Army Baseball is here and the team looks to continue its winning ways, this time with a new coach. Coach Chris Tracz moves from one bank of the Hudson to the other after spending the last 13 years at his alma mater, Marist. His new home field is only about 400 feet closer to the Hudson River than his old one!
During his tenure as head coach, Tracz led the Red Foxes to a 315-284-2 (.582) record overall including a 170-117 (.592) MAAC conference record. He also took the 2017 Marist team to the Gainesville Regional in the NCAA tournament. Prior to his head coaching stint at Marist, Tracs spent 1 year as the pitching coach at Army and 3 years in the same position at Marist.
Army is coming off of four consecutive Patriot League titles, so there are certainly high expectations, but it’s clear that Tracz is the man for the job.
The Black Knights started out with a 3 game set against Air Force in Texas, winning two of three. They’ll travel to Charlotte this weekend for another three game set.
Army Baseball doesn’t shy away from big-time opponents. Their schedule includes Arkansas, Wright State, USF, Stony Brook, Columbia, and LIU all of whom, in addition to Air Force, have made at least one of the last three NCAA Tourneys. They also play a tournament in Manhattan, KS, against Kansas State and Stonehill. In addition, Army’s annual tilt with Marist, Coach Tracz’s former team, will take place at West Point on March 28th.
Patriot League play kicks off in March in Worcester, MA, with a four game set against Holy Cross. League games then continue though April with a doubleheader at home against Navy on April 2nd. The Army/Navy Star will be awarded to the winner of the three game series in Annapolis on April 22nd and 23rd.
Provided the Black Knights are in the top four in the standings at the end of the season, they’ll play in the semifinals on May 13th and 14th, with the finals occurring the following weekend.
Senior co-captains Robbie Buecker, Ross Friedrick, and Kevin Dubrule will lead the Black Knights this year. Army also returns 3 of their 5 top starting pitchers, Mike Ruggieri, Robbie Buecker, and Patrick Melampy. Top relievers Tanner Gresham, Steven Graver, and Sean Dennehy are also back. The team returns a good bit of offfensive production as well, with the leaders in OPS, home runs, walks, and total bases (Sam Ruta), RBIs (Friedrick), and hits (Dubrule) all back for another go.
Alas, the Black Knights lost nearly all of last year’s stolen base production to graduation. Two of the candidates to fill this void are Kevin Luke and Derek Berg. There’s another question at hand there though. Will Coach Tracz be as liberal with sac bunts and stealing as Coach Foster was? Under Foster, Army was committed to “small ball”. However, Coach Tracz’s numbers varied quite a bit when at Marist. He may vary well change his play calling based on the personnel on the base paths.
🗣 "Can't wait to be the first class to get out here and win some ball games on it."— Army Baseball (@ArmyWP_Baseball) February 8, 2023
The Black Knights will start their 2023 season on a new turf field at Doubleday Field#GoArmy pic.twitter.com/TUoiCQnLmg
Winning the Air Force series is a great start to the season! But let’s remember that winning non-Patriot League games isn’t this team’s goal. Last year, the Black Knights started the season 3-12 before turning it on in conference play and winning the overall Patriot League titles.
These early-season games are almost analogous to Spring Training games when compared to League play. This part of the schedule is therefore a great time to experiment with personnel and test their limits. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize!
Go Army! Beat Navy!!!
*Cover image via @ArmyWP_Baseball