouts, no walks, no runs) led the Billikens to their first win of the season. Junior Alex Kelly ripped the Bills’ first home run of the season against Belmont.
BILLIKEN RECORD BOOK:
•Senior Travis Parker holds SLU’s all-time mark in career saves with 10.
•Junior Mike Levine is ninth all-time in career assists with 360. He needs 11 to pass Ryan Hirsch for eighth.
•Junior Alex Alemann is ninth all-time in career wins with 14. Eric Rohr is eighth all-time with 15.
ACROSS THE DIAMOND
Mount St. Mary’s
The Mount look to return to the NEC Tournament for the first time since winning it all in 2008. Head coach Scott Thomson returns valuable experience up the middle in 2012. Junior catcher Mark Quaranta is the squad’s top returning hitter after batting .301 with 47 hits and 23 RBIs a year ago. The Mount also kept its double-play tandem intact. Senior second baseman Michael Foster logged 34 hits and 23 RBIs in 41 games last year. Sophomore shortstop Brandon Scott also is back after making 37 starts and recording 31 hits as a rookie. The Mount’s pitching staff will look to receive a jolt from the return of lefty Brady Feigl, who missed the entire 2011 campaign due to injury.
In the first four games of the season, the Billikens have a team ERA of 3.03, fourth in the Atlantic 10. Starters James Norwood (0.00), Alex Alemann (1.42) and Clay Smith (1.93) all have ERAs under 2.00. Five SLU pitchers made an appearance last weekend without allowing an earned run.
COMMANDING THE ZONE
As a team, SLU has amassed 27 strikeouts this season. This is the top mark in the Atlantic 10. In addition to their strikeout potential, the Billiken staff does not issue many walks. Among SLU pitchers, only sophomore RHP Clay Smith has more than one walk this season, but he also has six strikeouts, the most on the team and third most in the conference.
Newcomer Alex Kelly was a standout for the Bills in Tennessee. Over the weekend, he hit .412 with a home run, two doubles, two runs, three RBIs, a .706 slugging percentage and a .474 on-base percentage. Junior Grant Nelson, Kelly’s fellow transfer, also was effective, notching a .438 batting average, two doubles, three runs, three RBIs, a .563 slugging percentage and a .526 on-base percentage. The duo is tied for the team lead with seven hits apiece.
DISCIPLINE AT THE DISH
The Billikens are third in the A-10 in on-base percentage with a .388 mark. Their 21 walks are second most in the conference. Junior OF/DH Steve Fernandez leads the squad with five free passes. He also led the team last season with 27 walks. SLU drew 224 walks in 2011, third most in the conference. In 2010, Saint Louis led the A-10 in walks with 292. The Billikens have finished in the A-10’s top three in walks every season under head coach Darin Hendrickson.
TAKING 40 FOR THE TEAM
Senior OF/RHP Jerry Mancuso has been hit by a pitch 40 times in his career. That figure places him among the active career leaders for HBP in the NCAA. Entering the season, Mancuso was fourth in the nation in career HBP.
ROSE IN BLOOM
Through the first weekend, junior first baseman C.J. Rose leads the A-10 in numerous defensive categories. He has yet to commit an error this season, despite leading the conference in chances (40). He is also first in putouts with 38. Last season, Rose finished the year with 291 putouts and only two errors in 319 chances (.994 fielding percentage).
FLASHING THE LEATHER
Junior 2B/SS Mike Levine has been a Billiken for only two years, but his numbers suggest he is already one of the best defensive players in school history. As a freshman, he set a school record for assists with 187. In 2011, Levine gathered 164 assists, fourth most in the A-10. His total of 360 assists puts him at ninth in the SLU all-time record book.
SHUTTING THE DOOR
Senior RHP Travis Parker notched 10 saves in 2011, a record at Saint Louis. His 10 saves were more than any other team total in school history. Parker was brought in to close out 19 games, making him the second-most-used closer in the A-10. Setting him up will be junior southpaw Jon Levin, who struck out 19 while walking six in 31.2 innings of work in 2011. The duo of Levin and Parker will close out most games for the Billikens in 2012.
The Billikens have scheduled national powers for the 2012 slate. In the prestigious Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Ariz., Saint Louis will take on Arizona State and Oregon State. Both teams finished 2011 in the national top 10 according to Baseball America. Additionally, Belmont and Missouri State were in the top 60 in the NCAA ratings percentage index at the conclusion of last season.